Slaying the sacred cows of cloud technology, one by one

Take any new technology and you will have two groups of passionately arguing about it:

1) The evangelists, who espouse the transformational value of the technology, who see its potential to enable new business models, new ways of working and great savings (there is always a cost element)

2) The pragmatists, who whilst they see some value in it and understand the technology, predict that the impact will be far less than the evangelists believe and the technology is nothing more than incrementally better than what we have today, and has been around for a while anyway

And the truth is that they are both right to some degree.

The reality is somewhere in the middle. new technology can transform business models, render market leaders powerless and enable new ways of working, but the time taken usually takes longer than predicted and when it does finally peak, has an impact often greater than even the evangelists predicted.

Amara’s law, “We tend to overestimate the effect of a technology in the short run and underestimate the effect in the long run“, again and again turns out to be true.

And ‘cloud‘ is no exception to this.

A plethora of startups, a deluge of new ‘cloud’ conferences, and a never ending cycle of press announcements show that whether this is truly disruptive or not, a lot of people see this as a way to make money.

But is this transformational or hype?

How do you know?

More seasoned watchers will look beyond the hype, to real evidence of change. They disregard the ‘placed’ PR stories and useless predictions about hypothetical market growth, what they do is ‘look for the slaying of the sacred cows‘. These are harder to find, but these are the signs by which we can make a true judgement.

The sacred cows are the points made by the pragmatists to counter the evangelists.

They are usually pretty consistent. 

  • It doesn’t scale
  • Only applicable to startups
  • Not suitable for Government
  • Doesn’t work with technology x, y, z
  • ABC company doesn’t use it
  • Analyst XYZ said not mainstream for 3/5/7 years …

and so on, but never forgetting …

  • It isn’t secure (always the bastion of the pragmatists defence)

In the early stages, the pragmatists will show most if not all scared cows to be in their favour

So, if you want to judge whether a technology is going to be disruptive, then look for the slaying of these sacred cows.

And in cloud, boy are we seeing those sacred cows slain:

  • Amazon knocked the scalability argument into touch (does your internal IT have greater scale than Amazon? No, I thought not)
  • The customer base of Salesforce.com blew apart the startup point
  • Cloud first by the US CIO made cloud the default choice

… and the list goes on.

[Interestingly, Vivek Kundra, the former CIO who advocated the benefits of cloud, has recently joined Salesforce.com as Executive VP of Emerging Markets. Smart move by Salesforce.com, not in the recruitment, but also in the role]

The latest announcement about BBVA, the Spanish Bank switching to Google apps, knocked a major hole in the pragmatists last defence of cloud.

So, if you were a pragmatist about cloud, now is the time to reconsider your position. When finance and government customers adopt a technology the security concerns may not have been completely answered, but are answerable.

The last bastion of the pragmatist is looking like a small sand bank that is quickly being surrounded by the incoming tide. 

This will not prevent CIOs holding onto their views, defending internal IT and arguing against cloud.

They are wasting their time.

Instead of defending their departments, they are undermining their future.

There are legitimate business areas that companies may want to keep in-house and private, but to apply this policy blindly across a company is not only wrong, but naive about the value that cloud can bring.

Either you will make the decision to investigate the value of cloud, or your board will.

With consumer cloud services leading enterprise cloud in adoption levels and service richness, it is a complacent CIO who assumes that his board members don’t understand the benefits in agility, price, and scale that cloud services can bring. The reason is because they are already likely to be using them personally.

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