In June of 2008 I participated in a conference on cloud computing. After a full day of talks and discussions, the sense of the meeting was that cloud computing has the promise to bring a real paradigm shift to the IT world, although, as the conference organizer succinctly put it in his closing remarks: “There is a clear consensus that there is no real consensus on what cloud computing is.” In other words, something big and profound seems to be going on, although we are not totally sure what it is yet.
Where are we now, almost four years later? Just about everyone agrees that cloud computing is one of the major trends in IT, with important implications not only to IT but to business and society in general. Many books and articles have been written on the subject. A number of companies have cloud-based offerings in the marketplace, with more to come. But, while many of us feel that cloud is even bigger and more profound than we thought back in 2008, lots of questions remain on its intrinsic nature and its value to the business.
In November of 2011, Andrew McAfee published an article in the Harvard Business Review: What Every CEO Needs to Know about the Cloud. McAfee is Principal Research Scientist and Associate Director of the MIT Center for Digital Business, where I am a Fellow.
He writes that cloud computing is “ . . . a sea change - a deep and permanent shift in how computing power is generated and consumed. It’s as inevitable and irreversible as the shift from steam to electric power in manufacturing, which was gaining momentum in America about a century ago.”