The cloud is coming, whether you like it or not. The cloud is coming because the major players in the IT industry want it. The cloud is coming and it will radically alter the enterprise infrastructure you've come to know and love.
All three of those statements are true, up to a point, but they probably sound a lot more ominous than they should. Let me explain.
That cloud computing is the wave of the future is almost a certainty, but the reasons have more to do with economics and the changing nature of data and the way it's used than any one corporation's, or individual's, desire to rule the universe. Even Google finds itself struggling to keep up with what it sees as the four trends that are driving cloud-based infrastructures: the need to quickly adapt consumer technologies into the enterprise; the increase of collaborative workgroups; the increasing demand for scalable resources; and the need for even greater security than traditional enterprise systems can provide. That last one still has many people wondering what Google thinks it can come up with, but it is certainly feasible that the very nature of clouds themselves could enhance security, not diminish it.
Another thing to keep in mind is that the Google version of the cloud is not necessarily the only version. Google likes to talk about Web-based clouds where all resources are delivered through IP portals, which is only natural considering their business model. But as Sam Charrington points out in his In The Loop blog, most large enterprises are likely to set up their own internal clouds through which they can distribute applications and scale resources much more efficiently than in today's static infrastructures. I'll go one better and suggest clouds will be warmly welcomed by enterprises that, today, are focused on more immediate concerns, like putting a high-speed network infrastructure in place.
Another benefit of the cloud is that it will likely change the attitudes of some dominant vendors that, many believe, haven't always had the best interests of their customers at heart. Microsoft isn't the only villain here, but this article by Paul Thurrott points out that cloud infrastructures are likely to lead to more frequent but less-disruptive upgrades rather than major releases every few years that require all new hardware, like Vista.
The fact is that no matter how much the vendors or the trade press talk about clouds, the timeline for clouds is still very iffy. News.com's Charles Cooper points out that they could be another 10 years in the making. And by then, the industry will just be setting its sights on the next innovation.
So at the moment, it would seem that the best strategy is to relax and focus on building a network infrastructure to support cloud technology. Unless you intend to be a showcase, most of you have time before you need to dig in to all the cloudy details. The cloud is coming, but it won't hurt you. It's just a cloud.