Nothing changes ….

…. everything’s just the same

These words are starting to resonate with almost daily regularity – which is about the same frequency I hear the words ‘cloud computing’. Now first let me declare a position – I am of an age! That’s an age where I still see all this IT stuff as really just ‘ones’ and ‘zeros’ and I bore people with the fact that, while I work in technology, I’m actually way more interested in “what it does” than “what it is”.

So I have to admit I’m struggling to be swept along on the wave of this so called new era of cloud computing.

Let me explain. When I was a mere slip of a thing there were these things called mainframes – huge computers, often from IBM, that performed all manner of wonders. Operators tamed these Visigoths of computing power through green-screen terminals that actually did very little computing – in fact, they did so little computing we called them dumb terminals – and they were connected by some cables and switches. Often, the mainframe was shared among many users via a sharing service (for IBM systems, TSO – Time Sharing Option) and the really sophisticated ones were even divided into partitions so that they could look like lots of computers at the same time.

Back then, what were the big issues the DP professional faced? Identity, security, reliability, recovery, etc.

Lots has changed since then – three-tier client server, middleware, the network effect, web 1.0, web 2.0 and now the all-conquering cloud. But hang on, we always knew things would get smaller, faster and cheaper – Moore’s law told us that much – and that nice Mr Berners-Lee made sure access and interface would be simpler. So what actually is this cloud computing then? Well, there’s this huge computing capability (what, like a mainframe?) that’s accessed via a browser that actually does very little computing (what, like a dumb terminal?) and your communications flow over the Internet (so, a pretty large cable then?).

And what are we worried about in this new computing age? Identity, security, reliability, recovery… need I go on?

Now, plenty of you will say I’ve missed the point and that cloud computing is actually all about lowering your total cost of ownership, time to market, etc. And of course you’d all be correct – in certain circumstances. But as a far as the IT management issues are concerned “nothing changes – everything’s just the same”.

So perhaps we should forget the hype and go back to what all this “cloud stuff” can do rather than fixating on defining “what it is”.


This post orignially appeared as my first contribution to the 360°IT Blog