There’s a lot of cloud hate speech going around. Job destroyer. Monopolist. Election meddler. Before we burn the data centers to the ground, let’s praise the cloud for what it is.
Cloud computing is the underpinning of the free economy. Does anyone remember Hotmail? It was the first free email service offered independently of an ISP. Back in olden times, before Hotmail, people paid licensing fees for software. Cloud computing (hyperscale compute and storage services) wiped out that model and gave people excellent software for free.
The cloud gives us mountains of free compute and storage that people access through sites with funny sounding names like Facebook and Google. But today the frightful five draw tremendous ire. People vilify Google, Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Microsoft and other hyperscale services (Uber anyone). Cloud vendors don’t get credit for delivering one of the greatest periods of creative innovation in history. Before we torch the evil monster, let’s agree on what was delivered.
If you like Facebook, Twitter and Yelp, thank a developer. The only thing standing between a developer and the next big thing is a credit card to pay for the cloud service. Clouds deliver low cost and impressive scalability. They let devs deliver software faster and go global in minutes. Developers and the cloud have made possible this period of intense creativity.
The cloud killed vendor lock in. The cloud doesn’t care where your data comes from — Apple, Windows, another cloud service, whatever. Dropbox, S3, Google Drive and other apps lower switching costs and let users move data at will to take advantage of other applications. If a vendor tightens the screws on customers, dozens of competing vendors swoop in to capture the frustrated customers. There’s never been a better time to use technology.
Every year or two another jaw-dropping application comes to the market. Think about the cloud-enabled magic of Pokemon Go. Or the dynamic predictive ability of Waze. Or the ability of Uber to connect people with drivers. Just when you think you hate the cloud, something beautiful comes along that you cannot live without.
But it’s a rough time for hyperscale services. Uber is getting pitched out of London. Facebook and Twitter are getting called before Congress to explain the Russians. And, to be fair, there’s enough economic dislocation that cloud vendors shoulder some of the blame.
There are two reasons you should hug the cloud. The first is that the threats of innovation are always overstated. Just ask the Luddites or the buggy whip makers. Even 200 years ago the Luddites’ economy kept growing, new jobs were created, new careers started.
The second is that innovation brings opportunity that may be invisible for years. Ten years ago Hollywood writers lamented the end of scripted TV. Today they are enjoying the golden age of scripted entertainment thanks to Netflix. The same will be true for newspapers, department stores and/or taxi companies, we just can’t see it yet. But the organizations that can and have the resources to act will be wildly successful. If not, keep your pitchfork handy.