The Cloud's Big Bang

There has been an exponential explosion in the term “cloud computing”.  Today it is so overused that its really just representative of the entire IT industry.   But where did it suddenly get traction?

On 28th Feb 2008 a team of 7 journalists took to the stage at the Westin St Francis Hotel in San Francisco.  They hated the term SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) and challenged the 500 industry delegates at the conference to brainstorm for a better alternative.  “Cloud Computing” was just one of a dozen terms voted on but there was no consensus.

It was however a term we had used for several years internally and I decided to adopt it for our owncompany.  During the next 4 months I put 2x of our staff on dominating this name space across the Internet.  It wasn’t hard to do as nobody was using the term.   I’m not sure we did a great job of it but by June 2008, my Co-Director Aidan Montague thought I had made a mistake and had wasted precious time.  Hardly anybody was  searching on the term “cloud computing”.  He thought I had made a wrong call.

But there had been some mild adoption of the term in some circles.  In June 2008 we saw the first “cloud computing” conference hosted by VLAB at Stanford University.  As I was driving down 101 on the way to Stanford  I had a call from a journalist from the West Australian Newspaper asking me what was cloud computing.   Then over the next 2 months the growth in the term became exponential.  I returned to Australia briefly and heard the News Radio do a 50 minute special on Cloud Computing.  By September every major in the IT industry had commented or stated they also had a Cloud Strategy.  Yet speak to most industry people and they really had little understanding of what the term meant.

I could see we were well ahead of the curve because we had used virtualization extensively in various forms for 8 years, virtualizing the desktop, virtualizing the server, and virtualizing the corporate network within the cloud.  Our issue had always been that nobody understood what we were talking about or it simply had no credibility.  Suddenly this all turning 180 degrees overnight.    I could see the rate in uptake of the term was growing so rapidly that within a few months it would become overused and meaningless.  And this is exactly what happened.  We were early in our decision to differentiate ourselves quickly and so morphed our language into representing as a Cloud Platform.

The Global Financial Crisis (GFC) hit in Oct 2008.   General Electric announced they were moving to a cloud solution.  Analysts observed the GFC would probably drive adoption of Cloud as businesses looked for cheaper solutions.  The Cloud, it was said, would be the big winner.

By Christmas 2008, every significant IT organization in the world had a Cloud Computing strategy, and this now included Microsoft.

It was truly amazing to watch.   It was like being in a land grab during a gold rush.  I felt like we had been the first ones to peg our claim but talking about cloud computing then had very few listeners.  Within months, what we had been creating for years, had suddenly become mainstream and very credible.  It had become the main thrust of the entire IT industry.

Today, May 2010, it is coming up to 2 years since the Clouds “Big Bang” explosion began.   It is still creating a new universe and this is changing everything within our $1 trillion industry.   Analysts like Gartner predict the new industry will be $167 billion by 2012.  Hosted Virtual Desktops will be a $65.7 billion industry by 2013.  The numbers are staggering.  It’s a total disruption to the existing supply chains and support channels that make up the bulk of our industry.   I’m comfortable saying that will be part of this.  We’re on a rising tide and we have built an incredibly resilient technology platform that will keep evolving at the front edge of cloud innovation.  We simply have to keep adopting the best of the best technology coming available.   The Big Bang sweeping change throughout the IT  industry will be difficult because people resist change, but there are new opportunities opening everywhere as well.

More about those opportunities in my following posts.


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