Why Cloud Computing Is Happening Now

Sometimes things just happen. But rarely do they happen without many antecedents. And rarely do we see the antecedents until after they happen.

I believe that Cloud Computing has followed this pattern. The obvious antecedents are Moore’s Law (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moore%27s_law), the rapid drop in disk prices, the proliferation of virtualization, and the emergence of large, efficient datacenters. Much has been made of all of these factors.

One that isn’t mentioned is the network capacity required to move vast quantities of bandwidth required to move the huge amounts of data from customers to datacenters and between datacenters. The networks have a long lead time to install. And require vast sums of money. Think about digging very long trenches and laying fiber optic cables between cities. And then each of the cities need to be hooked up with fiber. This is outrageously expensive, especially when you consider that rights of way and approvals need to be acquired, etc.

Given that the lead time for installing these networks was decades and we didn’t know that cloud computing was going to be a key application, how did these networks get installed to be there when we needed them?

I think the best answer is bad business decisions. Wait … did I just say that? Cloud computing is a key technology for the future, so how can it be a bad business decision? At the time vast quantities of network infrastructure we being put in, the Internet was in its infancy and doubling in size every 90 days. Companies (like WorldCom, Global Crossing, and MCI) decided to install capacity at a fever pace. And then the bubble burst in 2001 and the companies had a ton of stranded capacity and many went out of business. But the capacity remained, and at lower cost basis when acquired out of bankruptcy. Sometimes decisions made for one reason in one era have massively positive consequences in another.

The Intersection of Web 2.0 and Mobile

In 5 years, the full merger of Web 2.0 and Mobile technologies will be complete.  This intersection will be a large driving force for substantial cultural and economic change.  I call this emerging field the Mobile Autonomous Web or “web2.go” (pronounced web two dot go).

The web2.go manifesto:

  • All web-accessible information will be mobile-accessible
  • Your mobile device will connect you to entertainment and information, the same way it connects you to communications today
  • Commerce will move from the purse/wallet to the mobile device
  • It’s as simple to geotag a piece of data as it is to timestamp it
  • Your personal data is available wherever you want it
  • Security is inherent to the process – your information and communication is completely secure while totally available.

web2.go is enabled by the ubiquitous deployment of high-speed mobile networks, coupled with the simultaneous deployment of even higher speed wired networks, at the same time that software and services serving Web 2.0 reach a majority of users.  As they reach a critical mass of users, behaviors will change (like a singularity in math).   This kind of behavioral change was presaged by the emergence of mobile telephony, which has rapidly replaced landline telephony.  (Can anyone remember the last time they used a payphone?)

So what kind of applications will result?  Imagine some of the following scenarios:

  • Jane is an architecture buff.  She is visiting Shanghai and sees an interesting building.  She snaps a photo and hits “History2.go button” on her cell.  A query is sent out, using the photo and GPS coordinates.  In seconds, the history of the building, including hyperlinks to more in-depth content is returned.
  • Akemi is driving from Seattle to Spokane and wants to stop for Mexican food.  She asks her car nav system for a recommendation.  Since her home computer knows that she tends to trust Fodor’s, the recommendation returned is the best combination of the highest Fodor’s recommendation and distance.  It is immediately programmed into her nav system.
  • Bill is shopping for a new suit.  Since he recently made a Land’s End purchase for slacks and a sport coat, Nordstrom2.go can query the Nordstrom database for inventory at its local store to let him know what is in stock in his size.  A salesman can have the suits ready for him to try on.
  • Jack had a sudden pain in his arm.  His web2.go device, which he uses for his workouts, has a pulse rate monitor and immediately senses his irregular pulse.  It signals for emergency help, saving Jack’s life.
  • Etc.

Once web2.go is deployed, life without web2.go is unimaginable.  It becomes an indispensable tool for both business and every day tasks, integrated into our daily lives.



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