Clouds are like Electricity: Dont be Scared

September 25, 2009 – 6:38 pm
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IT clouds (compute, applications, storage, and services) are like electricity in that they can be scary or confusing to some while being enabling or a necessity s to others not to mention being a polarizing force depending on where you sit or view them.

As a polarizing force, if you are a cloud crowd cheerleader or evangelist, you might view someone who does not subscribe or share your excitement, views or interpretations as a cynic.

On the other hand, if you are a skeptic, or perhaps scared or even a cynic, you might view anyone who talks about cloud in general or not specific terms as a cheerleader.

I have seen and experienced this electrifying polarization first hand having being told by crowd cloud cheerleaders or evangelists that I dont like clouds, that Im a cynic who does not know anything about clouds.

As a funny aside (at least I thought it was funny), I recently asked someone who gave me an ear full while they were trying to convert me to be a cloud believer if they had read any of the chapters in my new book The Green and Virtual Data Center (CRC). The response was NO and I said to the effect to bad, as in the book, I talk about how clouds can be complimentary to existing IT resources as being another tier of servers, storage, applications, facilities and IT services.

On the other hand, and this might be funny for some of the crowd cloud, when I bring up tiered IT resources including servers, storage, applications and facilities as well as where or how clouds can fit to compliment IT, I have been told by cynics or naysayers that Im a cloud cheerleader.

Wow, talk about polarized sides!

Now, what about all those that are somewhere in the middle, those that are skeptics who might see value for IT clouds for different scenarios and may in fact already be using clouds (depending upon someones definition).

For those in the middle, whether they are vendors, vars, media, press, analysts, consultants, IT professionals, investors or others, they can easily be misunderstood, misrepresented, and a missed opportunity, perhaps even lamented by those on either of the two extremes (e.g. cloud crowd cheerleaders or true skeptic nay sayers).

Time for some education, don’t be scared, however be careful!

When I worked for an electric power generating and transmission utility an important lesson was not to be scared of electricity, however, be educated, what to do, what not to do in different situations including what to do or not do in the actual power plant or substation. I was taught that when in the actual plant, or at a substation of which I visited in support of the applications and systems I was developing or maintaining, to do certain things. For example, number one, dont touch certain things, number two, if you fall, don’t grab anything, the fall may or may not hurt you, let alone the sudden stop where ever you land, however, if you grab something, that might kill you and you may not be able to let go further injuring yourself. This was a challenging thought as we are taught to grab onto something when falling.

What does this have to do with clouds?

Don’t grab and hang-on if you don’t know what you are grabbing on to if you don’t have to.

The cloud crowd can be polarizing and in some ways acting as a lightning rod drawing the scorns, cynicism ,skeptics, lambasting or being poked fun of given some of the over the top hype around clouds today. Now granted, not all cloud evangelists, vendors or cheerleaders deserve to be the brunt of some of this backlash within the industry; however, it comes with the territory.

Im in the middle as I pointed out above when I talk with vendors, vars, media, investors and IT customers.  Some I talk with are using clouds (perhaps not compliant with some of the definitions). Some are looking at clouds to move problems or mask issues, others are curious yet skeptical to see where or how they could use clouds to compliment their environments. Yet others are scared however maybe in the future will be more open minded as they become educated and see technologies evolve or shift beyond a fashionable trend.

So its time for disclosure, I seeIT clouds as being complimentary that can co-exist with other IT resources (servers, storage, software). In essence, my view is that clouds are just another tier of IT resources to be used when and where applicable as opposed to being a complete replacement, or, simply ignored.

My point is that cloud computing is another tier of traditional computing or servers providing a different performance, availability, capacity, economic and management attributes compared to other traditional technology delivery vehicles. Same thing with storage, same thing with data centers or hosting sites in general. This also applies to application services, in that a cloud web, email, expense, sales, crm, erp, office or other applications is a tier of those same implementations that may exist in a traditional environment. After all, legacy, physical, virtual, grid and cloud IT datacenters all have something in common, they rely on physical servers, storage, networks, software, metrics and management involving people, processes and best practices.

Now back to disclosure, I like clouds, however Im not a cloud cheerleader, Im a skeptic at times of some over the top hype, yet I also personally use some cloud services and technologies as well as advise others to leverage cloud services when, or where applicable to compliment, co-exist and help enable a green and virtual data center and information factory.

To the cloud crowd cheerleaders, too bad if I don’t line up with all of your belief systems or if you perceive me as raining on your parade by being a skeptic , or what you might think of as a cynic and non believer, even though I use clouds myself.

