It is only after reading Jason Scott’s F*ck the Cloud, that I realised that my two previous posts were in fact touching upon the same subject from two different angles. Though, I do not necessarily agree with all of Jason’s points because his definition of “The Cloud” seems a little vague, he has made several good points.

I have to admit I am still not sure what “The cloud” is — people seem to have many different views, a bit like for Web2.0. I note that the Wikipedia entry for cloud computing is move-protected due to vandalism, and a large number of techies prefer surrounding the term with inverted commas.

To clarify this post, I will refer to “the cloud” as the collection of software and hardware services which, by using the Internet as the underlying infrastructure, enable data to live outside the home/office space. It therefore relies on SaaS, virtualisation and Web2.0 to make it happen. This definition therefore includes GMail, Blog platforms, Social networks as well as Amazon EC2. To me, the term is simply a convenient way to refer to the current trend in Web development; even if given the lack of integration and interoperability, we should really use the plural form…

In my post on Google’s approach to business rationalisation, I was looking at the service provider’s end. I was wondering about the effect of shutting down Web services for a company which is actively promoting cloud computing. Because companies like Google and Amazon are at the steering wheel, people are watching their moves; especially service providers in search of a good business model. Freemium might be the way to go because it allows the service to reach critical mass, but I am sure that other models will emerge.

What I was implying was that providers are not only selling productivity, they are selling trust as well. The issue of trust isn’t new, but when you have control over the software and hardware, it is easier to take responsibility for the data. When users lose the direct control of their data, trust seems vital. After all, there could be thorny legal issues regarding data retention, liability, etc… At the moment, providers take no responsibility (read the fine print!) which makes it theoretically risky to utilise “the cloud” for anything that is mission critical or sensitive.

But people are bad risk assessors and if “the cloud” solves their problem, people will embrace it. As Dare Obasango mentioned on his blog, given the massive adoption, trust might already be an issue that is ready evaporate. To follow on his example, it took a few decades for people to realise that seat belts and airbags might be good ideas, and drink driving and speeding not such good ones… The fatality rate did not deter people from using cars: gradually, manufacturers made the cars safer and traffic authorities enforced rules and educated people.

In my other post, I mentioned an article published in a French magazine that reconstructed the life of an Internet user from all the information that he had left on the Internet. What I found interesting was that people were putting so much data, and therefore so much faith, in “the cloud”. Of course, in the case of social applications such as Facebook or Twitter, the data is generally trivial and can hardly be considered mission critical or sensitive — although, a lot of people would not appreciate to lose their list of friends, photos, business contacts, etc…

I was pointing out that the coming generation, not trailing the same history of problems as the previous ones, is making anyone 30+ sound grumpy — in fact most of the criticism was coming from experienced professionals. There was a time when people would print everything they type because their hard drive was not safe enough; nowadays, they say that only their hard drive (for personal users) or their data center (for businesses) is safe enough, they see “the cloud” as a big fluffy thing that will disappear. Maybe they would appreciate my old dot matrix printer.

My guess is that users will continue to take advantage of “the cloud”, and they will learn to decide what data is important. Businesses also will learn, and because they are better risk assessors, they will pay premium for better guarantees and service when needed. And providers will probably start providing better interoperability, and continue to adapt their services to a growing demand.

Trust (or lack thereof) did not affect adoption, but risk awareness eventually changed the behaviour of users and manufacturers. In that regard, what happened with the car industry will happen with the Web.

“The cloud” is no silver bullet, we just need to understand better when it is appropriate to use. It will gradually disappear though, but only because it is a silly term.

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