What the iPhone teaches us about cloud adoption

Cloud computing and Infosec blogger, Chris Hoff, notes that the adoption of the iPhone has much in common with the adoption of cloud computing. Fans are willing to live with incomplete feature sets in order to benefit from a new way of doing things.

Chris Hoff (now a colleague at Cisco, but long a phenomenal blogger in his own right) described in a recent post a fascinating analogy for the inevitable adoption of cloud computing--the adoption of the Apple iPhone:

While I have often grouped Cloud Computing with the consumerization of IT (and the iPhone as it's most visible example) together in concert in my disruptive innovation presentations, I never really thought of them as metaphors for one another.

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When you think of it, it's really a perfect visual.

The iPhone is a fantastic platform that transforms using technology that has been around for quite a while into a more useful experience. The iPhone converges many technologies and capabilities under a single umbrella and changes the way in which people interact with their data and other people.

Hoff goes on to note several specific parallels: our willingness to be locked in to specific providers to gain the iPhone's benefits; our admiration of those who work to innovate beyond proprietary boundaries through jailbreaks and "unapproved" application marketplaces; the desperate scramble by a variety of vendors to attach their star to the iPhone brand; and the constant rate at which features appear and evolve.

In the end, Hoff notes:

The thing I love about my iPhone is that it's not a piece of technology I think about but rather, it's the way interact with it to get what I want done. It has its quirks, but it works...for millions of people.

The point here is that Cloud is very much like the iPhone. As Sir James (Urquhart) says "Cloud isn't a technology, it's an operational model." Just like the iPhone.

Hoff is referring to my earlier post pointing out that the cloud isn't about new classes of technologies, but about technologies written to support the cloud model of self-service, on-demand, at scale operations. Corny nicknames not withstanding, Hoff also picked up on two fascinating things in his riff:

  • The iPhone isn't a technology--at least, not a new category of technology--but rather a platform that delivers a new operations model for mobile device consumers. iTunes and the iPhone App Store are services that simplify iPhone diversification to the point that it meets the needs of an incredible variety of users; from the biggest geeks to the technology illiterate. (OK, so I wouldn't be surprised if the former dominated the latter.)

  • Cloud computing will evolve much in the same way that the iPhone itself has evolved; early versions of the technology itself now lacks key features, but the operations model is what is compelling, and it keeps early adopters coming back for more.

You have to wonder if Hoff shouldn't have included the Google Android in his analogy, as Steve Oberlin suggested on Twitter. There are choices in the cloud space--it's not dominated by any one vendor, though Amazon may be the Apple of the cloud today.

I'm generally sold. I wonder what you think. Will cloud computing see massive adoption as more and more people (and companies) are seen benefiting from related services, and more and more compelling applications and services are available from the cloud? Or are both just trendy subjects that will eventually give way to more traditional technologies and getting things done?

About the author

    James Urquhart is a field technologist with almost 20 years of experience in distributed-systems development and deployment, focusing on service-oriented architectures, cloud computing, and virtualization. James is a market strategist for cloud computing at Cisco Systems and an adviser to EnStratus, though the opinions expressed here are strictly his own. He is a member of the CNET Blog Network and is not an employee of CNET.

     

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