Everything Old is New Again

The IT industry is currently hurling itself over the peak of the hype cycle with ‘Cloud’, and I find myself looking on with puzzled amusement.

I’m getting old.

I hear the same breathless enthusiasm everywhere from the tech folks. “This is gonna change everything!” When was the last time we heard that?

About 5 seconds ago, with the last tech gadget that inexplicably failed to change everything.

Don’t get me wrong, IT is very useful, and it’s my background, but tech folks really do need to get over themselves a bit.

Evolution, not Revolution

99% of running a business is the same as it was 1000 years ago.

You provide a product or a service, and people pay you for it.

If you charge more than it costs you, you make money. If not, you go out of business.

That’s basically it. Everything else is just variations on a theme.

IT Isn’t That Special

Here are a few technological advances that improved business no end, and have nothing to do with IT:

  • Fiat currency. This was a major advance, and now people don’t think twice about it, unless they’re trying to sell you gold futures.
  • Double-entry book keeping. This is right up there with other top advances in the last couple of centuries, in my opinion.
  • Division of labour. The idea that I don’t have to grow my own bread means we now have web cartoonists and Cirque du Soleil.
  • Vaccination. Coupled with anti-biotics, it’s been a tremendous boon to business that the workforce (and customers!) doesn’t die nearly as much.
  • Fresh water. I can drink water that comes out of a tap in my house. It is a miraculous thing to be able to do this, and it’s still not possible in many parts of the world.

I could go on.

I say cloud is nowhere near as important as these technologies. Not even close.

But that’s not the same as saying that it’s useless.

Cloud is Not New

Accessing compute resources remotely over a network has been around since at least the 1950s. It used to be called a mainframe (still is!) and instead of accessing your information using an iPad with VMware View, it was called a VT100 terminal.

We still use them today, and IBM make plenty of money from them. They’ve rented MIPS for decades.

Many of the capabilities of mainframes are only just starting to get duplicated in midrange and PC devices. Hypervisors are not new things.

The underlying technologies of building a cloud are different, sure, but business people don’t care. The whole point of a cloud is to hide all that complexity and make the end-point, the part the business user sees, provide a useful function that is better than any alternatives.

Business Benefit is the Key

Part of the reason business is so interested in cloud is because they want to take management of their computers away from IT because you’ve done such a woeful job.

If you want to spend millions building a private cloud, you’d better be pretty clear on what it’s going to do for the business. They’re kinda fed up with broken promises and endless expense.

Same goes if you want to migrate all your apps to a place you no longer control.

Stop focussing on the technology, and start looking at the business benefits.

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