Future of Cloud Computing: Data Centers, Outsourcing, and the Power of Cultures


Over the last couple of years, we have been witnessing a resurgence of the “Internet as the new computing platform” idea. I say resurgence because that was the premise of the late 90’s “Internet Bubble.” Given that history, it would be a mistake to use the same term, of course. Instead, we’ve coined a new one— “cloud computing.” New term aside, the core premise of providing applications & services over the Internet remains at the heart of this resurgence. The Internet Bubble has taught our industry to be more circumspect. Furthermore, with 10+ years of multiple successful Internet services under its belt, the industry is that much more mature. Amazon, Google, Hotmail, Yahoo, and SalesForce.com are all great proof points of this maturity.

Yet, as I observe this resurgence, I see the hype is rebuilding and we might be getting carried away again. History is a great place to look for patterns to help predict patterns in the future. Here are some I see.

Fallacy of paradigm shifts

Mainframes to PCs, and now PCs to the Cloud. I’ve noticed that when there is a paradigm shift, a set of people take on the task of re-implementing existing applications in the new paradigm. Somehow, a mindset develops that “paradigm shift” means it is an opportunity to replace the incumbent solutions by re-implementing them in the new paradigm and suddenly the world will move over. I believe that it is a waste of time & energy to re-implement applications that work well in the existing paradigm. ROI for making the shift rarely exists for the majority of the market. It is important to internalize that computing is a tool for most organizations and individuals, not a way of life (like it is for some of us) so they won’t make the change unless there is a very good reason to do so.

Historically, when computing shifted from mainframes to PCs, some believed that mainframes would go away and even tried to rewrite key mainframe applications on PCs. Mainframes remain and continue to be a very healthy business. Most batch/transaction processing applications that worked extremely well on these systems continue to do so. What popularized the PCs was killer applications such as spreadsheets, word processing, etc. that made computing tools much more accessible to businesses and individuals at large, and significantly increased efficiency and productivity compared to using paper and typewriters.

The same is going to be true as we make the shift from PCs to the cloud. PCs aren’t going away—in fact, they are at the heart of popularizing the Internet and fueling the adoption of this new computing paradigm. So PC applications such as Microsoft Office and Adobe PhotoShop that harness the power of local computing capacity, storage, and huge existing user bases aren’t going to be easily replaced, if at all. In fact, I believe that such efforts will see very limited success. I encourage entrepreneurs and innovators … Next Page »

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Praerit Garg is the co-founder and president of Symform, a cloud data storage startup based in Seattle. Follow @

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