Of course, the concept of cloud computing has taken the software market by storm and it has almost become a commodity that everyone expects to be in place. Not a day (or blog) goes by that doesn’t tout the infinite benefits of the cloud.

And the advantages seem crystal clear. Really?


I am not sure this is true! I think much of the real goodness of cloud is still not fully understood, and I‘d like to use the example of a very common consumer product – the automobile – to explain how strong a native cloud solution really is.

  • What would happen if the benefits of a cloud software were applied to the way we use cars?
  • What would the “Cloudcar” of the future look like?

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Let’s have a look into a possible future and adapt this great method to the car industry:

  • You would not need to buy the car. You would pay as you go, picking the subscription model that best suits your needs. For example, one model might offer unlimited usage per driver. Another model might be based on the distance driven.
  • You would not need to decide for a bigger car based on the assumption that you family could grow over the next years! If you need more seats, you can always get a bigger car whenever you need it, immediately.
  • You would drive the latest model all the time. No need to look for new models, ordering and wait for the new one until it reaches your garage. New models are delivered over night or over the weekend. You’ll find them in the morning in the same place you parked the old one the night before. And all your stuff that’s in your car is again in the same place in the new one, the seat and the mirrors are in the right position. Addresses are still stored in your GPS and mobile, your music player still has your favorite playlists.
  • The fans of high-performance cars would be happy as well: Whenever there is a new platform with a more powerful and economic engine and a complete new chassis which runs much faster than the old one – you would benefit over night as well.
  • You would not have to go to the garage for maintenance or to change tires. You would not have to pay additional insurance fees or dues to an automobile association to be prepared when having an unplanned stop on a long distance trip with your car.
  • You would not worry about somebody stealing your car or you beloved items you left in the car! Your car would be always parked in a high security area – wherever you are.
  • And best of all, you would be able to control your car with your smart phone, e.g. checking engine  status, programming a destination into your GPS and transferring new music. All included with no additional fee and running directly out-of-the box.

Wouldn’t that be a dream come true?

For software, this is available today with native cloud solutions:

http://www.sap.com/cloud

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9 Comments

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  1. Steve Rumsby

    Those are all great features of “cloudcar”. I’ve wanted some of them for years myself. For example, mostly I could get by with a small car for day-to-day use but just occasionally (e.g. for family holidays) I need a much larger one. Being able to scale up for just a couple of weeks would be great. Instead I compromise and have a larger car than I need most of the year and a slightly smaller car than I need for two weeks a year. And I’d love to have an electric car much of the time but be able to switch to an internal combustion engine when I need a longer range.

    But this arrangement isn’t all upside, is it? I’ve used cloud-based software before and it isn’t all trouble free. Upgrades don’t always leave everything working the way it used to. Sometimes you find the gear shift moves around, or the oil pressure gauge disappears because most people don’t want it, although you use it a lot. And the upgrades are delivered to somebody else’s timetable, maybe when you’re on holiday and don’t want to re-pack the car because it is now a slightly different shape and your luggage doesn’t fit. Or you get home one day driving a new upgraded car with more legroom and luggage space, only to find the garage door no longer closes because the car is now too long.

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    1. Benno Eberle Post author

      Hi Steve,

      I think nothing is perfect by definition and most people marry their partner with knowing all the unperfecties but decides is worth to bind for a lifetime anyway. 😉

      But think about how young cloud computing is and how fast it progressed the last years in respect to functionality and user interface. Due to the shorter cycles and active user feedback channels the influence of the users and the adoption rate of aggregated user feedback is enormous.

      Where light is there is always shadow but we are adding light bulbs every quarter, promised!

      Best

      Benno

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      1. Steve Rumsby

        My point isn’t that cloud is bad, but that only the upsides ever seem to be mentioned, not just in this blog but elsewhere also. We would all benefit from constructive discussion of the downsides. Presenting cloud as universally good helps no one.

        Steve.

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  2. Stephen Johannes

    I like the analogy, but one issue I that I haven’t seen cloud providers address is what happens when the provider goes bankrupt or out of business or is acquired and terminates the solution?

