Call it 'Connected Computing'?
An oft-ignored downside of the label of 'cloud computing' is the meaning of the verb form, 'to cloud': that is, "to envelop or hide; to make unclear or confused." If we had instead called this model 'connected computing,' imagine the positive consequences.
First, note well that the image of the cloud wasn't introduced by vendors, but by IT buyers. If you look at sources like Google Trends, you'll see that searches for the phrase "cloud computing" started to surge fully a year before salesforce.com tethered cloud-shaped balloons in front of San Francisco's Moscone Center in November 2008, and more than two years before Microsoft started to claim that it was "all in...across every dimension of the cloud."
Where did today's cloud images first arise? I'm sure that no one has any doubt that clouds first appeared on the whiteboards of IT architects, serving as placeholders for the pieces of their systems that would be owned and operated—and therefore, built and maintained—by others. That's what 'cloud' is all about; mislabeling a local installation of the mechanisms of the cloud, as an aspirational 'private cloud', is therefore simply inaccurate...but that label is as firmly entrenched as any "systems delusion" (in John Gall's immortal phrase) can be.
Let's accept that reality and move on – because we can have a better label, anyway. We can have a label that's based on what cloud is, from the point of those who use it, instead of one that expresses what it isn't to those who have to operate IT functions.
We can start to talk about 'connected computing'.
After all, what's more interesting? The operational ease of the cloud, or the commanding business advantage that comes from being connected to customers and partners and suppliers? We don't get paid to make life easier for ourselves; we get paid to create greater value for others. 'Connected computing' is an idea that's inseparable from that creation of upside value.
The label of 'cloud computing' makes life too easy for those who would like to cloudwash aging offerings. Adding the adjective 'private' to the label du jour of 'cloud' sounds irresistible, as long as no true cloud offeror is in the room to point out the downside. (When Schrödinger tried putting a cloud in a box, instead of doing his quantum experiment with a cat, the cloud in the box died every time.)
Adding the falsely comforting adjective 'private' to 'connected computing' makes the oxymoron impossible to hide. "We prefer private connected computing"? Prima facie silly.
Try this thought experiment on yourself (or if you don't need it, jump directly to trying it on your CEO and his or her barons in the business units): imagine saying, now that fully networked computing is the norm,
We've decided to make a bold and innovative break from the mainstream of enterprise IT.
- Instead of paying only for what we use, day to day, we're going to tie up capital and real estate and talent in owning and maintaining our peak-load capacity.
- Instead of interacting directly with customers and partners using established, large-scale networks, we're going to pay more for less capable connections.
- Instead of building a workplace that attracts today's best talent to build tomorrow's industry leader of 2021, we're going to preserve (but further complexify) an IT environment that would have been recognizable in 1991 and utterly familiar in 2001.
Or don't you actually feel a need to try that?
Good labels don't merely describe what something is, but also clearly demarcate the boundary of what isn't. Let's do some connected computing.
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