Tuesday, January 11, 2011

IT Needs Then and Cloud Needs Now....

When the digital computer age was ushered in way back in the 1960s, IBM ruled the roost with System/360, a large mainframe offering. Over a decade and half we saw the emergence of Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) with PDP and VAX systems, Hewlett Packard with HP-2115, Data General with its Novas. Each company had its own proprietary hardware stack and languages they supported. While DEC supported UNIX which was in its infancy then, HP supported Fortran and Algol and IBM had its own proprietary mainframe language. 
Enterprise and consumer needs drove adoption of these different stack each of which were best suited for a particular segment. Over the next 2-3 decades, enterprises suddenly realized that the computer industry had left them with a spaghetti of systems none of which were inter operable or supported cross talk. And this after millions of dollars had been poured to procure these systems. The anguish was so pronounced that it drove some of the legacy providers to extinction while others had to learn to dance to survive. Louis Gerstner, the erstwhile CEO of IBM, in his book, "Who Says Elephants Can't Dance?"  gives an account of IBM's historic turnaround between April 1993 and March 2002. Lou Gerstner led IBM from the brink of bankruptcy and mainframe obscurity back into the forefront of the technology business. He did so by reorienting the company's business to the demands of the time. One of the main cornerstones he lay was the establishment of IBM Global Services - a System Integration division whose main objective was to help enterprises stitch together the multitude of computer systems they had invested in and get them to co-work. Thus was born the huge SI industry that has seen the likes of IBM, Accenture, EDS, CapGemini and the Indian majors like TCS, Wipro, Infosys, HCL, Cognizant drive business.
The reason I cited a snippet from history is to demonstrate two things
  1. To draw a comparison between the digital computing era and the cloud computing world as it is evolving
  2. To give the reader an indication of how transformations in the industry happen over years and decades.
Cloud computing industry was a buzz word for most part of the first decade in the new millennium. The fag end of the decade saw the emergence of Amazon Web Services, Google Apps, Microsoft Azure, Go Grid, SalesForce's Force.com as some prime cloud players. We also see a lot of smaller players who serve niche needs like Service Mesh, Zuora, JamCracker, Ping Identity, etc who complement the bigger players. However, the biggest lacuna is the interoperability of clouds. Users choosing a cloud provider do not have a seamless path to migrate to another cloud.provider. What you see is a picture similar to the erstwhile era. A rising need felt by enterprise customers to ensure a fair degree of standards and interoperability between clouds. What that also means is the need for companies that would help enterprises achieve it. Whether this set of players would come from the the big league or from the small niche of players remains to be seen...What's your take on this matter?
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