Even as many enterprises continue to struggle to determine what, exactly, the cloud is, there is perhaps an even more important question to ponder: "Where, exactly, is the cloud going?"
As with any game-changing technology, it's nearly impossible to make hard decisions regarding cloud deployment and configuration unless you have a clear idea of where you want to be one, two, five years down the road. But with so many conflicting notions as to what constitutes the cloud and how it can produce the greatest benefit to the enterprise, decision-makers find themselves tip-toeing into a new state of technology that is increasingly calling for bolder commitments.
At this stage of development, however, visions of the cloud future are as varied as the number of experts offering their opinions. But as Interarbor Solutions' Dana Gardner found out during a recent podcast, a single vision of the cloud is not necessarily a good thing. Diversity of opinion, it turns out, offers a dynamic environment that allows everyone to devise the kind of cloud that best suits their needs. It's important to remember, however, that at this stage of development there is still a wide gap between what the cloud can provide and what enterprises say they want.
In fact, if there is no clear view yet as to exactly what constitutes the cloud, the blame lies equally on both providers and users. CIMI Corp.'s Tom Nolle found out as much in a recent survey of enterprise managers, many of whom are frustrated because they can't seem to fold the cloud into their existing virtualization- or resource-centric infrastructures. Either way, the general consensus is that the conversation needs to shift away from simply adopting this or that cloud model and more toward evolving an appropriate IT/resources model.
And if that's the ultimate goal, then the cloud is only one piece of a larger puzzle, according to Accenture Technology. The company recently identified no less than eight trends that are reshaping IT, only one of which is the cloud. Others include the shift from traditional application support toward platforms geared for massive data volumes, and the transition to more service-based, rather than server-based, architectures.
In some circles, however, there is no question what the cloud will be, although these are generally limited to those with a particular agenda. Google, for instance, is certain that the all-Web cloud model, epitomized by its own Google Apps suite, is the wave of the future. Only a total rube would be silly enough to invest in a hybrid desktop approach like Microsoft Office.
Uncertainty over the cloud is a lot like life itself. It would certainly be easier if it always unfolded according to a well-orchestrated, benevolent plan, but then again, it wouldn't be very interesting.