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From Imran Anwar http://imran.tv http://flickr.com/ImranAnwar

Clouds Over Cloud Computing? Raining On The Hype Parade

Posted by imrananwar on October 15, 2009

Clouds Over Cloud Computing? Raining On The Hype Parade

What’s In A Name? What’s In A Function? What’s In The Hype?
By Imran Anwar

A recent blog entry on Internet Evolution by Mary Jander, titled “Clouds May Finally Be Forming for IT” recently caught my attention. Mary wrote about how companies have started looking at cloud computing as an infrastructure platform for their business.

That got me thinking about the very concept of cloud computing – as it is being foisted upon the industry and business. Don’t get me wrong. I believe in the Internet and its power since before it became a commercial entity in the United States. It was for this reason that I elected to pioneer and be founder of Internet e-mail in Pakistan nearly 2 decades ago.

I also do not wish to sound like one of those “everything that can be invented has been invented” naysayers. However, even as the technology lover and evangelist, sometimes I see the industry shooting itself in the foot by simply renaming, repackaging, re-hyping concepts every few years.

Obviously, technology has been moving forward at a rapid pace every decade. Back in the day, a green screen operator’s “cloud” was somewhere in the big air-conditioned room far away, housing the mainframe. 10 years later the concept of client/server moved the cloud into a less discrete location and made it a little more granular.

Then came the not so successful network computing concept which fell victim to its own hype. Next we have the Internet now being leveraged productively in some creative ways, but again causing marketing driven hype to set it up for potential disappointments and failures.

It is partly for this reason, the lack of clear revolutionary changes in enterprise computing, that we face a problem. We have entire industry initiatives and business plans being built around terms that nobody even fully agrees on the definition of.

Cloud Computing, Web 2.0, the Semantic Web, etc. are just some of the examples of how we, as an industry, are adrift. We are again latching on to buzzwords, hype, self-sustaining waves of “if we talk enough about it, it will happen” — hoping someone, somewhere, will create a solution which sells enough in the marketplace to validate the original buzzword.

In the past some companies, like Microsoft, would derail perfectly good technologies possibly competing with their products by using FUD (fear, uncertainty, doubt). Many good companies, products and technologies fell victim to that. However, despite the best efforts of monopolies of their time, whether in computer hardware, operating systems or telecom, smart, nimble and aggressive competitors did create new products, categories and entire industries.

That is why it is so ironic to me that thousands of companies and professionals are trying to create a new Cloud Computing industry — without overcoming the FUD factor inherent in the marketplace!

Instead of removing uncertainty about what cloud computing means, what advantages it offers, what risks it carries and how those risks can be overcome, the players who want to lead in this industry are actually putting their faith in uncertainty!

They are relying on poorly defined concepts, media driven hype and evangelist driven buzzwords. They are hoping to be able to come up with something that sticks while no one knows what it all means.

That approach may work in the 3M Post-It sticky notes laboratory. But that is not how an entire industry, Information Technology and the Internet, based on a reality AND an image of clarity, consistency and communication standards can operate or succeed.

This is not the way to overcome the FUD that validly exists in the minds of technology and business managers in the enterprise. Add to that the recent outages, consistent problems and massive hacks that have hit everyone from Microsoft to Google, from Twitter to Facebook, and you can see why selling Cloud Computing as the answer, or even ready for prime time conversion of businesses, is both disingenuous and dangerous.

How many CIOs would be willing to completely bet their careers, and the security, and business continuity, of their organizations entirely on something as nebulous, literally, as cloud computing? I would not. As a CIO in a recent engagement, I started moving my client organization in that direction, for specific, clearly defined, non-mission-critical, business and technology functions. But, the most important, sensitive and mission-critical elements I ensured keeping in-house, in a proven, reliable and secure infrastructure

It is time for us, as an industry and professionals, to get out from under the umbrella of excuses that are often self-contradictory. When asked to define cloud computing we say things like “This is still an evolving platform”. When asked to sell the concept to clients, we make it sound like it is as reliable as what clients need and expect, knowing that it is not.

Let us let the rain of facts, client needs, technology realities and user expectations wash away the layers of hype that are coating our vision. Then let us build clear definitions, clear messages, clear value propositions that will sell far better than the hype.

Only with such clarity can we expect the sun to shine on a bright future for Cloud Computing. What do you think?

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