Likewise, to the true cynics (not skeptics) or naysayers, ease up, Im not drinking the cool-aid of the cheerleaders and evangelists, or at least not in large excessive binge doses. I agree that clouds are not the solution to every IT issue, regardless of what your definition of a cloud happens to be.

To everyone else, regardless of if you are the minatory or majority out there that do not fall into one of the two above groups I have this to say.

Dont be afraid, dont be scared of clouds, learn to navigate your way around and through the various technologies, techniques, products and services and indemnity where they might compliment and enable a flexible and scalable resilient IT infrastructure.

Take some time to listen and learn, become educated on what the different types of clouds (public, private, services, products, architectures, or marketecture), their attributes (compute, storage, applications, services, cost, availability, performance, protocols, functionality) and value proposition.

Look into how cloud technologies and techniques might compliment your existing environment to meet specific business objectives. You might find there are fits, you might there are not, however have a look and do some research so that you can at least hold your ground if storm clouds roll in.

After all, clouds are just another tier of IT resources to add to your tool box enabling more efficient and effective IT services delivery. Clouds do not have to be the all or nothing value proposition that often end up in discussions due to polarized extreme views and definitions or past experiences.

Look at it this way, IT relies on electricity, however electricity needs to be understood and respected not to mention used in effective ways. You can be scared of electricity, you can be caviler around it, or, it can be part of your environment and enabler as long as you know when, where and how to use it, not to mention not using it as applicable.

So next time you see a cloud crowd cheerleader, give them a hug, give them a pat on the back, an atta boy or atta girl as they are just doing their jobs, perhaps even following their beliefs and in the line of duty taking a lot of heat from the industry in the pursuit of their work.

On the other hand, as to the cynics and naysayers, they may in fact be using clouds already, perhaps not under the strict definition of some of the chieftains of the cloud crowd.

To everyone else, dont worry, don’t by scared about the clouds, instead, focus on your business, you IT issues and look at various tiers of technologies that can serve as an enabler in a cost effective manner.

Ok, nuff said.

Cheers gs

Greg Schulz – Author Cloud and Virtual Data Storage Networking (CRC Press), The Green and Virtual Data Center (CRC Press) and Resilient Storage Networks (Elsevier)
twitter @storageio

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  1. 17 Responses to “Clouds are like Electricity: Dont be Scared”

  2. There was a time when the market buzz was nonstop about how the sky was the limit for Enron.

    Being a skeptic, and not really trusting the market, I raised the objections that without some widget to tie real value to, the bottom of Enron’s value could also not be firmly established.

    Not everyone with a bit of IP to tout and a sales force can achieve the full potential value of the Cloud market. So the question going in is which of the providers will survive, and how do you avoid being the customer caught off guard when the sky clears?

    Maybe even more important will be the hollowing out of what we’ve become accustomed to as the IT working class, as jobs are divied up between lower paying support organizations and fewer and fewer contract staff.

    By Robert Clark on Sep 25, 2009

  3. Here are a couple of links to related discussions around clouds and examples of how polarizing some of the conversaitons and views can be.

    Over on Steve Duplessie blog:

    Over on the Storage Networking Industry Site (May require registration):

    And Chuck Goolsbee among others:

    Cheers – gs

    By Greg Schulz on Sep 30, 2009

  4. “To everyone else…focus on your business, you IT issues and look at various tiers of technologies that can serve as an enabler in a cost effective manner.”

    I agree with your comment Greg, however I have found that for a large number of SMEs the technology most able to enable business growth is a cloud model! It offers the additional benfit of being exceptionally cost effective. I’m referring to managed desktop services here in particular.

    Releasing your typical SME owner/director from the burden of technology (which pretty much every commercial enterprise has these days) means they are more able to focus on their business.

    Couple that with the benefits of scalability and availability offered by the cloud and you have an intriguing proposition.

    In terms of economics, why does an SME need to fund up-front the hardware, desktop software licensing, rack space and technical support, data backup/recovery management and all the rest of the typical IT service function when they can simply lease everything as a rented service? This not only introduces a great degree of flexibility (the “pay for what you use” approach) but also means the financial impact is spread throughout the trading year which helps enormously with cash flow (very important in these challenging economic times!)

    However the grass is not always greener. The cloud is certainly more appropriate in some instances than others. Like all technologies it should not be considered in isolation and in many cases it probably will serve as an additional tier of IT services, however there is also a healthy market for “pure cloud” services.

    By Paul on Oct 5, 2009

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