The Evolution of Cloud

Throughout my career I’ve tried to find opportunities to work in emerging technologies. First Computer Telex, then Computer Fax. Later E-Mail interoperability, Unified Communications and Mobile & Wireless. Followed by Social Software. All emerging technologies in their time.

Last night, over a pint of Guinness, I was discussing with a colleague why I think Software as a Service solutions are one of the most exciting things to be working on in IT today – even though there might seem to be more buzz around other forms of Cloud Computing.

Earlier this year I presented a Cloud Computing Tutorial & Introduction Workshop at the Kuppinger Cole Cloud 2010 Conference in Munich, where used a chart – borrowed from Sajjad Khazipura (of Wipro Technologies) at the Storage Developer Conference in Santa Clara in 2009 (thanks, Sajjad!):

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When we were discussing the relative importance of Infrastructure as a Service, Platform as a Service and Software as a Service (as well as Private vs. Public Clouds) in the workshop, I was reminded of a favourite quote from Roy Amara, of the Institute for the Future:

"We tend to overestimate the effect of a technology in the short run and underestimate the effect in the long run."

I postulated that, if we take the long view, this diagram might reflect the evolution of IT (from left to right).

The trends towards SOA, Enterprise Architectures and generic ERP platforms in the enterprise can be seen as an enabler for a move to Cloud solutions (including hybrid Public/Enterprise cloud solutions). But IaaS and PaaS themselves can also be seen simply as a way of dealing with these legacy applications until all of them are adapted/rewritten for delivery as as a Service.

In this view, the "Virtualisation" approach to Cloud is just a tactical solution to running existing applications, until they are rehosted on top of the new platforms – which will allow them to run in either a public cloud or a private cloud. In the long term, these new cloud platforms become the environments that will be used to create the Software as a Service solutions that are the future.

Solutions as a Services is what enterprises will buy – either as standardised application offerings, or as customised applications built for them in the cloud by the next generation of offshore application development shops.

The key to allowing this happen is going to be creating the same sort of interoperability between SaaS applications as SOA provides between enterprise applications. That is why the extensive partnering we have seen around LotusLive is so key to its future.

Which converges with my earlier thoughts about the iPad being the first generation of device designed for applications running in the Internet, or "in the Cloud". Whatever frustrations we might have with first generation iPads, or first generation Cloud Solutions, once they go through the classic Gartner "Hype Cycle" they will emerge as the future.

So, is SaaS the long term future for all of IT? Do comment with your thoughts.

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