Cloud computing is at that early stage where there’s much discussion of taxonomy: Is it infrastructure? Is it Software as a Service? Is it a platform? All well and good, but little discussed so far is “Whatever it is, where does it fit in the lifecycle of corporate IT?”
Talking to IT folks who attended last night’s MIT Innovation Series forum on cloud computing, I got much more of a sense that some see cloud computing more as a staging area for new projects or businesses than as a permanent platform. Startup companies, which spend most of their first years as small to midmarket firms, are being touted as one of the early markets for cloud computing. Speaking to one startup technology director, his view of cloud computing was instructive. He is trying to walk between a rock and a hard place: provision too few servers and his company’s customers will have a bad experience online and never come back; provision too many servers and the company will run out of funding too soon.
His interest in cloud was as a prototype environment, therefore. He can find the right amount of capacity for a given number of users of his website without heavy capital investment. Later, he is likely to bring the operation in-house. He’s more impressed by the flexibility of cloud computing then by the cost: He says cloud capacity costs about 30% more than owning it, but that’s just comparing raw capacity costs, not including labor or real estate.
Still, it was evident at the forum that a lot of midmarket service providers in the technology space — development tools and middleware companies, contract developers and integrators and Web design firms, to name a few — are likely to convert their offerings to cloud offerings. Instead of buying a boutique tool vendor’s product, you’ll use it in the cloud as part of a whole stack. Hundreds of companies, literally, are lining up to offer such services on top of Amazon, and ultimately on top of other providers as they emerge. Their goal is to get you to stay in the cloud, using (and paying for) their portion of the stack indefinitely.