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September 11, 2011


The Cloud(?) beyond the Clouds

by AlanSBPerkins

My observations of our changing IT landscape move me to write this post about where I think we are heading and what our world will look like beyond the currently fragmented understanding of what Cloud Computing is.

People see Cloud Computing in different ways. Some see it as a cost cutting vehicle, some see it as a strategy for Greener IT, some see it as just a means of managing virtualising or outsourcing of computer power and storage. Others, including myself, have seen it as a means of facilitating innovation in a world of opportunity without limits. Regardless of the perspective, most people talk “Cloud” but think “Clouds”. I have never subscribed to the view that there are multiple clouds – that is just not compelling enough, too limiting. And yet most implementations seem to end up as competitive islands bereft of capacity to really play a role in synergising for a better world.

Nevertheless, there is a lot of evidence to suggest this pluralised, fragmented and limited Cloud paradigm is being replaced inexorably by a single consolidated view, Evidence of this trend includes:

  • Single Sign On technologies providing single points of entry;
  • Increasingly convenient and powerful APIs facilitating interoperability and data exchange between systems
  • User interface mash ups, initially limited to maps and embedded videos, are increasingly making their way into social networking and business applications, everything from Twitter and RSS feeds to camera based applications like QR and barcode  readers, from financial credit ratings on customers to public ratings on suppliers. For illustration, LinkedIn now provides Twitter feeds and WordPress blog entries without any programming. Facebook includes all manner of embedded games.
  • New Social Media platforms take advantage of our need to contextualise our input and output: LinkedIn allows the creation of groups for private or open discussions, and Google+ takes a big step forward in this direction with its concept of circles, seemingly borrowed from the like of Covey’s Circles of Influences and Concern.
This last point about contextualising input and output is a very exciting one. Managing  the ever-increasing amounts of data being generated demands new ways of contextualisation. Currently we have limited ways of contextualising the data we receive, but this is changing.
  • Twitter involves broadcasting our message to the world and will be received by followers and searchers. Strangely, a lot of people see Twitter as a reciprocal arrangement, whereas its real power lies in people being able to follow those who have something to say that they find interesting. Reciprocation as a practice limits the usefulness of the medium. As a side note, it is interesting how the crowd has adapted Twitter for contextualization by adding hash tags (#MyTopic). This has enabled Twitter-based real time discussions, trending topics to be picked up and has introduced all sorts of leveraging power for customers,vendors, budding artists and anyone else who wants to be noticed. Salesforce Chatter has adopted the same convention.
  • Many email clients provide a range of ways to automate the management of email. We started with clients like Outlook that could do things like put emails in folders (A very client-oriented approach). GMail introduced labels – the new tagging approach meant that emails could co-exist in multiple locations. Threading added support for grouping related emails. Business rules facilitated focus on things that are important immediately, without losing things for later attention. Spam management both at the server and the client side also helped. Recently a number of tools are rethinking this. For example, ZeroMail, currently in beta, learns from your behavior as well as the behavior of others how email should be processed and separates magazine-style content into a reading stream, allows emails to be treated as tasks and to be snoozed for later attention.
  • Back-end facilities such as Amazon SQS (Simple Queuing Service) and SNS (Simple Notification Service) now allow developers to tie systems together in unimaginable ways, providing interesting context and value that is hard to predict.
  • The emergence of Database as a a Service in a variety of forms is allowing designers to focus on how their system will provide value rather than how the data is stored or persisted.
Seeing beyond the vendor, the user interface, the tool we are using is vital to allowing the Cloud to truly reach its potential. Getting caught up on how we achieve our ends is self-limiting in this new world where almost anything is possible.
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3 Comments Post a comment
  1. Sep 11 2011

    Great read…I presented on this subject at a conference recently and I’d been following events the day before on Twitter. All the talk was about the cloud and how it would save money or allow organisations to focus on their mission. Nobody was talking about the real value (as I see it) in bringing systems or bits of functionality from all over the world / web and allowing it to interact. A completely new world which makes the next few years look incredibly exciting for anyone open to the possibilities.

  2. Sep 19 2011

    Interesting insight, Alan, appreciate having someone provide this sort of context. I like what it means for you and Altium, too: unlimited innovation, by far the best definition (and the only one I’ve seen using those two words, so far).

    • Sep 19 2011

      Thanks Alan,

      Another term I have coined that I like is ‘Innovation Elasticity’.


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