How Well Has Cloud Computing Weathered 15 Years Of Marketing Hype?

Written by Todd L. Michaud
May 5th, 2010

Franchisee Columnist Todd Michaud has spent the last 16 years trying to fight IT issues, with the last six years focused on franchisee IT issues. He is currently responsible for IT at Focus Brands (Cinnabon, Carvel, Schlotzsky’s and Moe’s Southwestern Grill).

I am sick and tired of all the hype associated with cloud computing. Talk about putting lipstick on a pig. This concept is not new news. Having someone else manage critical business and IT processes has been around as long as IT. I understand that “cloud computing” sounds a whole lot sexier than “software as a service,” “managed hosting” or “virtual servers,” but that doesn’t mean the offerings are any better. A rose by any other name still has thorns.

In the mid-1990s, you could implement a Web application on a shared server at an Internet service provider (ISP). You would get all the benefits of a “powerful computing package” and “pre-installed” applications without the fuss and muss of buying your own equipment and installing your own software. Sure, you were limited in the functionality you could implement, but it was software in the cloud.

In the early 2000s, implementing your applications at a “managed service provider” was in vogue. Unlike the service offerings at ISPs, this service actually came with IT people who could manage a more complex set of applications. “Don’t hire an expensive database administrator, simply rent some time with our guy and get all the benefit at a fraction of the cost.”

In the mid-2000s, it was all about “software as a service” (SaaS). Not only could you rent your servers and your IT team, but you could also rent the application. No more pesky software license bills when you started a project. Sure, these applications came with some built-in business processes. But they almost never met the needs of your company, so you were going to have to pay someone to make the software work for you. Still, you didn’t have to lay out any cash upfront.

Now it’s all about “cloud computing.” Depending on who you talk to, cloud computing is one or all of the other prior service definitions rolled into one. You can get raw infrastructure if you want (virtual server); you can get that server supported (managed hosting); or you can literally rent the applications (SaaS). Whoopdie doo! But hey, it sounds much cooler than software as a service, so I guess the cloud has that going for it.

I recently attended a Microsoft Conference, and it seemed like all the presenters had been pulled into a room before the meeting and given strict orders: “You must mention ‘cloud computing’ once every 5 minutes of the presentation or you will be fired.” That kinda reminds me of that funny Hitler cloud computing video.

I’m not saying I don’t think cloud computing has an important role in IT organizations.


2 Comments | Read How Well Has Cloud Computing Weathered 15 Years Of Marketing Hype?

  1. A Reader Says:

    The term came about because network people would commonly draw “the Internet” as a cloud on their architectural drawings. Since the physical makeup of the real Internet not only is unknown but doesn’t matter anyway, it was much better than a rigid (and incomplete) icon.

    Systems architects then began pushing apps to vendors located somewhere on the far side of the cloud. It turned out their physical infrastructure was considered as irrelevant to the business as the network. After that, we just referred to the whole thing as “the cloud”.

  2. Fabien Tiburce, President, Compliantia Says:

    I just wanted to clarify a couple points. SaaS is a business concern. It means you are leasing a service, not buying a software license. The cloud is a delivery mechanism. You can have SaaS with our without a cloud back-end. They often complement each other but are definitely not the same thing.

    Cloud computing has one HUGE advantage over anything that preceded it. Because cloud instances are virtualized, you can bring up new instances from an image in minutes. You can also resize cloud instances on demand. Gone are the days you had pay for overcapacity then pay some more when you reached it.

    Also it’s a common misconception that cloud instances are inherently load balanced, always available, etc…they are not! You definitely need to load balance them and build a network infrastructure around cloud instances.

    The cloud is convenient and the pay-per-use model helpful in offsetting infrastructure costs with revenue. It’s not all new but it sure is clever.


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