Not a cloud in sight
Updated: Feb 28, 2019
We have already touched on the issue of cloud solutions. The thing is that they are everywhere and you use them all the time. Mostly unknowingly or unaware, but still. The reason may well be that they are just there – you don't think about them. Because what is important about cloud solutions is not what they are, but what they enable you to do.
"How sweet to be a Cloud
Floating in the Blue
It makes him very proud
To be a little cloud."
A.A. Milne's delightful little poem from "Winnie-the-Pooh" evokes all the fluffy lightness of clouds in the sky. As clouds should be on a bright summer day.
Obviously, it is a devilish marketing ploy to call something as mundane, earthbound and solid as a data center a "cloud"! There is nothing fluffy, light or white about it, but the name has stuck and so "cloud" it is. And despite all its non-cloud-like appearance, the tech version of cloud can still be something sweet for your business.
IT IS WHAT IT IS. WHAT IT DOES IS SOMETHING ELSE
Data centers are mostly boring buildings containing endless arrays of servers. You can get access to a specific part which is yours. Your company may already have one or several servers located on site, but a server in the cloud is simply a server located in another physical location owned and operated by another company – a host. It is accessed via the internet.
Using external servers is making use of "leveraged assets" – tapping into resources you neither own or operate. Server space as a service. Dropbox is a commonly know and widely used such service based on this principle.
Making use of (access to) leveraged assets allows you to scale your operations according to you needs and situation. Also, service and maintenance are taken care of by the host, who in turn can leverage economies of scale. This affects security and reliability, which is usually extremely high. Not having to spend resources on maintenance, service and security issues, scarce internal IT resources can be reverted to other tasks. Fixed costs can be reverted to running costs. In bullets:
Constant updates and access to latest software version
Ongoing service and maintenance by host
High level of operational security
Savings related to operational efficiency increases
But this story is not really about what the cloud is. In fact, it is not so much about clouds at all. But it is somehow the story about what clouds do.
IS THAT A PLATFORM I SEE?
Cloud solutions and platform-based business models fit each other like hand in glove.When data and transactions are allowed to be processed on "someone else's server" – in the cloud – it opens for a new world of business opportunities built on a platform business model.
Platforms grow with the number of users and the huge amount of data generated calls for instant scalability which is what clouds do best. Platform solutions and services are abundant, and chances are that you use several for private purposes (like e.g. social media and media consumption like HBO, Netflix etc.).
Remember when you had to buy Microsoft operating systems and software separately? Now you simply have online access via a profile. It is no longer necessary to install the software on a local computer. It can be run in the cloud and is therefore provided as a service. You even get access to free cloud server space (OneDrive) with the same characteristics as Dropbox. This phenomenon is referred to as Software-as-a-Service (SaaS). All updates happen automatically (as you know and expect from any app on your smartphone).
If you use free services such as Google Docs, everyone can even work on the same files – simultaneously. No more mess and constant versioning! And everything is automatically stored in the cloud. No more accidents due to server crashes and difficult versioning. Oh, happy day!
The interesting thing about platforms is therefore not what they are, but what they enable you to do (sounds familiar?)
Using platform solutions, it is possible to access resources (even specialists or physical assets like cars) which you otherwise only use occasionally and is related to high fixed costs. Thus, platform solutions enable you to save precious resources like time, attention and money.
It is possible to collaborate across organization and in between companies, which both frees up resources and lowers transaction costs. It is possible to access resources which would otherwise be difficult if not impossible to find. No wonder then, that platform solutions multiply at hyper speed. They simply make sense.
And so it is, that clouds and their platform companions are sort of everywhere and yet mostly invisible. Because what is interesting is not what they are, but what they enable us to do! Just like electricity and the internet itself.
JUST ONE MORE THING
Freeing up resources means that we get time to do other things. In a business this means that we can pursue other valuable activities like growing your business, pursue new markets, build and care for personal relations and improve and personalize your service.
And perhaps we should all be wise to spend just a little of that extra time to gaze up at the clouds in the sky and wonder who else is doing the same thing. That’s a different kind of connection altogether.