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.