Is the word “cloud” too big to fail?

Suddenly, overnight, cloud computing broke the barrier of if and entered into the boundless expanses of when.  Suddenly everyone is discussing their cloud strategy and any semblance of a hosted offering is now a cloud offering.  The very act of being connected to the internet has become an activity in the clouds.  News of cloud outages (like all news really) has become sensationalized; Oh noes! The clouds is fallin’!  Will we have to rethink our cloud strategy? Withdrawing in a panic caused by network doldrums?  Nah, everyone knows that we can’t move off the cloud–it’s just too cheap and easy.  The result of this flurry has been to galvanize the word cloud into IT discourse.

President Obama has deployed his own Cloud Vanguards, including the first ever Federal Chief Information Officer Vivek Kundra, and his appointed “Cloud Czar” Federal Cloud CTO Patrick Stingley.  They’re armed with billions to spend on building cloud infrastructure and procuring cloud services, spreading the wealth of money and innovation around.  Contracts for government use of cloud computing have already been awarded and large batch processing jobs are being doled to public clouds and platforms.  Government websites like usa.gov have been moved up into the clouds.  Moreover the NIST had done the unthinkable just a few weeks earlier during the heat of Manifestogate; they had the audacity to apply a definition of the cloud.  Although they predictably try not to make anyone all pissy about it, noting that this is a “new paradigm” with “many definitions” in a “large ecosystem” of providers.  This draft, like the Open Cloud Manifesto, are signs of things to come.  The Obama administration’s interest has thrust the cloud into the realm of politics fostered much spirited debate over cloud legislation and international business law with efforts to make US-based cloud services more attractive to the rest of the world.

Globalization is also a catalyzing factor here.  IT resources and innovation have been spread thinner around the world over the past decade.  The cloud paradigm has offered a unique opportunity to level the international playing field by creating a common marketing and infrastructure ideology.  The United States is currently 7th in search frequency for cloud computing on Google.  Number 6 is Taiwan.  Using WolframAlpha (one of my new favorite  tools) we can easily use the cloud calculate that Taiwan has only 6.619% of the total number of internet users of the US (14.76 to 223 million).  While it’s obvious that there is a demographic difference for internet use, it certainly illustrates the point.  Public and private clouds are popping up in all geographic regions.  Companies are using clouds to bring IT to corners of the world that never seen this type of infrastructure investment before.  Small companies in Cambodia, Lithuania and Venezuela are leveraging public clouds to deliver services to new markets, IBM has built cloud datacenters in Brazil, South Korea, Vietnam and India, governments all over the world are rapidly building clouds to compete both economically and militarily.  Emerging and growth economies have proven to be very agile in their positioning against the lumbering giants and this has largely been due to the global adoption of the word cloud to describe the metered consumption of resources over an external network.

Of course, cash is king.  The Motley Fool is blasting newsletters to their millions of followers about investment opportunities in Amazon and Google, saying that their clouds are going to help take down Microsoft’s empire and cloud companies are the next big stock picks.  This is pushing the term cloud computing into the common dialog and attaching to it a brand awareness.  Control of the terminology is already breaking away of the sphere of IT influence.   Even Oracle CEO Larry Ellison, who’s become a somewhat notorious cloud villain, always seems to hedge his bets.  After his infamous cloud rant, where he flippantly asks “what the hell is cloud computing?”, Oracle releases database images for EC2 weeks later (although he doesn’t change the licensing model), and then buys Sun for billions after their big cloud announcement and IBM’s failed offer.  Despite Larry’s tirade about there being “no money” in cloud computing, he sure has been throwing a lot at it.  Makes me wonder what is really insane; swooping in to buy Sun certainly seems like a more aggressive and perhaps overcompensating play then just altering the wording on Oracle marketing materials.

“They’ve gone to plaid!”

The cloud as an idea, as a term, and as a method of doing business in IT, is too big to fail. The height of marketing hype and cash investment directly into so-called cloud solutions has provided what is now evolved into a stable platform and a common thread for discussion and innovation.  Whether companies are ready to forge ahead is going to play a big part in the reformation of the IT world and the word cloud will ultimately define the tech giants of the early 21st century.

P.S.: Is the phrase “too big to fail” too big to fail?