It is the time of the year for “State of the …” messages. How is the Cloud doing, and where is it going? What do your peers think about it?
Amazingly enough, I still get questions about the value of the Cloud. I had a senior executive at a global company tell me that the Cloud was just a fad, and that he was busy figuring out what was coming next. The company’s current Cloud offering was part of his empire, and, maybe not surprisingly, not going anywhere.
In one sense, he is right. There will be something beyond the Cloud. Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, Google and the iTunes Store are way beyond the Internet as we knew it in 2000, but they all absolutely depend on the Internet. In my view, the next big thing, or more likely, panoply of big things, will all depend and build on today’s Cloud. Smart power grids, smart cars, smart homes, and smart cities will all be enabled by an all-encompassing and all-connecting Cloud. And like the Internet, no company or government will own or control very much of it.
But, you say, the Cloud has not taken hold as much as we were told it would. Probably true, but there is a lot more Cloud usage than you might believe. Even in your own company, there may be several Shadow IT projects going on that you are not aware of. What is your competition doing about the Cloud? Keep in mind that it may be hard to determine whether they have begun that journey, until they demonstrate their ability to react faster than you can.
I’ve been in the IT industry for a very long time, and almost always the marketing and analyst predictions on a new product are inflated. I’m not surprised that the Cloud has not achieved, in hindsight, the unreachable growth predicted a few years ago. There are some obvious reasons for this:
- The soft worldwide economy, along with the seeming rush of many countries to devalue their currency. Only the ones who devalue their currency first really win even in the short term, but it plays havoc with international trade.
- Uncertainty about the impact of US government executive orders, laws and regulations on the cost of running a business, especially in the areas of taxes and health care.
- Uncertainty of the economic situation in the Euro Zone. While the noise has lessoned, it is fairly clear that the underlying problems have not been fixed, or probably even eased.
- The economic threat against Mideast oil by the unintended consequences of the Arab Spring and potential actions by countries like Iran or Israel.
- The switch to Windows 7. It is amazing how distracting this kind of exercise is to an IT shop.
- The huge adoption of tablets and smart phones by employees, often against the wishes or even commands of IT. Again, a huge distraction.
Most of these economic issues have not disappeared with the New Year. If there is one word to describe the 2013 economic outlook, that word is “uncertainty.”
But the Cloud is taking hold. As one example, an IDC survey of UK-based Cloud managers reported that three quarters of the surveyed companies “viewed the Cloud as the way to solve their key business issues.” One thing that is changing is that Cloud managers are realizing that the real benefit of the Cloud to their business is in increased agility giving them a competitive edge. Saving money, while still important, is no longer than main driver for most companies.
Another significant change is that companies are starting to move their “bet the business” applications to the Cloud. This is largely enabled by the maturity of the major Cloud Service Providers (CSPs) and their ability to scale almost without bound. Some CSPs have signed deals with blue chip companies to support applications with significantly more than 100,000 users. Most companies are planning to move additional applications to the Cloud in 2013.
The entire Health Care industry is impacted by existing legislation requiring the adoption of electronic medical records (EMR). This adoption is absolutely necessary, with improved patient care, reduced medical accidents, and in the end reduced total cost to provide care. The Cloud is a key enabler, allowing insurance companies, pharmacies, doctors and hospitals to share information about a patient enabling quicker and more accurate treatment. Getting there can be a real pain, especially for those organizations with only paper-based patient records. These companies are not just moving their existing IT to the Cloud, they are moving to an automated computer-managed environment, actions that most older companies took decades ago, and a phase newer companies never went through at all.
An October ComputerWeekly.com report indicates that only 5% of companies have a Cloud strategy, and only 20% of companies have the resources to actually create a plan. This means that a lot of companies are moving into the Cloud without a plan. Is yours one of them? If so, I suggest that is a bad idea. While the Cloud can have significant benefits in terms of reduced costs and increased agility, if used inappropriately it can have severe security, performance and availability issues. If you are not part of the lucky 20% with the appropriate internal knowledge, skills and time to create your Cloud adoption plan, then get help.
If you believe the key word for 2013 is “uncertainty” then the journey to the Cloud is likely to be critical to your company’s future. Only the Cloud allows you to quickly react to the upward and downward changes that are coming.
The last word:
The recent tragedies in the U.S. are yet again bringing gun control into the forefront of government, pundits and the average citizen. Various governments at many levels are enacting new laws and regulations. Very few of these new rules get at the real problem, and I fear very few will have any real beneficial outcome. In the U.S., over 60% of gun-related deaths are suicide. No matter which side of this issue you are on, I would like you to consider one thing. The Second Amendment, part of the Bill of Rights, was enacted during the First Congress of the United States in August of 1789, shortly after the end of the Revolutionary War. The purpose of the Second Amendment was not to protect hunters, or to enable someone to protect their family or valuables from a criminal although it did support those activities. The purpose of the Second Amendment was to enable the people to protect themselves from their government.
St. George Tucker, a lawyer, Revolutionary War militia officer, legal scholar, and later a U.S. District Court judge (appointed by James Madison in 1813), wrote in 1803: “Whenever standing armies are kept up, and the right of the people to keep and bear arms is, under any color or pretext whatsoever, prohibited, liberty, if not already annihilated, is on the brink of destruction.”
The Swiss government requires that at least one person in each household be armed. This is what has enabled them to remain a Neutral Country for so long. And a Free People.
Keep your sense of humor.