In the past year, I’ve had hundreds of conversations with client and press about the emerging cloud services model, and its impact on the IT industry. As you might imagine, more than a few folks question whether the cloud services model will really be as pervasive and transforming as its proponents argue. The skeptics point, legitimately, to the many remaining challenges of cloud services adoption, particularly around security, availability, performance, limited customization, lack of standards, etc.
My response to the skeptics is very simple: within the next several years, none of those challenges will make a bit of difference to the vast majority of customers. The public cloud is where the best and richest variety of business solutions will increasingly be found.They will still choose, in large numbers, public IT cloud services as core elements of their IT services delivery portfolios. They will do so for one big reason: the public cloud is where the best and richest variety of business solutions will increasingly be found. (You could certainly argue that this is already the case in the consumer IT solutions world.)
The online shift of the latest and greatest business solutions to the Web is happening because the Cloud is winning the war for developers: a rapidly growing number of developers see the Web as the most attractive “platform” on which to quickly and affordably deploy their solutions. It’s not a mystery: the Cloud dramatically reduces the barriers for customer adoption (and upgrade) and dramatically expands the market reach for solution developers. Can you imagine a developer of a hot new solution choosing not to deploy in a Cloud/SaaS mode? Hard to imagine. They might not do so exclusively – they may continue to also develop for the big on-premise platforms, and many will also deploy their public cloud solution as a software appliance in a private cloud. But it’s easy to see that the public cloud will be the number one deployment target for a large majority of solutions.
If this pattern sounds familiar, it should. We’ve seen this movie before: in the 1980s, people debated about the relative benefits of “PC vs. mainframes (or minicomputers)”. If this pattern sounds familiar, it should. We’ve seen this movie before.The PC proponents pointed to dramatically lower “cost per MIPS”, and the PC opponents cited lower reliability or the lack of legacy tools in the PC world. In the end, the real battle was not about any of these things – it was about the migration of an enormous amount of developer energy and solutions to the PC (and Wintel server) platforms. The new platform (PC, Client/Server) was the place you’d find the best and newest solutions. (This is why the battle among the “Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS)” players is so strategic – they’re all vying to repeat Microsoft’s 1980s/90s Windows story, by attracting the richest solution ecosystems to their Cloud platforms.)
In the PC and Client/Server era, customers followed the solutions, and money flowed into the industry to develop solutions to the limitations of the new platforms. We’ll see the same pattern this time – today’s public cloud challenges will not magically disappear or become unimportant to users. But as more leading solutions pull more customers to the cloud, there will be more incentive for the industry to invest in developing creative solutions to these challenges.