Data Center

Pushing the Data Center Boundary Blog: Cloud Computing – Is it really just 80’s outsourcing by another name?

Is it possible to be suffocated by a cloud?    Because the hype around cloud computing is starting to make me feel like I’m suffocating.  It seems that for the last 2+ years all I’ve heard about is cloud and it’s implication on the market.  I have a number of people asking me what I think will happen.

I don’t like making these types of predictions – usually because one is almost guaranteed to be wrong and anyone who knows me will tell you, I don’t like being wrong.  Hence the feeling of suffocation.

Here’s what starting to get to me – the classic IT industry understatement of how Cloud Computing will ‘transform our lives’ and how it will probably make us breakfast and do our laundry before it’s all over (reminds me of a guy at a trade show years ago trying to convince me on how java would ‘transform my life’ by having light bulbs java enabled – I guess he never heard of light switch….but I digress).

There is a lot about cloud computing (and I’m really talking about ‘public’ clouds versus ‘private’) that I find very compelling.   Here are a three examples:

1)  Applications that need large amounts of computing power for a batch session.  Pay for what you need, run the application, when you are done, stop paying.  No mess, no fuss.  Awesome.

2)  Storage – how cool is it to be able to save stuff on one computer, have it backed up in the ‘cloud’, and synced with another computer.  Sign me up – killer app.

3)  Email – love it for my personal email (assuming you put online mail in a cloud category which I do).  Corporate email, hmmmmm, need to think about that one….

On the other side of the argument, I recently discussed this topic with a friend of mine who experienced outsourcing parts of an IT department in the 80’s.  Remember this trend when EDS was going to run everyone’s IT department for them?  I’ve heard many people argue that cloud computing is nothing more than this same outsourcing but more sophisticated – in other words, outsourcing by another name with cooler technology.

But does anyone really believe a significant part of the market will outsource to the cloud completely?  While I see the possibility of certain companies doing such a thing, I find it difficult to believe you will see massive transformation.  And for those who do, how many will view it as successful?

My friend from the 80’s once told me (at the risk of being politically incorrect) that outsourcing was ‘…like waterboarding.  It’s not going to kill you, but it sure does make you  think it will’.  He wasn’t a happy camper at the end of the day and they pulled much of their stuff back in house.

The point is that when you outsource, you lose flexibility.  Suddenly, small changes can be hard to make because you are dealing with a vendor instead of an employee of your company.  And what happens if the outsourcing vendor doesn’t hit their service level agreement?  What are you going to do  – sue the guy who has all your business apps?  And when they raise the price of the rent?  What then?

The nice thing for us at Schneider Electric is that there are lots of people chasing the public cloud and building big data centers.  Thank you sir, yes we’ll help you build another.  And for those who are resisting that temptation we help them build smaller enterprise data centers that perform as well as the big ones.

So I think next time someone ask me about my thoughts on Cloud Computing my answer will be:

“I support the concept of Cloud Computing, until it doesn’t make any sense.”

Now that’s a prediction I’ll stand behind.


Please follow me on Twitter @KevinBrown77


About Kevin Brown:

Kevin Brown is Vice President, Data Center Global Offer for Schneider Electric. He leads of team of industry professionals to develop and bring to market solutions for the data center market.  In this role, he has responsibility to articulate the vision for Schneider Electric’s data center offer and create comprehensive data center solutions that solve real customer problems today. Kevin is an experienced industry professional in both the IT and HVAC industry. He has over 20 years experience at Schneider Electric in a variety of senior management roles including product development, product management, marketing, and sales.

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  1. John Aebi

    Cloud computing is probably the thing of today. It is one of the greatest developments in the field of technology in recent times; it is helping businesses of all dimensions function in a hassle-free manner.

  2. John Aebi

    Cloud computing is surely one of the most useful updates in the field of technology in recent years. This is here to stay. Thanks for this excellent write up.


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