Cloud computing is the most poorly-defined, over-hyped technology that has hit the tech sector for a long time. The technology behind cloud computing isn’t particularly new or innovative, and the hype is all out of proportion to the tech involved. The true innovation of the cloud isn’t the tech at all.

The promises of cloud computing

Its hard to do any reading on cloud computing without running into promises that sound too good to be true: “With the cloud, individuals and small businesses can snap their fingers and instantly set up enterprise-class services.”1 Or to hear people proclaiming that the cloud is the only solution: “The future is the cloud. Not because it is trendy but because only the cloud can scale.”2

The reality

Despite the cloud being billed as the next evolution of the internet, the reality is that cloud computing has been around for a long time under different monikers: hosted services, Software as a Service (SaaS), shared infrastructure. For the most part, the cloud is made up of all the same technology that existed before the cloud hype got started. It is composed of standard operating systems, databases, load balancers, management tools, and so on.

The innovation isn’t in the tech at all – it is in the operations model.

The innovation is that individuals and small businesses now have access to resources on-demand and at scale without having to maintain the hardware and the expertise to run it in-house. It allows them to experiment and iterate cheaply and quickly.

Individuals have the ability to quickly provision a ruby on rails setup, deploy their application, and then crank up the power if the application becomes popular, or simply throw the instance away if it doesn’t work out. That is the true power of cloud computing. It gives individuals and small businesses access to resources that were previously only cost-effective for the enterprise.

Confusion and angst in the tech sector

There is tension in the tech sector because cloud computing is such a poorly defined concept, and it is usually defined in terms of the technology. When looking only at the tech involved, the amount of hype around cloud computing is completely disproportionate to any advancements in tech needed to create cloud products.

The cloud hype is getting thicker and smellier every day. All the cloud excitement is coming from those who hope to profit from it, the vendors and breathless tech journalists who can’t think of anything worthwhile to write about. They’re working very hard to make it sound like a wonderful thing, a miracle of rare device that will transform life as we know it.Carla Schroder, Editor – on Keep your cloud

Even worse, “cloud” has become just a catchy word that is sprinkled over marketing copy to boost customer acquisition and increase buy-in (or something).

The interesting thing about cloud computing is that we’ve redefined cloud computing to include everything that we already do. I can’t think of anything that isn’t cloud computing with all of these announcements. The computer industry is the only industry that is more fashion-driven than women’s fashion. Maybe I’m an idiot, but I have no idea what anyone is talking about. What is it? It’s complete gibberish. It’s insane. When is this idiocy going to stop? We’ll make cloud computing announcements. I’m not going to fight this thing. But I don’t understand what we would do differently in the light of cloud. Larry Ellison, CEO – Oracle Corporation

Anyway, that’s my take on the cloud. The innovative part has nothing to do with the tech and everything to do with the operations model. I suppose Cloud Computing For Dummies will tell you something very different.

  1. Roy Stephan, Director of IT architecture and engineering – Intelligent Decisions in CNNMoney Why the cloud is now the hottest trend in tech. 

  2. Sean McGrath in ITWorld Only the cloud can scale