“The cloud” you’re using, that you didn’t even know was there…

This clip came to mind from the 1993 movie Jurassic Park:

…that’s when the attack comes, not from the front; but from the side. From the other two raptors that you didn’t even know were there.

There seems to be a lot of talk of people saying “meh, ‘the cloud’ is a buzzword and isn’t going anywhere” or “we will never move anything to the cloud”. However, it dawned on me that like-it-or-not, MUCH of what we do already is there and we are ALL warming up to the idea that is right under noses!

So, while we outwardly say that we are not moving towards the cloud for anything, we are using it more and more for more services.

Remember the days of having a @cox.net or @comcast.net e-mail address? Notice how most everyone has moved to gmail, live, or yahoo? You are using the cloud for e-mail, IM, and potentially calendar too.

Between EverNote, and Microsoft’s OneNote hosted in SkyDrive – you can have all of your notes, recipes, account numbers, or whatever – everywhere. You can use these apps from the web, from your PC, from your phone and it all just works.

Remember the days of buying DVD’s and storing them at your house? Now, for a fraction of the cost, you can have access to every TV show and movie ever made, for pennies-per-day from sources like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Instance Video. You are using the cloud for movies.

Remember the days of buying cassette tapes and CD’s and storing them/scratching them in your car or house? Now, for free you have access to just about any song you can think of in seconds with Internet radio stations. Or, there are things like XBox Music Pass which give you unlimited access to any song ever made, for $14.99 per month, and you also get 10 free songs (non-DRM, MP3 files) per month – so the service is really $5/month. If you do this or using services like Pandora, you are using the cloud for music.

PC Backups:
Remember the days of never having a backup of your PC. Then, remember how when you lost a hard drive you were sad for many days because you lost important files and pictures? Well, Dropbox.com started the revolution of offering free “disk space” on the Internet. From there, you have Google Drive, Microsoft SkyDrive, and Apple’s iCloud. Dropbox, Drive, and SkyDrive all have PC apps that will automatically sync a directory to that cloud storage. This means that you can have to-the-second, live-backups of all your important files – for “free”. If you want to pay, you can also archive your PC(s) to carbonite.com, mozy.com and others for a minimal cost. If you use any of this, you are using the cloud for backup and synced storage.

In the early days of the Internet, companies would host their public web site on-premises. There is a LOT of cost, liability, and security-concerns that come with this decision. Now, most everyone hosts at an external vendor where it’s all-but-impossible to get through the security barriers. In additional to traditional web hosts, Amazon’s EC2 Cloud and Microsoft Azure have turned out to be very powerful, very cost-effective alternatives. Even better, these are VERY developer-friendly services (from .NET, to Java, to Ruby, to PHP, etc) – which helps make the case. Developers WANT to move their stuff to the cloud because it’s easier to work with, and more stable. If you are not hosting a website from on-premise, then you are using the cloud for web hosting.

Source Control Hosting:
Again, as recently as a few years ago – you didn’t have a lot of options for managing source control, doing project documentation, etc – except internally. Now though, sites like github.com, bitbucket.org, and tfs.visualstudio.com offer very compelling offerings for little to no money to manage your source control, along with project documentation, and even Agile project management (like hosting your product backlog, offering a burndown chart, etc). As I just blogged about, I use TFS to publish directly to Azure. So, from my workstation, when I check-in the whole project – TFS kicks off a build. If it’s successful, it pushes the changes out to production. If you are using something like this, you are using the cloud.

Local Infrastructure vs “The Cloud:
So, what CAN’T be moved to the cloud? In a word, legacy-stuff. Mainframe, AS/400, OpenVMS, etc.

For personal use, there is basically not any need to have any “server” at home anymore. You can sync your documents, pictures, and movies to the cloud – and stream video and music from the cloud TODAY, for no or negligible cost. In fact, having home infrastructure is now just more of a liability and a drain and doesn’t really offer anything better than cloud services.

For small to medium-sized businesses, you can move almost everything to the cloud. E-mail, calendar, IM, web services, source control, backups. An argument could be made that there is no need (and no financial justification) to have local infrastructure. You probably want an IT person to manage the cloud services, but I couldn’t justify having any local infrastructure.

For large organizations, the “legacy” stuff is what will keep your local data center alive. Mainframe, midrange (AS/400, OpenVMS, Unix), and old legacy stuff that won’t easily run on newer OSes is what will bog you down. Looking at this from a CIO/CTO perspective though, there is a VERY compelling case to get off of those systems. The cost of running a data center is ENORMOUS. You have the cost of real estate, taxes, utilities (the power bill, alone!), maintenance, operations, the “talent” (SME’s), plus licensing costs, computer maintenance costs, etc. Compare that with hosting everything for pennies on the dollar – but hosting in the cloud? It seems to me that it’s just a matter of time. The cost of on-premise data centers simply collapse under their weight, when compared to moving to the cloud. So, even if some organizations aren’t ready, it seems financially inevitable.

Bottom Line:
While everyone is arguing “we’ll never move to the cloud!” – take a look around, chances are, you already do comfortably live in the cloud for some functionality. It was easier, simpler, and cost less – which is why it happened so seamlessly and effortlessly. So, while you weren’t looking, you accidentally started moving to the cloud!

My guess is that that will continue to happen as we see more and more services available at a compelling economy-of-scale.

Posted in Cloud Computing, Computers and Internet, Infrastructure, New Technology, Professional Development, Uncategorized

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