The Refined Cloud – Bringing Perspective to the Cloudy Cloud

In the past few years, we’ve been getting all kinds of messages of what the cloud is.  If you speak to Google, Amazon,, EMC/VMWare, IBM and HP, you would have gotten many different versions of “What is the cloud”.  Even listening to guys John Dvorak when he continually moans when Leo Laporte dives into “the cloud”.  Definitions have been heavy and if you aren’t saying cloud, you aren’t cool.  Of course, I have been jumping up and down annoyed with the various marketing “geniouses” (wish I had a way to convey sarcasm here) take on the cloud.  Nothing makes my eyes roll more then the Microsoft Cloud commercials.

With all of my own understanding of cloud, it has been as an IT Technologist.  I found that my own vision really fit well the likes of EMC/VMWare.  I really had the strong belief of cloud being the foundational concepts of “data lives everywhere and nowhere”, self service IT, elastic computing and IaaS+SaaS+UC.  One thing thou I never took into account and never could put my finger on is the phenomenon we have seen in the consumer space.  Really, I couldn’t explain it and honestly didn’t give it too much thought.  Understood Web 2.0, but never had a seen the connection it had with my understanding of cloud computing.  It’s really only until some recent pilot work on Amazon AWS did I start seeing some of the connection between what I was doing as a technologist and the average consumer was doing.

This morning, after I sat in on Paul Maritz’s keynote at EMC World did it finally hit home.  Paul’s presentation was very impressionable as he demonstrates a deep understanding of his business, the engineering aspects of IT/IS and the world of both business and consumers.  I won’t go diving into the VMWare infrastructure vision of cloud, it’s very well known as it really fits into the IT perspective of cloud computing.  What I really found interesting is VMWare’s execution into the application layer of the cloud (and promise to get deep into this one in a later post), but even more importantly, into the end-user’s reality of the cloud.

In the vision of both EMC and VMWare, the “consumer” cloud really is the ability for users the ability to acquire and utilize whatever tool sets, technologies and client computing devices to efficiently create, collaborate, store and publish information but we as IT be capable of still supporting and governing our information.  Fundamentally, from an IT perspective, it means that our users will find what they want, either provided by us or others and want to be able to access it from many nontraditional devices (from an IT perspective) whether we provide them or they acquire them.  Additionally, add to that they also want to be able to instantly access their data whether they are sitting in an office, at home or on a sunny beach in Hawaii. (who would do that?  I would love to thou).

So what does that mean to us as an IT technologists?  We fundamentally need to address our ever changing user’s needs and either provide them the tools they want on the devices of their choice or risk the user adopting outside of our realm of control and services.  Long gone are the days of corporate computing assets, padlocking the data inside our networks and being able to rule with the iron fist.  We must adjust ourselves to this reality and both provide tools that meet the needs while maintaining control of both the information and the tools.

With this said, what really resounded with me was that I have been unknowingly both partaking in this change, fostering it and melding to it.

Partaking – Bypassing IT’s Tools

As a consumer, I hate my corporate cell.  Blackberry’s have great keyboards, but I expect the applications to be much richer then they are (HEY!  No Angry Birds!).  So recently, I went out and picked up an personal iPhone 4 to use for data tethering and more importantly Skype.  I love Skype.  In my day to day life, it serves and my primary telephone, chat and collaboration tool.  (Getting excited, need to calm down now).   I interact with all my coworkers and business partners via Skype.  The reason why I was ready to carry the cost myself?  The iPhone and Skype software fits my work style and the software tools I had access to were better then my corporate cellular phone!  I’m a key IT employee, yet I even go and bypass my own organization’s tools!

Fostering – Universal Access To Tools and Information

In the past I have spoken about utilizing Adobe Flex to drive Documentum user adoption (see post here).  Only in the recent few months with the introduction of RIM’s Playbook product, we started discussing releasing mobile versions of the application.  While my users have not formally asked for it, our newest UIs are being extended and tested against not only desktop/laptop computing but these mobile tablet and phone devices.  We originally looked at the use case and said, “hmm, lets put it on these devices, it’d be cool and give a bit of flexibility”.  In short, by doing this, we are enabling our users to consume the tools in whatever way they want and heading them off at the pass.

Melding – Access Anywhere to Information

I like to often think of myself as paranoid.  It never hurts to be over sensitive and cautious when it comes to the security of systems and information.  That said, I have increasingly been architecting solutions to sit on public internet.  I always have been a bit sensative to the amount of work it takes to design and add security to an application, but it’s fundamentally to enable ease of access to data.   That “east of access” in short fits into the “data anywhere and anytime” model of the consumer cloud as I’m removing barriers and melding our private services into the public access scheme.

To see how EMC and VMWare’s understanding of cloud is refining and being able to relate to our current IT world and how we have been transforming and changing with it has been very interesting.  It’s always those few key moments in when the light bulb goes on and a new perspective is brought forward that we can see the sun shining behind those clouds.


About ericgrav
Senior technologist specializing in information management and dabblings into cloud computing

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