Cloud Isn't Really About Technology

If there was one concept about “the cloud” I wish more people understood it is that the cloud is not a technological revolution.

Sure, a faster and more pervasive Internet helps, but we’ve had vendor-hosted applications for years. Virtualization has created better opportunities for server infrastructure, lowering barriers to entry and helping us squeeze blood out of things we once treated as rocks. But, despite being almost continuously conflated with “cloud,” it isn’t the cloud. Not by itself.

The cloud is about people and about process. It’s about organizations deciding to talk to each other internally, to collaborate and solve problems together. Cloud is about opening the door to automation and security and scalability, asking computers to do what they are good at and, more importantly, asking humans to stop doing what they are notoriously terrible at. It’s about having two file servers instead of twenty, one web server instead of one hundred, and one guy that’s good at running a web server in charge of it. Cloud is about saving money, but not quite the same way virtualization saves money. Virtualization removes the hardware, cloud removes the duplication.

Just as importantly, cloud is, in many ways, a backlash against traditional IT. Cloud is a notice, a banner flying high, that organizations want their IT systems to help them, not to suck their life away. Cloud is an organization choosing something other than the traditional enterprise systems and their terrible, horrible, no good, very bad user interfaces, implementation complexities, and support. Cloud is CEOs learning of new IT opportunities from a Super Bowl commercial. Cloud is an organization that is tired of IT’s excuses, expenses, and failures.

You can move your whole data center into Amazon EC2 without ever grasping a single concept of “cloud.” You can implement pretty web interfaces that call themselves “cloud” and make your data center as expensive and complicated as ever. It isn’t about technology. It’s about simplification, it’s about money, and it’s really about the people who want IT to finally hear what they are saying.