Blog post

Cloud Computing is Déjà Vu. Or Not?

By Andrea Di Maio | December 22, 2010 | 4 Comments


The more I discuss with clients about cloud computing, the more I find that there is really little new.

  • Not long ago I wrote about the interesting similarities between Open Source and Cloud adoption and dynamics in the public sector: when I read “cloud first” in a policy or strategy document, I cannot forget the “open source first documents” pronouncements a few years back.
  • Yesterday I spoke to NIC, a vendor of e-government solutions, which has been selling into many state governments hosted solutions with a transaction based (pay per use) model: wouldn’t most vendor call that “cloud” today?
  • Also yesterday, in a client inquiry, somebody drew very pertinent parallels between cloud today and outsourcing a few years back: same back and forth between pros and cons, and same story about “you outsource what is not strategic to your business”.

That’s why, unlike some of my colleagues, I have a hard time at getting excited about cloud computing. Sure, some of the global class infrastructures that companies like Google or Amazon have put in place are unlike anything we have seen in the past. And the more vendors move into building “IT as a commodity” services, the more we will see entirely new applications emerge. However most of the conversations I undertake with government could have taken place on topics like open source, consolidation, outsourcing or shared services just a few years ago.

Then, what’s new? Well, what I think is new is the increased comparability of services. If I look at what the GSA did with their IaaS Request for Quotation, they broke down relatively simple services to a level of granularity that allows them to be compared almost exclusively on the basis of price. While today vendors differentiate their offerings by bundling product characteristics and service levels in ways that make their offerings somewhat unique, cloud computing – when past the hype and marketing buzz – gives their clients a powerful weapon to compare apples to apples and oranges to oranges. Which is indeed the first concrete step toward commoditization.

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  • Davied says:

    The interesting thing is that the concepts of open source and cloud influence oneanother.

    On the one hand: when it comes to open source for government, most people think about personal software (Open Office, Linux, etc.).

    However, the cloud could be a chance for open source in governments, because every organization that builds upon the central infrastructure adds to the collective. Every module can be reused by other government organizations. It’s a very logical concept if you concider it’s all taxpayers’ money …

    On the other hand: we should take care that the cloud environment itself is open source as well. I don’t think there are any commercial offerings at the moment that garantee access to source code and easy migration of content and software.

    If (next to the proper use of government money) flexibility and freedom is a goal for using open source software, the cloud might as well be the new spoiler. How can we avoid that paradox?

  • @Davied – You point to an interesting conundrum between cloud sourcing, open sourcing and community sourcing. The latter, which refers to “every organization building upon the central infrastructure, hence adding to the collective” would require governments to step in and drive by example. However, while the concept is appealing, it has failed to take off in the application space (with very few exceptions), and I doubt it would have greater success at the infrastructure or platform level.

  • Davied says:

    @Andrea Well, that’s exactly what we’re trying to do with Pleio (short for ‘government square’) in the Netherlands. Hopefully I can prove you wrong 😉

    See for my vision of Pleio (with Google Translate). I’m interested in hearing further comments.

  • Sorry Davied, but the link does not work (although I found quite a few references on Google). I do wish you the best success, assuming you focus at the application level. If you don’t, well…