    I’m really interested in what rights or ways a mission critical system put in the cloud has in terms of being able to get access to data or other assets stored in the cloud when the provide is unable or unwilling to provide service anymore.  I think that’s bigger issue even more so than security.

    I mean in this example the cloudcar can technically disappear at any point without notice.

    Take care,

    Stephen

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    1. Steve Rumsby

      Or even if the provider takes the solution in a direction that doesn’t work for you and you want to stop using it. What if your cloudcar goes all-electric overnight, because that’s obviously a good thing, but you don’t have a charging point installed and so can’t use it anymore?

      You’re right – I don’t see this issue being discussed very often. Before you start using a cloud solution you should think about your exit strategy. You might need to do that in a hurry…

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    2. Benno Eberle Post author

      You are right, you should allways look one step further!

      But for security and trust it’s important to choose a trustful provider.

      But don’t you think that with SAP and their 42 years of experience you really are in danger?

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      1. Stephen Johannes

        It’s not that we dont’ trust SAP to stay around, but it would be wrong to blindly trust a provider without performing due dilligence on that provider.   In addition wrong leadership at any cloud provider could cause that company to fail.

        Are there any type of tennant protection laws for cloud providers?  In many areas of the world there are laws saying you can’t be evicted without proper notice or company’s that shutdown must provide notice.  How do cloud service agreements handle situations when the company providing the service does want to fire the customer?

        Those are the types of questions that I would love to see addressed by cloud providers, rather than the cloud is faster or your data is still secure.  What are the best practices and what should someone expect.  How do you compare to your competitor in these issues.  That’s a lot more interesting than the cloud is cool blogs.

        Take care,

        Stephen

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  3. Gretchen Lindquist

    Benno,

    This is a very interesting analogy, but I am aftraid that for me, the downsides of cloudcar outweigh the advantages. I like knowing where all the buttons are on my privately owned vehicle (POV), and I am afraid that the cloud car upgrades would be disruptive and require training that might not be convenient. I also have my POV customized, where my dog’s car seat, seat protector, and my canvas shopping bags are always handy in the back. If I had to get a cloudcar every time I needed to go somewhere, all that stuff would have to be stored in the house somewhere, and I would have to remember to customize my cloudcar with these extra accesssories, repeatedly. I am also concerned about the reliability of the cloudcar, if it is anything like the cloud enterprise app I have to use at work. When that app is down, no work gets processed; unlike the cloud, my Toyota is very reliable and takes me to the veterinarian or wherever, whenever.

    Thanks, but I will wait.

    Cheers,

    Gretchen

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    1. Benno Eberle Post author

      Hi Gretchen,
      thanks for your great feedback!
      Cloud will not replace everything overnight, and that’s fine.
      Customer always have the choice to choose what’s best for them. And more and more customers have a mix of On-Prem and Cloud-Solutions in their own portfolio balanced in a way to find their very specific optimum.

      As cloud solutions are updated on a quarterly basis, it’s a kind of continuous evolution instead of very hard cuts of completely new versions with a lot of training effort. One reason is to prevent our customer from disruptive situations as much as possible and let them benefit on a continous basis (look here: http://bit.ly/1boDczX )
      The UI’s are very modern and easy to use to prevent users from struggling and for new versions there are small videos showing all the benefits to train the users on-the-fly where possible. Training efforts are typically lower than we are used to from the past.

      The uptime of cloud solutions in our data centers is on a very very high level. And all critical elements are redundant: Energy comes from two different providers with two different pathways and we have diesel generators to make sure everything is running. Same principle with the internet connection, hardware, backup, etc.

      On the customer side it’s as well easy and cheap to have a redundant internet connection. So downtime is really very very low and the risk is definitly not higher than we are used to.

      Even the customization is not a problem. In the past Cloud solutions had been very static, agree. But today there are highly customizable and adaptable. Solutions are built in a way that the customer can add his last mile to the perfect solution with adaptable screens, database and business logic. Additionally to the built-in tools there is a Cloud Applications Studio to have even more options for extension or to add completely new business logic. (see here: http://bit.ly/17s840L)

      So should not be a problem to customize Your cloud car without losing this customization.

      Cheers

      Benno

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