Everything Old is New Again…Sort Of

Cliff McCartney
Written by Cliff McCartney
on November 15, 2010

“There’s nothing new under the sun, but there are lots of old things we don’t know.” Ambrose Bierce, The Devil’s Dictionary

Cloud computing is one of today’s hottest technology topics. If you’re in the technology business, you really don’t have to try too hard to hear the term. I even heard the phrase “to the cloud” in an advertisement for Microsoft Windows while I was watching a football game this past weekend!

Discussing cloud computing and all the statistics and predictions around it is de rigueur for any presentation on technology trends today. $42 billion spent on cloud computing by 2012? Half of all software sold in the future will be cloud based? Software as a Service? Platform as a Service? Infrastructure as a Service? Cloud computing is all that and more.

I’ll resist the urge to write about what cloud computing and its many value propositions. Others have already done that, and done it much better than I could. What interests me the most is how it plays in an “Anywhere, Anytime, Anyhow” software strategy. The truth is that such a strategy is not possible without the qualities that cloud computing provides. It already affects how information is consumed, and how software is built, sold, deployed, and used. The influence and impact of cloud computing is just beginning.

But is cloud computing a new idea?
Well, it is… and it isn’t. It is a swing of the technological pendulum back to the centralized computing model of the 1960s and 1970s, but with a couple of very large and profound twists.

The value chain of information used to include every component of the system from computer to software to network to terminal in a highly vertically-integrated way. Today, standardization has made network connectivity a commodity, and the explosion in the number and type of intelligent devices has increased the demand for and scope of online information. We can view and process information in ways that were not even dreamed of in the mainframe days.

An Information as Utility world
Today, the information value chain consists of highly differentiated ways to locate, process and deliver the right information in a wildly heterogeneous environment to any device that can connect to that environment. In short, we are moving toward an Information as Utility world, where the cloud is the delivery mechanism. I take for granted that if I connect to the cloud and make the right requests, I’ll get the information I need and want. I’m not as concerned with how it gets to me as I am that it is correct and useful. Information has intrinsic value, and entities that deliver information differentiate on quality and usefulness.

Cloud computing has and will continue to change business models for information and software providers. Large economies of scale, simplified administration and provisioning, scalability, and all the other value propositions of cloud computing will undoubtedly accelerate its adoption.

As a software designer and architect, cloud computing holds the promise of seamless, utilitarian access to information and services. If I combine that with consumer focused software applications then I’m getting closer to being able to provide my customers with the exact information they need, when they need it, and in the way that best suits them.

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