Cloud Computing , another “4 P’s in a Pot” Innovation?

I guess the title of this blog post needs a little explanation. Back in college – we’re talking 80’s here – professor Dr. ir. G.C. Nielen gave me some insight into the laws of innovation. His 4P law of academic innovation started with P for Problem.  Next individuals would Ponder on the Problem, the third step was Publishing, after which the resulting financing was used to Pilot the idea. Pretty soon after that most ideas would disappear into a Pot never to be heard of again (4 P’s in a Pot). Guess what P we are now in for Cloud Computing?

Of course, as young students we didn’t believe his premise. Young and innocent as we were, it seemed a lot more logical to move the step Publish after the Pilot. So, after school and none the wiser, I began a “brilliant” career in bringing innovations to market in Europe.  I introduced – or should I say piloted – business Intelligence years before datawarehouses; MRP years before ERP;  Object Oriented years before SOA; and SOA years before XML and Java. To top things off I promoted the Mobile Web using WAP (A collegue once said “WAP” is the sound the phone makes when thrown into the Pot by the less patient users). Needless to say living on the bleeding edge was intellectually stimulating but commercially devastating.

So why a blog about Cloud Computing now? Is it past the bleeding edge? Well, the main trigger for this blog is the official “Administration Cloud Computing Announcement” by Federal CIO Vivek Kundra earlier this month (view here on YouTube). If you have not watched it, I would urge you to do so now. It is not every decade that you get to see a 19 billion dollar budget take a 90 degree turn in a live webcast. With Clinger Cohen, the US government set the tone for governmental IT spend, something we in Europe are still trying to catch up with (see lessons from a decade of Clinger-Cohen). The impact of this announcement may be tenfold bigger, although Vivek Kundra is clear that the journey will be comparable in time (10 years or more).

As you know, this is a blog about Lean IT and Service Management. What the impact of Cloud Computing exactly will be on service management is not clear yet. Anyone who leads you to believe otherwise is likely to be “Publishing before having Played with it.” And I’m not talking about running large and highly scalable datacenters. There is plenty of experience with that around. And if you may think cloud services by definition are bigger than any in house applications, I suggest you have a brief look at the need for speed, Here Paul Michaud compares cloud service “Twitter – sorry we are having problems” with something really fast and scalable, like a modern bank, telco or stock exchange. 
I am talking about the everyday IT manager that works with his business users. He just got over moving from designing bespoke software to running standard of the shelf packages. Which by the way may very well may be the reason for the predominant focus of today’s IT people on running infrastructure, Vivik Kundra observed.  And now another paradigm shift (have not seen that word used in a while!) is coming with the move to SaaS and Cloud. History repeats itself, as David Cappuccio of Gartner observes, just like with the first PCs, decades ago, some usage is creeping in already, whether we in IT are ready or not. Over the coming period I plan to exchange some of my personal thoughts and experiences on this topic via this blog. 

But first let’s do a “level set” on some of the current thinking regarding cloud computing. The term cloud computing was first introduced in an academic context in 1997 by Ramnath K. Chellappa,  who originally defined it for the Informs conference in Dallas as “a computing paradigm where the boundaries of computing will be determined by economic rationale rather than technical limits.[22]  A refreshingly more pragmatic and technology agnostics view then some of the more current ones. A recent one I saw was for example “Something remote we access over the web.”  But definitions, like this one on Wikipedia  are only words. Nowadays we define concepts using animations (again on YouTube). Here are some of my favorites: Cloud Computing Explained, Cloud computing Plain and simple, Cloud Computing as defined by salesforce.com and of course the US government one – embedded in the video mentioned above.

Have a look, hope you’ll be back soon to join the discussion on how this could or should impact our favorite little neck of the woods: Service Management.

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