A "week is a long time in politics" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harold_Wilson) and, normally seen in the destructive sense, we'd have to agree. Fundamental political shifts take longer and in my lifetime, seem to span large multi-term governments. Not so in our world of technology.
Only a year ago, the technology world was getting carried away with the "Cloud". In my experience, few people really understood what it meant. Fast flying, nimble organisations had adopted Cloud philosophy at their core, salesforce.com being perhaps the most high profile. The technology giants such as Google and Amazon were promoting their Cloud offerings, massive low cost infrastructure centric capability and/or software tools accessible from them.
And then mid last year, it was decreed (informally I hasten to add) that the Cloud was overblown hype. We'd had utility computing, we'd had shared services, it was just the same thing with a different name. It started to cause confusion, to perhaps underplay the potential impact, perfectly illustrated by last Augusts comment from http://www.networkworld.com/community/node/44555 , "Seemingly every IT vendor, even ones that have nothing to do with the cloud, is using the satisfyingly vague word to describe every product they have ever released." This made the challenge of planning an approach to Cloud adoption confusing and emphasised the need for a guide.
Of course, the blip was brief and now in February 2010 it is becoming widely recognised that we are entering a new phase of this evolving world of business enabling IT services. This will be a bigger change, a more fundamental change than I think I've seen before in my 20-odd years of work. It will change the way IT service organisations operate. It will change the way corporate business consumes technology services, they way in which they are currently defined as needed. It will drive a shift more towards flexible, agile decisions supported by agile technology - requiring more effective alignment of new ways of working for the business. It will redraw the line between innovation and risk slightly further to the right.
One wonders whether this perfect storm is due to the economic downturn, or is it a co-incidence that this maturing of a new level of commoditisation of IT services should strike right here, right now? Co-incidence maybe, but surely the recession has been a catalyst to faster adoption, a reason to embrace the perceived benefits that can be accrued. Many of these offers are yet to mature, yet to evolve into what they could ultimately become. But make no mistake, they will. This new world is here to stay - and the time is certainly right to be brave, to adopt, adapt and reap.
So what is beyond the philosophy of the cloud? What will we find?
We know that organisations such as Netsuite and Force have focused on core business processes such as financials and sales. We know that Infrastructure providers will provide low cost Public and Private Cloud solutions that will effectively (and securely, and with excellent availability - again beyond the hype) host more of the application portfolio. We know that e-mail, office and support apps will move to a Software as a Service offering. It is happening now. It will continue to happen.
What is beyond is where it gets really interesting. Where it changes the model of IT supplier and IT consumer, blurring the lines between software and bespoke business processes. How do we effectively create new ways of working, supported by simplified shared transaction processes, vertical sub-market or niche business function. I'm fascinated by the opportunity (for corporate or 3rd parties) to create niche SaaS solutions replacing legacy applications, that have the ability to operate over multiple organisations or multiple geographies. Solutions that historically may have been seen as too complex, too bespoke, will now be challenged in this quest for simplicity and cost effectiveness. Decisions like this will require business compromise, will require emotional separation, searching for ever smaller ways to differentiate the business effectiveness whilst deploying greater use of commodity service.
In this new world, corporates will consume business enabling services from a multiplicity of public and private clouds, through a range of software/platform/infrastructure/business process as a services. Interoperability and integration will be critical to effectively exploiting this model, and a new service management and business operational model will be needed to effectively provide visibility and management to this distributed service environment. We will need a new Target Operating Model to be defined. IT professionals will need to evolve as IT provision becomes simpler for the business to access, but the business will still need the informed guide, advising them as to how best to make the strategic and tactical choices to navigate this fast changing environment.
Beyond the philiosophy of the Cloud is CHOICE. Enablement. Bringing you the power to implement decisions faster than you have done before. There is however a catch. To enter this new world, software, infrastructure, and platform providers will need to accept that desired freedom of choice - we will need to recognise that the world is different. To recognise that software licences are historical fact. That fixed term contracts are not as rigid as they once were. That there is a need to facilitate change through interoperability, not to suppress change.
This connected world in which we inhabit operates through personal desire and freedom. You cannot mandate. You cannot demand. You must each be the provider of choice. To constantly evolve to meet the continued need for improved service.
Beyond the philosophy of the Cloud is REALITY. It's here. It will become pervasive.
It's an exciting new world. For some, it's quite scary too.