Goodbye Kodachrome, Hello Cloud Computing
by Tony Kontzer
Eastman Kodak's decision to stop producing its Kodachrome film stock after 74 years is the proverbial nail in the coffin, signaling an unofficial end to the film era. Once considered the pinnacle of photographic technology, with unparalleled color sharpness coveted by professional photographers and filmmakers, Kodachrome had grown increasingly irrelevant in a world filled with digital cameras and camera phones. For crying out loud, only one photo processor in the entire country will even handle the stuff.
But for IT executives, Kodachrome's demise should trigger more than a momentary blip of nostalgia: It should serve as a reminder that decisions about whether to adopt new technologies have already been made for you -- that whether or not you want to bring things like cloud computing and social networking into your IT environments is a moot point. These technologies will be part of the IT landscape eventually, whether today's IT executives embrace them or not. Just ask all the photo finishing stores, film retailers, and darkroom technicians who never believed this day would come.
Kodachrome's fall from grace places it in the pantheon of obsolete technologies that time passed by, like the venerable punch card. Like those early programming tools, Kodachrome will soon be looked upon as a relic from an earlier era. And like punch cards and Kodachrome before them, packaged apps will be pushed aside by a newer, nimbler technology--in this case, cloud computing--through no fault of their design or inherent value.
The simple truth is that in each case, something better just came along. Kodachrome was the victim of an innovation--digital photography--that put too much power in the hands of photographers, gave them exponentially more flexibility, and cut their expenses to boot. The punch card would have gone on forever as the data storage paradigm, but a little invention called magnetic tape brought that fantasy to an end. And while packaged apps aren't ready to die just yet, the rise of cloud computing is casting serious clouds over their future. Eventually, package apps will meet their fate, just as punch cards and Kodachrome before them, and the IT executives who accept this sooner rather than later will be better equipped to make the most of the cloud computing revolution.
That's not to say it isn't appropriate--or even necessary--to mourn beloved technologies as they're kicked to the curb. But mourn quickly, and then move on. Otherwise, you'll find yourself holding a punch card, a Polaroid, and a Siebel Systems CRM CD, and you won't have the slightest idea what to do with any of them.