Now that I am back from my trek to Redmond, I have time to come back to earth and think about what I heard. I think that several issues surfaced in my mind. Here are the three key issues that I think are worth more time:
1. We are at a turning point in enterprise computing. I predict that we are moving into the cloud as the focal point for enterprise infrastructure.
2. How much complexity do customers need to be exposed to? Distributed computing is hard and requires a new level of complexity that we haven’t seen before outside of small implementations and experiments.
3. What does it mean for the balance of power in the software industry? Whenever there are monumental changes in technology and customer strategy the shape of the industry changes.
Here’s my quick take on these issues. I’ll keep writing about this. In the meantime, I would love to start a dialog with you on these issues. So, if you agree, disagree or just think this is irrelevant, I would like to hear from you.
What about that cloud? What is an infrastructure cloud? Without getting into too much detail..it is a complex computing infrastucture that is hosted by an infrastructure provider that provides access to services ranging from access to storage, electronic mail, applications, etc. In some cases, this infrastructure can be well designed and scalable; in other situations the provider can cobble together a mess that is hidden from customers.
I don’t think that anyone owns this model yet but some company will. It will be the company that provides a scalable, well-designed, distributed infrastucture. This is what Amazon.com is trying to do with its Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2). It is what Google will pursue with all of its applications. However, Google’s first “official” cloud computing announcement is a joint educational venture with IBM. It is also at the heart of Microsoft’s Oslo initiative via its “Internet Service Bus”. I also expect that IBM, Oracle, and HP will get into the mix. Is there room for Apple with a Google partnership? How about Salesforce.com?
I am not ready to pick a winner(s). That is what makes this transition so interesting. A vendor doesn’t necessarily need a massive set of packaged applications or a huge sales force to gain traction. Does it avoid questions about operating systems? Does it matter if the software in the cloud is proprietary or open source? How much will the customer care? Maybe a lot right now. But who knows what we will think five years from now.
The one thing that I will predict is that the software industry is about to be turned upside down. Now, isn’t that fun?