In my last blog, we discussed the advent and hype of cloud and explored centralized and decentralized approaches to providing cloud services. In ending, I observed it was intriguing why services such as email and Web that were originally designed to align with the core Internet principle of decentralization were today mostly centralized.
The reason for this is actually pretty simple. All early email and Web providers were software vendors: Lotus, Netscape, Microsoft and others. Each viewed their primary objective to deliver software that customers would buy and deploy and operate on their own – not delivered as a service, which is what the Internet and the cloud inherently enable. There lies the problem.
It takes a special kind of mindset to turn complex technology into something useful so the average user or consumer can benefit from it. That mindset is “services orientation”.
Software companies, and hardware companies for that matter, provide technology components. They don’t have the services DNA. That is why early email followed the traditional software model.
Hotmail transformed email in this regard. This early Web email application enabled people to get email as a free service. Prior to that, email was mostly used by those at major corporations or universities, and the biggest email provider was AOL – a paid service requiring you to download a piece of software onto your computer. Today, everyone has email, and typically multiple accounts, including my 70 year-old mother in law!
As another example, take the Internet itself. The equipment was there, but it wasn’t until Internet Service Providers came into existence and took on the burden of managing this complex back-end infrastructure that even the most non-technical end user could surf the Web. If Internet Service Providers hadn’t come into existence, would the Internet have been as successful as it is?
The services revolution started in the 1990’s when Lou Gerstner took over dying IBM and transformed that mammoth company from being a technology provider to a services company. It still builds technology but it mostly sells services. IBM’s growth over the last 20 years speaks for itself. IBM started this revolution in the pre-Internet boom, so it did it the old school way – using human capital. IBM Global Services literally took over running IT departments for large corporations and turned them into service organizations.
This service bug is really infectious. Everyone now wants the service-on-the-tap. Even software developers! Infrastructure-as-a-service providers such as Amazon, Softlayer, and Rackspace are showing that service orientation helps you create a valuable business and own customers at every layer of delivery value chain.
Cloud is just a new buzzword for services. It adds the notion that it doesn’t matter where the hardware or software components reside, because the service is now delivered to you over the Internet.