Gartner AADI/EA: Nick Carr, The Big Switch

I’m now in the keynote from Nick Carr, author of IT Doesn’t Matter and his latest book, The Big Switch. I haven’t read his book yet (I did get a copy when he offered to send free ones to the first 100 bloggers who responded), but from reading the reviews of others and comments around it, I knew that it was basically advocating a cloud computing approach to corporate IT. His presentation reaffirmed this. Nothing much to say beyond that, they’ve now transitioned to a discussion with him and Darryl Plummer and David Mitchell Smith. The first question from Darryl was on the moving of data into the cloud. Nick’s response was that company’s will do it when their competitors wind up “saving millions of dollars” by doing it. Darryl drilled more into the notion of what to do with the legacy “stuff” and Nick expects that for the foreseeable future, large companies will have a hybrid model, slowly moving things into the cloud. He feels that smaller and mid-size companies will be quicker to adopt. David then asked if 50 years out, the Google data center that Nick used in one slide will be seen as “the dinosaur” and replaced by a peer-to-peer model. Nick hesitated a bit and said that 50 years is hard to predict in technology, but then said he doesn’t see it. Personally, I agree with David, and I think Nick’s analogy to power grids shows it. We moved to centralized power generation, and now with the focus on being green, we now see individual home owners contributing back to the grid through solar panels on their roof, etc. It wouldn’t surprise me at all, as standards evolve, to see individuals contributing their compute resources back to the cloud, however, we’d need to have far, far better standards for doing so. I had a conversation with Mike Kavis about this at lunch, and we both agreed that the cost of moving is still too high. I can’t simply take the .ear file from my application server and stick it on a server in the cloud yet. We’ll get there, though, and that’s when it will become a more interesting discussion for the large enterprise.

Darryl just did an informal audience poll, asking the question, “How many of you think a significant part of your IT will leverage cloud computing in 2 years, 5 years, and 10 years?” Within 2 years, there were probably less than 20 people. At 10 years, probably about 30-40% of the room said yes. That’s probably realistic, especially not knowing the size of the companies that are represented here. If 30% of the people here represent SMB’s, it’s a no-brainer in my opinion in a 10 year timeframe. Ultimately, this was just a fun exercise to stimulate the discussion, much as how Darryl pinned Nick down to make a prediction on how many of us won’t have a job due to this “big switch” in 10 years. For the record, Nick said 60%, but then said the more safe statement, “IT headcounts will be at lower levels than they are now.”

2 Responses to “Gartner AADI/EA: Nick Carr, The Big Switch”

  • Okay the power grid thing is stretching the analogy a bit to far. The 1/10 of 1 percent of folks doing that hardly represent a trend. I wouldn’t even call them early adopters more like fringe (extremely expensive and a long long way from being a commodity for the masses). Although I do personally like the idea.

    The cloud computing idea is still a long way away in my mind as well. I think some of it is there already for some businesses in small pieces but businesses are kind of strange about their applications and data. I think we sometimes project a lot more sophistication and forethought onto businesses that just really isn’t there en masse.

  • Rob Eamon:

    I wonder if these questions would have different response levels?

    * How many of you will rent time/space on a provider’s infrastructure?

    * How many of you will outsource application/service hosting?

    * How many of you will rent time on a provider-hosted application/service?

    I’m not sure why we think “cloud computing” is such a new thing. Sure, the providers are more sophisticated and the customer administration is better and easier than before. And it is ostensibly cheaper than before. But outsourcing is still outsourcing.

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