Steve Hamm (@stevehamm31) of BusinessWeek got a big article on #cloudcomputing into last week’s issue. It rightly points out that cloud computing is the big thing and will keep us busy for the next 10 years. Unfortunately, a lot of the article is misleading or missing key context.
His first example cited is Avon’s use of a smartphone- and PC-accessible system for connecting Avon’s 150,000 “sales leaders” with their reps (sales leaders are the consultants who recruit and run other consultants/reps and get a cut of the “upline” commission). Nothing in the article explains how this is a “cloud computing” solution. Remote/mobile accessible applications have been around almost as long as the Internet. The article doesn’t say, but I suspect that the system serving up all this info is a traditionally developed and deployed one sitting inside the Avon firewall – making it a NOT CLOUD application. But I don’t know for sure because the article doesn’t say.
Hamm then goes on to parrot the ridiculous Gartner numbers I’ve discussed previously.
His next example is
Blue Cross of Northeastern Pennsylvania, which has started using a cloud computing system to let its 300,000 members find medical histories and claims information with their mobile phones.
Again, another mobile app but no qualification on the cloud. Is it running in an IaaS framework from Amazon or Rackspace? Is it built on a PaaS environment like Force.com or QuickBase? Are these SaaS applications hosted in an elastically scalable environment? At this point, we don’t know.
Then we get treated to a total non-sequitor in the form of a note on the opportunities for chipmakers and handset manufacturers.
The shortcomings spell opportunity for plenty of companies in tech. Chipmakers such as Qualcomm (QCOM) and Intel (INTL) are creating products for portables that pack more capability on a single slice of silicon while reducing power consumption, making it easier to access information in the cloud from anywhere. Mobile-phone makers including Nokia (NOK) and Research in Motion (RIMM) are racing to come out with products aimed at business users that have all the ease-of-use of the iPhone (AAPL).
What the heck does this have to do with Cloud Computing? I’ll tell you – not much.
Okay, so here’s my favorite totally random observation in Hamm’s article.
One of the most promising aspects of cloud computing is that it enables the creation of so-called virtual personal assistants. These software confections know people’s interests and needs and go off and do useful things for them on the Internet, like suggesting a restaurant for a client meeting or offering reminders of where you have taken the client before. With GPS in smartphones, computing systems know where we are. And with artificial intelligence software, computers can be taught what we expect of them and how to anticipate our needs.
The Internet enables fun apps that can do things for you. What’s that have to do with what industry people generally consider to be cloud computing (IaaS, PaaS and SaaS)? Again, very little. You can deliver this functionality in a traditional in-house data center running on dedicated hardware and it ain’t the cloud. This is AI, not cloud computing. Or AI + mobile + location services… but it’s not necessarily running in a cloud environment.