Will The Cloud Evaporate In The Recession?

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We thought the recession was going to push IT into the cloud. Big consultants aren’t so sure

What can IT consultant Avanade mean, when it says the recession is driving UK users away from the cloud? Most people tell us that cloud computing – outsourcing IT to the web – is the only hope, to keep IT going in times of no money.

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To be fair, the Avanade-funded survey didn’t exactly say that. “Organisations are waiting for the model to be proven,” the company’s release said, “as rewards must strongly outweigh perceived risks in today’s uncertain economic conditions.”
Also, the Microsoft-backed IT consultant is presenting a particularly woolly bit of research. It starts with an amorphous definition of the cloud, including old-school ASPs like Salesforce alongside cloudsourcers like Amazon, that actually offer shared IT resources, not remote apps.
The users surveyed are vaguely defined as “C-Level executives and IT managers,” so that will include CIOs who went through time-shared systems, and CFOs whose grasp of the cloud may be vague. And of the 500 surveyed, somewhere around 100 of this very mixed sample might be in the UK.
Despite this, the survey does express something of value – namely, precisely this level of vagueness.
To say “the cloud is vapour” is an obvious cheap shot, but it seems that’s how it appears to some IT professionals. Companies like Salesforce.com have done well because they are actually an older concept, the application service provder (ASP), now proving fantastically valuable over today’s reliable Internet .
What is strange is the extent to which these success stories are selling themselves on the basis of the new “cloud” buzzword, even to people for whom “clouds” might seem insubstantial and risky.
What emerged from a lunchtime roundtable with Avanade is that the consultant sees the cloud as a big-concept IT approach it can sell to big-budget companies .
Companies like Avanade have written themselves a role in a cloud computing world where they can be the ones who sort out complexities such as integrating internal IT with the cloud services, and joining up the cloud up with business processes. In other words, surrounding the cloud with so much other stuff it turns back into the kind of IT project they are comfortable with.
Avanade, in particular, has a vested interest in the Microsoft way. It’s never going to go very far in decoupling applications from infrastructure. Good heavens, if that took off, people might expect to run applications without Windows servers! And then where would they be?
In other words, Avanade sees this as a problem which requires old-style big consulting, and lots of Windows servers and Microsoft apps, whether they are in-house, outsourced, or cloudsourced.
Which is fair enough. If you’re a hammer, everything does look very much like a nail.
But I thought the point about the cloud was it might do away with some of the old ways of doing things. Certainly we’re reaching a time when the old ways of paying for IT seem to have hit problems.
If people really are uncertain about the cloud, it might just be that what they’re being offered is not what they asked for, and not what they need.

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