Cloud: Not Just Someone Else's Computer

Cloud computing is a lot more than “someone else’s computer” and it annoys the hell out of me when people keep trotting out this tired old excuse. There is much more to service delivery than compute power. You do yourself and your customers a disservice if you don’t do your research.

A few years ago it was fashionable to dismiss cloud as “just someone else’s computer”, e.g.:

There’s T-shirts:

Someone else's Computer T-Shirt

You can even buy coffee mugs.

In a time when most cloud computing was Infrastructure as a Service, there was an element of truth to it. But…

Times Change

The problem is that there’s still people thinking this. Check these recent tweets.

These people don’t realize that the world has moved on a long way. There is much more to cloud computing than just “someone else’s computer.”

Consider a simple example, like email. To provide email services from “my computer” I also need power, cooling, rack space, servers, storage, networking, operating system, software, application configuration and maintenance, etc…not to mention the operational expertise to keep it all going.

If someone else provided just the computer part of that, I would still have an enormous amount of work to do. But if I buy this service through Office 365 or something similar, I don’t have to care about any of that. I provision users on demand, and don’t care about anything else about how it gets provisioned. I even get a clear bill.

How exactly is that “just someone else’s computer”?

All the SaaS and FaaS/serverless offerings fit into this category. Much more than just a computer.

Not Just a Bookseller

Five years ago VMware’s President and COO was dismissing Amazon as a bookseller

…I find it really hard to believe that we cannot collectively beat a company that sells books.

Fast-forward a few years, and VMware now has a partnership with AWS. And what’s happened to their share prices over the last 5 years?VMware has gone from around $70 to $133, with a market cap of $54B. Amazon has gone from $269 to $1,572, with a market cap of $762B.

But yeah, they’re just a bookseller, Cloud is a fad, and it’s just “someone else’s computer.”

You do yourself, and your customers a great disservice if you continue to believe this. You show yourself to be ignorant of what’s going on, and how technology is evolving.

Now, it is legitimate to decide that the best option for delivering services to your users is to use private infrastructure. But don’t just casually dismiss cloud. Do yourself, and your customers a favor, and take some time to understand the options, and make an informed decision. Otherwise:

If you dislike change, you’re going to dislike irrelevance even more.

Eric Shinseki