Sunday, December 6, 2009

The Future is Cloudy

That is for sure... how "cloudy" is still an open question...

That is "cloudy" as "in the cloud" for the future of Information Technology. It's only a matter of time and economics. When it's cheaper to outsource your IT needs to hosted "in the cloud" solutions, individuals, business and government will "follow the money". Things like security, control of your data, privacy, etc will be secondary considerations.

In Nicholas Carr's The Big Switch: Rewiring the World, from Edison to Google, much of this is explained and is compared to the early days of electricity. There is a striking resemblance to the history of power, generation, and use and the path that Information Technology has taken over the years. It's a good read even if not totally perfect in regard to the future.

We've watched computing technology go from huge rooms with staffs of hundreds, to mini computers small businesses could afford with dumb terminals, to islands of smart but standalone PC's, and through to client/server configurations that mixed in the best of both local power and server power. Now applications are running on machines anywhere in the world and available from any connection, once again requiring very little end machine power.

The switch will not be overnight but little by little, app by app, solution by solution. Today, using web based email such as GMail is the easiest and most effective way of handling the most common "app" of the Internet. In the not too distant past, you had a desktop program that you had to configure to use whatever mail server was provided by your company or Internet Service Provider. Now you can use Gmail or other webmail solutions from any machine, anywhere in the world without an app. You can brand it under your own domain and few will every know the difference.

I used to scrounge around for an old version of Word so I could have a word processor on my home computer, one that I used maybe 5-10% of it's power for the actual writing I do. Today, Google Docs provides an efficient, effective word processor along with a spreadsheet program, presentation options and even form capture abilities... without any cost as an individual user.

Even in personal productivity using the Getting Things Done paradigm I wouldn't even consider an application that ties me to a single computer or hand held device. Not when I have options such as GTDAgenda or TaskWriter available to me. Available again from any computer or the trusty iPhone that is always in my pocket... and much easier to manage than a physical binder or notebook.

As cloud computing does take over, local IT staff need to be re-thinking our jobs and what added value we already have, and what other added value we can provide to insure the future of local IT support. Will all IT Departments be gone in the next few years from corporate or government America? Not likely but they WILL be redefining their role in the enterprise.

The days of managing the endless technical nuances of servers and desktop operating systems, keeping systems patched and secure, and making sure everyone has the latest version of their word processing and email program is quickly coming to and end. Soon local IT staff may be more concerned about keeping their Internet connection solid and making sure the local wires are in good shape... or not with the expansion of wireless solutions.

How long will it be until super thin clients running on expendable hardware that connect wireless to a cloud company's freely provided router that is remotely supported and managed without anyone being local? No long I would image... Not long. Actually it's already here in one form or another.

Hello, I'm a recovering Systems Administrator and looking for a job... might not be too long for that.
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