LAS VEGAS — I entered the show floor here at Interop, a long-running IT and networking technology conference, only to be bombarded with the words “cloud computing.” For those of you who don’t know what it is — in addition to being the hottest technology marketing concept du jour — it’s the idea that you can tap into computing services and applications by “plugging into the cloud” of a service provider, rather than building the technology infrastructure yourself.
This can work on an individual level or a corporate level. On a personal consumer level, I think a good example of cloud computing is Web photo services. We used to manage and store photos ourselves — first in analog format and later in a digital mode. Increasingly, consumers are turning to a managed photo service where they store photos on a company’s servers, to access and manage as they please.
On a corporate level, the same thing is happening: companies are increasingly outsourcing technology and IT infrastructure to the “cloud” — that is, a network that they can connect to remotely.
Because there is such a high-level of marketing B.S. involved in cloud computing, I have been looking to refine the definition. During the course of the day I have been asking folks what cloud computing means to them. Perhaps the most lucid explanation came form Jerry Kennelly, the CEO of Riverbed Networks: “Cloud Computing is a data center that serves you back applications and content.”
I will be further exploring this theme in the coming days, but it important about what this means for larger trends in the technology marketplace. Here’s a quick outline of the cloud computing trends:
1) Service providers are increasingly marketing applications and cloud services to companies that want to outsource the IT manage task.
2) Consumers are seeking more services “from the cloud.” (Media, telecom, and personal data management).
3) Software vendors are seeking to offer “cloud services,” i.e. software that can be reached via a network without requiring local management.
4) Corporate IT managers would like to reduce the management headaches and costs of maintaining networks when they can either outsource the task or “consolidate” their own networks into more powerful data centers
All of these trends have implications for technology copnanies in terms of sales, strategic positioning, and marketing. I’ll review how cloud computing is affecting specific companies over the rest of the week.