Editor's Note: This article is part of our Future of Business Technology series which focuses on what is happening to business today as a result of technology, and in turn, what's happening to the economy, the job market and IT careers.
While you’re no doubt aware of the ongoing transition in how business information services are being delivered, and that your own organization is probably in the midst of an IT transition at some level, the question you are still quite likely asking is if "the cloud" is something your business actually needs.
There’s good reason. Marketing literature is laced with references to our changing business climate and our rapid-paced world, two observations which never failed to be true during the lifetimes of anyone alive today. When evidence of the same lacing, if you will, turns up in technology journalism, you could easily forget whether you’re reading a Web site or a sales brochure. You read about the “cloud bandwagon” (marketing can mix metaphors with reckless abandon) and whether it’s leaving your business behind. You’ve probably come across the pitfalls in “migrating to the cloud paradigm” (see what I mean?). And you read the latest war dispatches from the “cloud revolution” where nothing from the client/server era is left standing in the wake of the march against the stalwart loyalists and renegade, PC-based holdouts.
As the articles and the brochures and the literature keep trumpeting, what does your business need for it to get to the cloud before your competitors do?
In just the last quarter-century, it seems information technology revolutions have become so commonplace that the adjective “revolutionary” by itself invokes just as many images of skepticism as upheaval. Typically at a business convention, you’ll see a buzzword topic like “virtualization” or “cloud” or “agile” being presented to attendees as revolutionary. And there, you’ll often find presenters stopping just short of condemning you for having failed, failed to take part. For something that’s supposed to be powerful enough to remake the world in its own image, you have to wonder how come your reticence alone is capable of stopping it.
A real trend is one that’s self-sustaining, self-motivating, “self-propelled.” Although marketing does tend to portray products or ideas as trends, it’s often wishful thinking. Viewed in that light, a real revolution changes everything, sometimes whether you like it or not.
Thus far, cloud dynamics has not quite changed everything about the global nature of business or the economy. We have yet to awaken and find ourselves in a Technicolor Land of Oompa-Loompas where the rules of the modern economy have been whimsically rewritten by elves. It’s premature to declare “cloud” the subject of a revolution. Historically, only successful events have been worthy of the moniker. The English monarchy would not be referring to the American Revolution as such, had it not been completely and brilliantly successful.
Can cloud dynamics become revolutionary, however? Yes. Most of the basic ingredients are there. The formula is in place for achieving widespread and sweeping improvement to the way we work. Whether history will judge the still-emerging concept as revolutionary will depend not upon how much has been disrupted, but instead upon how much the resulting reformation yielded measurable, lasting improvement. Disruptions are pointless unto themselves.
Revolutions in IT have been tried before. Most of them have failed, some spectacularly. Veteran CIOs, admins, and IT managers are wary of jumping onto another bandwagon simply because it’s there. They see this thing called “cloud” and, with good reason, they wonder why such a fluffy euphemism is necessary for a technology that supposedly has such innate potential. They’re not ready to take a bow for the new revolution just yet. Actually, their more likely response is like that of Marvin, the Paranoid Android from The Hitchhiker’s Guide, when told a whole new life awaits him: “Oh, no, not another one!”
What a cloud revolution clearly lacks at present is the same ingredient that was lacking the last several times business revolutions have been tried: consensus.
Scott M. Fulton, III has chronicled the history of computing as it happened, from the unveiling of the Apple III to the undoing of MS-DOS to the rise of the cloud. Scott was one of the original online managers of the Delphi network (you remember modems, don’t you?), part of the original editorial team of Computer Shopper (you remember paper, don’t you?), the Senior News Editor at Tom’s Hardware and the original TG Daily (you remember... never mind), and for four years served as managing editor of Betanews. He’s the author of 17 books and over 5,000 articles printed worldwide in multiple languages. Scott also appears as contributing technology analyst on NTN24’s Ciencia, Salud y Tecnología. So basically, he has at least one finger in just about every medium, in hopes that maybe one of them will take root and bear fruit. You never know, something could happen. His fingers are crossed. (Which could explain the typing problems.) While he’s waiting, Scott and his wife Jennifer, herself a best-selling author (where do you think he gets it?), run Ingenus, LLC, an editorial services provider for technology and higher education publishers. Right now, their daughter is probably on Tumblr telling her friends how Dad keeps finding something new to go wrong with his VCR. You can follow Scott on Twitter at @SMFulton3.
See here for all of Scott's Tom's IT Pro articles.