Nicholas Carr’s Take on Cloud Computing and Consumerism

Published: 23rd August 2011
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The cloud turns many old assumptions on their head. Up until recently, if you wanted to see the cutting edge in information technology, you‘d look at what big corporations were doing. They were the ones that had the money and the skills needed to build the most advanced data centers, procure the latest servers and other gear, and write or buy the most sophisticated software programs. Today, when it comes to the users of information technology, the cutting edge is found not inside big companies but rather in homes, schools, and startups those are the places where cloud computing is not only firmly in the mainstream but has already become, in many instances, the dominant form of computing.

Consider your own or, better yet, your kid's experience with personal computing. Five years ago, if you wanted to do something new with your PC, your first instinct was almost certainly to go out to a store and a purchase a packaged software application. You‘d bring home the box, slide the CD or DVD into your optical drive, and install the application onto your hard drive, making sure it was compatible with your operating system and other applications. Every couple of years you‘d pay for an upgrade and go through the same installation process. That‘s no longer the case. Now, when you want to do something new with a computer, you fire up your web browser, hop onto the Net, and find the data, applications, and services you need. Your first instinct, in other words, is to look to the cloud where, more likely than not, you‘ll find what you want, and probably for free.

The entire Web 2.0 and social networking phenomenon, which has transformed personal computing in the last few years, is an outgrowth of cloud computing. A social site like Facebook, which is now the Web‘s most popular destination as well as an increasingly attractive platform for online games and other applications, is unthinkable without the cloud. Facebook requires the kind of seamless, large scale sharing of data and applications that is only possible with centralized, multi tenant systems running on the Internet. Most of the popular apps used on iPhones, iPads, Android devices, and other smartphones and tablets also rely on cloud databases and services for at least part of their functionality, even if they also involve the installation of software code on an internal flash drive. Modern gaming consoles, too, now routinely integrate cloud services served up from distant data centers. For the first time in the history of personal computing, consumers are today purchasing computers that actually have smaller storage drives than the ones they are replacing. Local storage is becoming less important as the cloud becomes more versatile. It‘s no exaggeration to say that, when it comes to personal computing, the big switch has already happened.

Small companies, particularly entrepreneurial startups, have also often been aggressive adopters of cloud computing, as have schools, government agencies, and nonprofits. For these kinds of organizations, which often have limited capital and tightly constrained budgets, the cloud can be a great leveler. By tapping into cloud data centers and subscribing to Web based applications, cash strapped organizations can gain access to modern, sophisticated IT services that were once available only to big companies with deep pockets. Indeed, since cloud systems can be continuously updated, they often provide superior capabilities to expensive, installed systems, the upgrading of which is usually costly and time consuming. As many smaller organizations have found, simply replacing an in house email system with a cheap Web based alternative can free up considerable amounts of money and avoid maintenance headaches and expenses while also providing users with far more storage capacity and advanced features than they would otherwise have had.

The common theme here and it‘s one of the central messages of cloud computing is the democratization of data processing. By driving down the cost and increasing the accessibility of computing power, the cloud continues the long term trend of making ever more powerful computing resources available to individuals and small groups. If the arrival of the PC meant that everyone had access to a computer, the arrival of cloud computing means that everyone has access to an entire data center.

This trend also has important implications inside corporations. As the purchase of applications and other IT services becomes simpler, faster, and cheaper as, in other words, self service becomes a reality end users, such as business units, corporate functions, and even individual employees are increasingly purchasing IT services directly, without routing requests through the IT department. Historically, explains Kevin Parikh, CEO of Avasant, an outsourcing advisory firm, the buyer of IT services is the chief information officer of a company. And today the buyer with the advent of cloud computing can oftentimes be . . . someone more directly connected with the service. As the Facebook generation enters the workplace, the expectation of self service in IT will only grow. A core challenge for IT departments is to facilitate this self-service trend, and the innovation it promises to engender, while also ensuring the maintenance of the controls needed to safeguard corporate data and meet regulatory requirements. Eli Lilly‘s use of end-user templates for deploying cloud services will likely become a common practice in many companies, as will the use of unified interfaces that incorporate management controls.

An Excerpt from the Afterword
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About Nicholas G. Carr
Nicholas Carr (aka Nick) writes about technology, culture, and economics. His books have been translated into more than 20 languages. Nick has been a columnist for The Guardian in London and has written for The Atlantic, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Wired, and other periodicals. Nick is a member of the Encyclopedia Britannica's editorial board of advisors, is on the steering board of the World Economic Forum's cloud computing project, and writes the popular blog Rough Type. He is a sought-after speaker for academic and corporate events. Earlier in his career, he was executive editor of the Harvard Business Review. He holds a B.A. from Dartmouth College and an M.A., in English and American Literature and Language, from Harvard University.
For more information, please visit cloudsrollin

HCL Technologies Infrastructure Services Division, also known as HCL ISD, falls in the category of the 4 percent American new public companies that have crossed, or are set to cross, the one billion revenue mark in the first 10 years of their inception. HCL ISD manages mission critical environments and handles over 3 million devices for over 1.7 million end users. The company’s clientele includes 20 percent of Fortune 100 organizations and has over 250 customers, Fortune 1000 companies. The company's fast growth has attracted several bestselling authors to include the HCL ISD case study in their bestsellers.
For more information, please visit HCLISD

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