“First principles, Clarice. Simplicity. Read Marcus Aurelius. Of each particular thing ask: what is it in itself? What is its nature?”
– Dr. Hannibal Lector in the Silence of the Lambs
In my first post for SAP, I observed that an orchestra seems to play Morgenstimmung every time someone utters the phrase “cloud computing.” This jargon presents a serious risk for business leaders who haven’t caught on yet since the symphonic score for the change we’re in the middle of is actually much more like O Fortuna. (I’m not trying to be hoity-toity. Click the links. You’ll know the songs.)
Before I go further, let me acknowledge that the title of this post may seem like a bait-and-switch. If you expected me to say that it’s all much ado about nothing, here’s my point: this topic is infected with cliché, buzzwords, and hollow language. Anyone who watches cable news can attest that language affords and constrains the thoughts that underpin a given subject. As jargon is the second biggest obstacle to meaningful business discussion (the first being PowerPoint), let us explore what actually makes so-called cloud computing a topic of such interest. Panels, presentations, and papers abound that discuss the importance of “the cloud,” but I have yet to see any that succinctly summarizes its nature for a general audience.
“The cloud” = Using a network connection to do things and store things on computers that you don’t directly control.
This is what the cloud physically looks like:
From the perspective of most individuals, business computing has been “in the cloud” for decades. End users do things on devices with monitors, keyboards, and mice (you can add in cameras, microphones, and touchscreens these days) and corporate IT departments maintain all of the big machines in the noisy rooms at the back of the office that no one but them usually goes into. Long ago, the language used was “terminal & mainframe.” It then became “PC & server.”
If this is the case, then why all the fuss? We must consider the current revolution at the corporate level, because the same thing that has long been true individually is finally true organizationally. Thanks to increasing computing power, increasing network capacity, and falling equipment costs, there are now whole companies that take care of the big machines and noisy rooms and allow others to use that power over the Internet. Although some will get fussy about the semantics – which is why we’re peeling away linguistic layers here – “the cloud” is to information technology as offshore contract manufacturing has been to supply chains.
The beautiful images of bright horizons mask another word that once was empty jargon. That word, especially in these tough economic times, has now become infused with meaning.
Ian McCullough is an independent consultant for consumer-facing businesses. He has successfully deployed cloud-based solutions (including SAP Business ByDesign) at the companies he works with, so he is an active practitioner and builder – not just some random theorist. He personally has no objections to large, established companies resting on their laurels since he generally serves the small companies that will ultimately displace them. For more information, you can visit his LinkedIn profile. SAP strives to provide world-leading service to all of its customers regardless of size, so rest assured that the opinions presented in this post are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the positions of SAP or its agents.
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