This isn’t a story about the tooth fairy and clouds in the sky, but it’s close. It’s a story about the cloud fairy. You know, the fairy that makes cloud computing possible – for free.
What? Free? Is that possible?
Consider the perspective of Douglas Merrill, ex-CIO of Google, as reported by Andy Greenberg in this article on Forbes.com. Merrill is a strong proponent of cloud computing, and recommends that organizations should rely on search capabilities (e.g. Google) rather than e-filing systems (like the kind Microsoft makes). Merrill suggests a very flexible model for managing data in an age where data is everywhere – literally. Fair enough.
And then Merrill says that organizations should, ”Ride on the wave of virtually infinite storage at virtually zero cost.” He is talking about cloud computing. Later in the story he does acknowledge that there are “one rate costs” associated with cloud computing, but nonetheless he advocates storing your data on “a big hard drive that someone else is paying for.”
Okay, so he didn’t say “free”, he said, “virtually zero cost.” Store your data in the cloud. Let someone else pay for it.
Yes, I suppose a good CIO’s job includes reducing costs. But, someone has to manufacture the storage capacity. Someone has to provide the infrastructure. Someone has to pay for managing it. Cloud computing, while arguably more efficient, is not free. Moreover, I believe it can’t be free. What manufacturer will continue to innovate storage solutions in a model where only the service providers and the end users realize value?
Ironically, this blog exists in the cloud. I created a free site (using Google’s blogger) and I pour new bits and bytes of data into the cloud each week. But I do worry that some day the cloud fairy will turn into the wicked cloud fairy of the west and start charging me for every post, or that the cloud will burst and my data will become inaccessible, which is why I keep a copy of everything I post on my own server (and then I back that up). Paranoid? Maybe.
Can we allow the storage systems that host our data to continue to commoditize until they have no essential value? Will the cloud burst? Or perhaps the question should be: When will the cloud burst? What do you think?