What Can Cloud Do For You?


Nick Carr: "How can the cloud absorb what we're already doing? is the question that's being asked, and answering it means grappling with such fraught issues as security, reliability, interoperability, and so forth. To be sure, this is an important discussion, but I fear it obscures a bigger and ultimately more interesting question: What does the cloud allow us to do that we couldn't do before?"

He points to this post by a software programmer at the New York Times, Derek Gottfrid, who was able to do a huge file-conversion project by using Amazon's cloud services. Without the cloud, the NYT's massive archive might not have gone online; with it, the job was quick and incredibly inexpensive.


The moral of this story, for IT types, is that they need to look at the cloud not just as an alternative means of doing what they're already doing but as a whole new form of computing that provides, today, a means of doing things that couldn't be done before or that at least weren't practicable before. What happens when the capacity constraints on computing are lifted? What happens when employees can bypass corporate systems to perform large-scale computing tasks in the cloud for pennies? What happens when computer systems are built on the assumption that they will be broadly shared rather than used in isolation?
Good discussion in the comments beneath the post, too.

A previous thought from Carr on the role of IT in this brave new world:

The more technical skills will probably move out into the supplier community and the strategic thinking, or tactical thinking about information, will flow out into the business itself...information has always been a critical strategic element of business and probably will be even more so tomorrow. It's important to underline that the ability to think strategically, to think in business terms about information--whether it's information about your business or the transformation of your products into pure information--those skills will be critically important to companies, probably increasingly important, in the years ahead.