Smearing Cloud Lipstick on a Legacy Tech Pig

The Cloud Computing Conference and Expo in Santa Clara has come to an end, leaving a fair share of opinion, skepticism, and robust Lipstick on the Cloud Pigdiscussion for the period of incubation leading up to the next conference. Many companies have adopted “Cloud-something or other” as their new name, and are aggressively bringing their products to market. We observed exhibitors displaying cloud network management software, cloud email and SMS messaging, cloud security – basically cloud everything.

According to the conference organizer (SYS-CON’s Jeremy Geelan), the conference exceeded all their expectations. Those expectations were to enlighten attendees on the state of cloud computing, train those who need to need to know more about clouds, and offer a forum to debate both the value and future of cloud computing.

I try not to be one of those expo attendees who find joy in tormenting booth staff, as often you will meet sales and marketing people who have no technical knowledge of their product, and are trying to simply collect cards and develop potential business from visitors and conference attendees. A model used over the past 100 years of industry conferences and expos.

However, of around 50 booths at the conference, only a handful of vendors could really be considered directly involved in development of cloud products or services. The rest either resell somebody else’s service, have tagged their legacy product with a “cloud” prefix of suffix, or simply set up a booth to have visibility or presence at the conference.

Now this is not a bad thing, in my opinion. As a cloud evangelist, a person who has dreamed about cloud computing, GRID computing, high performance computing, and network computing for most of my professional life, seeing the tag “cloud” plastered on just about everything makes me happy. It means the term and enthusiasm for cloud computing is no longer the domain of engineers, but is about to hit the “hype scale” that will drive the vision into the eyes and minds of just about everybody on the street. Without hitting this phase of “hype” development, cloud will risk dying or fading away like many of the other great ideas of our generation.

If that is what it takes to continue forcing companies to build faster, cheaper, and more agile cloud products; if that is what it takes to push governments to understand the value of virtualization and consolidation; if that is what it takes to push entertainment, social media, the financial community, and all industry information technology planning over to the cloud, then I will gladly buy the lipstick and distribute it freely to marketing companies to smear on the next startup’s branding plan.

Getting Past the “Geek”

As with all well-attended conferences, the most robust discussions took place in hallways, the exposition floor, and café tabletops. It is exciting to be in the early stages of technology shifts, as everybody has a different vision, different direction, and different opinion on the best way to create technologies, and apply them to business and social problems. Bringing back the Internet analogy of the 90’s, when email was considered a tools for geeks (circa 1992), and would never replace robust and mature technologies such as fax, cloud computing has a fair share of skeptics and “nay-sayers” as well.

Why? As engineers we are probably much more agile when jumping on the technology “first-mover bandwagon.” We are the ones with home entertainment systems which frequently pop circuit breakers, and occasionally attract local police departments to gently remind us we are being obnoxious and disturbing our neighbors.

Financial officers, operations staff, sales people, and other professionals are inherently reluctant to refresh technology and processes which work. To disrupt a business process requires a very compelling argument outlining and presenting the need for change, the risk of not making a recommended change, the potential outcome if the change fails, and the “pain point” technology refresh will solve when adopted.

Another example. Today most sales organizations have adopted some kind of CRM (customer relationship management) platform. It might be a SaaS product such as SalesForce.Com, Microsoft Dynamics, or other internal application. 15 years ago no sales person would willingly put their sales “funnel” into an online system, nor would they even give up their address book without a fight. Time has proven CRM systems are good for both the sales person, as well as the company, and facilitates the book-to-bank process. But it took a very long time to prove to both companies and sales people this process was valid, and still today has a strong lobby of reluctant old-timers who resist CRM.

Virtualizing IT applications and consolidating data centers makes sense. Economic, environmental, and performance sense. Let’s support the marketing efforts to bring cloud to the headlines. As engineers we need to be tolerant of those efforts, and understand without the marketing phase of cloud development it will take us longer to get into the DNA of future network and compute technologies.

And solve the final question, “which shade of lipstick is best for the cloud?”

John Savageau, Long Beach, from Sunnyvale, California

About johnsavageau
Another telecom junkie who has been bouncing around the international communications community for most of the past 35 years.

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