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For both providers and customers of cloud technology, these are exciting times, and yet, in the midst of all of the energy and confusion that the cloud inspires, I can’t help but think that we’ve been here before. I see remarkable similarities between today’s adoption cycle of cloud technologies and the adoption of the Internet as a useful and essential tool.
Fifteen years ago, a similar industry conversation unfolded around how the World Wide Web could transform business — and really, society as a whole — as we then knew it. As commercialization of the web was getting under way, the idea that a new paradigm could really change the way technology was used and information was managed was met with both curiosity and skepticism. Much of the discussion centered around all the perceived barriers to widespread adoption of web technology, such as security, enterprise IT integration and technology lock-in vs. open standards.
Those of us who were a part of the technology industry back then as either vendors or customers can recall the volume and fervor that marked such debates. Industry analysts — along with much of the mainstream press — continued for quite some time to promote those aforementioned barriers as reasons why the transition to web- or distributed computing-based architectures would or could not be fulfilled. By the end of 1995, however, customers and vendors alike had begun to embrace the ideas and technologies of the web, fueling perhaps the largest economic expansion the technology business has ever seen, one that continues today.
Over the last two years, technology developers, businesses, industry analysts, press and vendors have begun to discuss the transition to cloud technologies. Just like in the early days of the commercialization of the Internet, both the benefits and barriers to such a transition are being hotly debated. Similarly, we now stand at a tipping point at which mainstream enterprises are seeing the value and vendors are offering services that deliver measurable business value, integrate into existing IT environments easily and address the common concerns around privacy, security, integrity, performance and availability. Widespread adoption, in other words, is already underway.
Granted, the industry doesn’t have all the solutions yet. But the solutions we do have and the valuable benefits they can provide to the enterprise IT buyer today are simply too compelling to ignore. With history as our guide those businesses that focus and commit on solving their challenges via these new services stand to reap the greatest financial, operational and competitive benefits of this technology transition.
It’s encouraging to see so many technology luminaries participating in healthy exchanges as the industry navigates this new era. My hope is that the conversation turns quickly from a discussion of “if” cloud technologies like storage and compute will become the norm for enterprises to one of “when” — and more interestingly, “how” the dramatic potential of the cloud can best be fulfilled. Indeed, another era of technology based innovation, adoption and economic prosperity has already started –- and it may just turn out to be even more compelling than the last one.
Jeff Treuhaft is the CEO and co-founder of Zetta Inc., a leading provider of enterprise cloud storage solutions.