Twenty years ago, Microsoft was taking over the world, Oregon Trail was the coolest game ever and Googol was only a number. In those transformative days, consumers were getting a first taste of info tech — for work and play. Unless you were a geek genius or rich kid, the high price tag of hardware, software and support inhibited universal consumer adoption. Instead, we relied on enterprises to provide the full IT experience during the working hours. The cloud changed everything.
What the heck is the cloud?
Remember in the olden days when you went to CompUSA, bought a ridiculously expensive box of software, downloaded it using 12 CDs and then launched the program? Well, the olden days were only eight years ago. And the reason it feels so long ago? The cloud.
Here’s the Wikipedia definition of cloud computing:
The delivery of a service rather than a product, whereby shared resources,
software and information are provided to computers and other devices
as a metered service over a network (typically the Internet).
We mere mortals aren’t really interested in how it works and the fancy tech mumbo jumbo that goes into it. We just want the newest version of Angry Birds RIGHT NOW. The all-powerful cloud — from datacenter virtualization to end user computing — makes the magic happen and satisfies our human need for instant gratification. And while downloading the latest mobile app might not seem like much to you, the transformative app culture and cloud technology is changing everything.
End user empowerment and democratization of enterprise IT
Who knew something as simple as a music player could change the way people view the world? Microsoft, Google, Amazon and other major players put their toes in the cloud, creating data centers and services to help companies offload expensive data storage and application management. But as soon as Apple made it possible for us to download apps on the fly to mobile devices and PCs, it was game on.
The power of cool IT was taken out of the enterprise and put into the hands of consumers everywhere. And it started an absolutely firestorm. Suddenly, enterprises had to develop technology use policies and come to grips with the fact that employees were rising up to demand technology — not politely accepting what enterprises gave them.
With the massive demand and subsequent success of mobile technology, everyone with a mobile plan now had access to a world previously controlled by enterprises — causing a revolutionary shift in technology usage trends. With the consumerization of IT, work laptops went home with telecommuters and personal mobile devices went to work. Why? Besides the productivity and cool factors, it just makes cents.
Pay less to play — and work
Need to join a video meeting on your iPad? Free app. Want to read the Wall Street Journal on your smartphone? $1.99 per issue. Want to protect your virtual house from a zombie attack? $2.99. You name it and mobile apps make it possible, from games to workplace applications. And while we just love knocking those little piggies off their pedestals with our Angry Birds, it’s just one of the amazing things that have come from cloud technology.
With a single process, users get the best of both worlds: 90 seconds of gaming fun and a workday full of cost-efficient computing and infrastructure support. Corporations love how much they save thanks to offloaded data storage, process automation, reduced support costs and virtual applications. End users are thrilled with social media integration and the gamification of IT, where interfaces like the iPad and Droid make normally dull workplace functionality engaging and fun. And with the integration of personal-purchase devices into the corporate environment, enterprises are saving big while end users get the tech toys they really want.
Personalizing the cloud
With the incredible scale of the “cloud,” we have instant access to whatever information we want and need in our personal and work lives on a single device. If you compound every cloud entity in the world — corporate cloud infrastructures, app stores, Internet sites, personal data and more — the sheer vastness of the cloud allows for an unfathomable amount of information. And by empowering people to take what they need and leave the rest, the cloud takes on a unique form for every person.
By creating and accessing our own personal cloud, end users reach maximum IT empowerment. Unlike ever before, anyone with Internet access — at home, work, school or the local library — has access to the cloud in a way unique only to them. And the power to create a personal universe digitally, to collect all your toys, tools and information in a way only you want, has fundamentally shifted the future and made us all the true driving force in the IT universe.
So, what’s the shape of your cloud?