A version of this essay was originally published atTech.pinions, a website dedicated to informed opinions, insight and perspective on the tech industry.
From a technology perspective, the idea of delivering computing services from the cloud has gone mainstream. Every day, it seems, we end up hearing about or interacting with a new service or app that gets its capabilities from the ephemeral and, frankly, sometimes baffling idea of computers in the sky.
Well, okay, not exactly — advanced computing topics aren’t always known for their precision of language and clarity of meaning — but we all do use lots of online resources that are powered by servers and other computing devices that we can’t see or touch.
For consumers, these types of cloud computing-driven interactions are becoming regular and commonplace. Looking for transportation? Hail a ride from Uber or Lyft. Settle a debate? Ask your question of Siri, Cortana, Google Now or other personal assistants. Listen to your favorite tunes? Fire up Spotify, Pandora, Tidal or a host of other choices.
Businesses can also leverage cloud-computing-based services from the likes of Salesforce, Dropbox and hundreds of other companies. There’s also a rapidly growing business in offering cloud computing itself as a service from companies like Amazon, Microsoft and Google.
In all cases, the idea is to leverage a seemingly inexhaustible supply of computing power, storage space and fast network connection pipes to deliver computing as a utility, much like power companies deliver electricity to all our homes and businesses.
Web-based companies, like the ones mentioned above, are writing software to take advantage of this new utility in a way that allows them to run services on top of this infrastructure and build a business model around them.
Traditional businesses, however, have been much slower to move to this new flexible, but often technically challenging, type of computing. Oh, sure, there has been a lot of talk about creating “private clouds” (companies build their own web-like computing infrastructure, leveraging the same kinds of tools and methods used for the public internet but keeping everything inside their own walls), or “hybrid clouds,” which mix some elements of “private clouds” with “public clouds” hosted out on the internet. In reality, however, adoption of these new concepts has moved slower than many initially expected.
The reasons for these delays are many. First, there is the basic question of trust. Many companies have been very leery of letting their digital crown jewels outside the walls of their organization. Not as widely discussed, but equally problematic, is the issue of job security.