A survey commissioned by Citrix purports to show that the American public don’t understand cloud computing. The more interesting takeaway from the survey is that their inability to identify the correct definition of the cloud doesn’t stop them from successfully using it. Indeed, a humungous 95 percent of respondents already use cloud services, broken down as follows (quoting from ZDNet’s Charlie Osborne):
- 65 percent bank online,
- 63 percent shop online;
- 58 percent use social networking sites such as Facebook or Twitter,
- 45 percent have played online games,
- 29 percent store photos online,
- 22 percent store music or videos online,
- 19 percent use online file-sharing.
What this survey really tells us is that you don’t need to understand how something works to be able to take advantage of it. In truth, knowing too much about the inner workings of cloud computing is proving to be an active disadvantage for many technologists, including many prospective customers of Citrix. They’re obsessing about how to deploy cloud architectures within their existing IT infrastructures while ignoring many of the business outcomes that are truly characteristic of the cloud. Instead of tinkering with their internal systems, they should be focusing on the online information access and commerce, the real-time engagement, collaboration and file-sharing that external-facing cloud infrastructures allow.
In another ZDNet posting today (I’m just back from vacation) I read that IBM has launched its latest mainframe, supposedly revamped for the cloud. I don’t imagine you can get any more techie than an IBM mainframe product manager, so it’s hardly surprising their view of the cloud is diametrically opposed to any of the real-life use cases successfully identified in the survey of public attitudes. Here’s how Jeff Frey, CTO of System z mainframes at IBM, describes the “base characteristics” of cloud: “efficient consolidation, virtualization and the ability to host multiple tenants.” This definition is so remote from the concept of online engagement with external stakeholders that the main outcome he goes on to cite is that “large enterprises can deliver cloud services internally.”
The curse of technologists is that they’re too close to the wood to see the deforestation that’s happening just beryond their own patch of trees. While they obsess about adopting “cloud” within their existing infrastructure, they ignore the wider connected cloud that’s rapidly forming all around the edges of their enterprise world and which will fundamentally transform the business environment in which it has to operate. As I’ve often said in the past, “You can’t take computing out of the cloud and still call it cloud computing.” Joe Public intuitively understands this because of their everyday experience of the real-world cloud services they already use. Most enterprise IT folk, alas, still don’t get it.