By most accounts, 2009 was a bad year. For some, an awful year. But for cloud computing, 2009 will be looked back on as the year the movement reached the tipping point. I don’t necessarily want to run through a year-end wrap-up, but I do want to take some lessons learned from 2009 and apply them to what I believe we’ll see in the year ahead.
The Question Without an Answer
What exactly is “Cloud Computing?” The term will probably never be fully fleshed out in terms of a common definition, and at the end of the day that’s fine with me. Yes, we need to put structure around the term and the industry, but as we noted earlier in the year with a post about cloud maturity models, we run the risk of painting ourselves into a corner if we try too hard to make things fit neatly into buckets that we can easily classify and categorize. Taxonomy will be key to understanding and adopting cloud computing, but I’ve become convinced that in order to truly embrace the cloud, we must…
For years, the rallying cry for the CIO has been to align IT with “The Business.” This presupposes that there is a wall between IT and other functions and processes within an organization, which of course we know to be the case. While nearly every business function that lives in its own silo has challenges integrating with other functions within the organization, IT has been particularly challenged because of the technology-centric reality of its world; while other functions may not necessarily have a direct impact on the value chain, IT is often viewed as being completely disconnected from it in many organizations.
Technology vendors have long targeted the CIO with messaging that implies an understanding of ITs alignment pain, and they have offered myriad remedies for closing the gap between IT and the underlying business processes that create value in an organization. Everything from enterprise applications to network management tools have promised to lead beleagured CIOs to the Shangri-La of “IT-Business-Alignment.” Ironically, the technology with the most promise for bridging the IT-business divide has been right here under our noses, but only a relative handful of visionary organizations have embraced it to drive business value.
So if the technology is here, why haven’t the barriers between IT and value-creating business processes crumbled like the Berlin Wall?
The Big Switch begins by drawing a parallel between the effects of the rapid proliferation of electricity services and the impending state of ubiquity that the Internet-fueled IT world is reaching. The first half of the book makes a powerful case for the inevitability of a utility computing paradigm that is being driven by a perfect storm of technological and societal convergence; the effect that cheap connectivity to the global network and exponential gains in computing capacity is having on people, corporations, and governments is following a strikingly similar path to what we saw in the late 19th and early 20th centuries with the development and standardization of the electrical grid.
Unfortunately, the second half of the book focuses on the potential impact of the “World Wide Computer” on global society and politics, and while it is a fascinating read unto itself, I felt like the tremendous momentum that had been made in the first half of the book was prematurely abandoned and the leap to the second half created a gap that was never quite filled. If the first half of the book had been more fully developed and taken to a logical conclusion that was contextually relevant to the ideas introduced in his previous book, Does IT Matter?, Carr’s place as a top thought leader in the IT world would have been cemented. The Big Switch just misses the mark, and I would like to see the first half and the second half further developed before being reconnected as a more cohesive roadmap.
That being said, there are some critical ideas in The Big Switch that need to be explored because they are highly relevant to the evolution of the IT delivery model: