Is cloud computing really going to mean doing more with less?
Matt Asay, for example, recently noted a new Goldman Sachs report called “A Paradigm Shift for IT: The Cloud” found that even though CIOs may be “loosening the purse strings on IT spending, IT vendors may want to hold off their celebrations.” Why? “Much of this spending appears to be headed for deflationary forces like cloud computing [and] virtualization.”
At SYS-CON’s Cloud Computing Expo earlier this month, I heard GoGrid’s CEO John Keagey announce an IT vendor’s moment of triumph and death knell in one breath. “The dream of utility computing has arrived,” he said, followed quickly with: “I believe we’re at the height of IT spending right now. You’ll see the IT economy shrink to half its current size.”
And, finally, during a panel at Interop last week reported by Joe McKendrick, AT&T’s Joe Weinman, raised doubts about the sustainability of cloud computing economics, describing a scenario in which they break down as enterprise management requirements come into play. “I’m not sure there are any unit-cost advantages that are sustainable among large enterprises,” he said. He expects adoption of external cloud computing in some areas, and private capabilities for others.
Now that’s not the kind of market that the purveyors of cloud computing hype were likely hoping for. In fact, it looks to be a bit of a, um, turkey. “An economic rebound never looked so dire,” noted Asay. “That’s unless you’re an IT buyer, of course.”
More on Matt’s last comment in a moment. First, where are these comments coming from?
Goldman Sachs expects a big bump from cloud computing…
The dire remarks Asay picked up are interspersed in that pretty straightforward Goldman Sachs report he mentioned that covers the basics of cloud computing. (In fact, a big section of the report is itself entitled “Cloud Computing 101: definition, drivers and challenges,” so you shouldn’t expect big leaps forward in analysis.)
· Cloud computing is “similar in importance to the transition from mainframes to client-server computing in the 1980s.”
· The new data center approaches and architectures required for cloud computing “are coming at an auspicious time: they are likely to coincide with a meaningful cyclical upturn in IT spending over the next couple of years.” One underlying reason for the uptick: the underinvestment that the bad economy has caused in the past 18 months or so.
· “Our checks suggest that enterprise IT demand has hit an inflection point and is now beginning to improve.”
Hang on, that all sounded a bit positive, at least to my ears. They expect growth from re-architecting systems “upon a foundation of virtualization and increased automation.” Goldman (and Asay) note the typical (read: big) players that will be taking advantage of that.
· But, longer term, cloud computing could actually “drive some headwinds for the IT industry” because they see virtualization (one of the interesting components that can be involved in cloud computing) as a “deflationary technology.” Goldman sees IT spending concentrating into the hands of fewer buyers: mainly cloud providers, hosting vendors, and large enterprises. They think better utilization will mean less pressure to spend, and when they do, it’ll be a buyer’s market.
“CIOs don’t want a single, ubiquitous stack for cloud computing,” predicts Simoudis, “but the ability to work simultaneously with multiple stacks coming from different vendors.” CA’s certainly betting on that approach. Goldman’s published take on CA is that it (along with others) has cloud computing as a “potential new growth vector.” That’s a comment I agree with, or (obviously) I wouldn’t still be here.
And if they do figure out how to side with the customers, maybe the cloud is in fact another channel for growth. Someone recently reminded me how early e-commerce over the Internet looked back in 1999 (Black Friday was much different back then – and there wasn’t even a Cyber Monday). At that time, many analysts predicted the demise of the brick-and-mortar retail store. Instead, the Web has become another channel to sell goods; it has given people another channel to sell and buy.
Is that a good way to look at what will happen with cloud computing as well? Or maybe that’s the wrong metaphor.
Well, it’s at least worth a thought between slices of pumpkin pie. Gobble, gobble.