Monday, August 13, 2012

Episode 23: Cloud will never oust the desktop as Mayor

Yup. You did just read that on a Cloud professional's blog. And I meant every word of it. And it's true too. The cloud will never replace the 'desktop machine' (or 'localised IT infrastructural assets' for those who want to be pedantic & play along at home!). And before you say it, your friendly neighborhood cloud sales person isn't right. Your friendly neighborhood cloud sales person wants to sell you services, & all the spoils that come their  way for making their targets. And they've just read that opening salvo & gotten annoyed by it. Very annoyed.

The cloud is very good at a great deal many things. Sure, it can simplify lots of complicated purchasing into 'consume-on-demand' ICT in nice neat easy-to-use services. Sure it means you're not making CAPEX spends in such an indefinite set of economic & trading circumstances that otherwise kills your ability to be flexible to the market. And sure, it means you can offload some expensive aspects of your requirements to being someone else's problem as a managed service. And they're all very laudable selling points.

But, and this is the biggie - Cloud has become something used BY the desktop. That's right. Cloud is an augmentation to the desktop. Access to cloud services still requires a machine with an OS, with storage to install accessibility software of some sort (browsers, VPN clients, dedicated applications etc.). Even on your mobile devices, you're still dependant on them carrying the traditional 'desktop-architecture'  to access your cloud for management or productivity.

And no, desktops in the Cloud isn't the answer. In fact, it's damn near a non-runner. Purely aspirational in-fact. And Why? Much as there are those who are loathe to admit it, Microsoft owns the market when it comes to productivity computing. They also don't allow their Windows desktop licensing to go near ANY form of multi-tenancy solutions for hosted desktops. Sure there's OnLive, but that is a riddle wrapped in an enigma wrapped in a giant 'how-in-the-hell' blanket.

Given the cloud as a whole is multi-tenancy, unless Redmond reverses its stance on Windows Desktop licensing, this will never happen save for those few businesses who implement on-site virtualisation, which will be for reasons other than cost-effectiveness, but only at the 500 seats or more space.

And no, it's not realistic to expect or suppose there'll be a shift by everyone to using a Google Chromebook, or even to ClamCase's laptop dock. It's just not going to happen. Nor is it realistic to expect that everyone is going to shift to tablet computing eschewing notebooks or desktop machines. There's too much of our daily computing lives in the world that simply will not transfer to mobile. That is clearly visible in markets such as MMO gaming with 9.1m players of World of Warcraft, or the 1m players of Star Wars: The Old Republic, or high end games such as EVE online. If anything, mobile computing devices are simply companion devices. Yup, I just said that too - you didn't misread.

Tablet machines are great for low-interaction computing needs from wherever you find comfortable - be it on a giant bean bag, at your favorite coffee shop, or your favorite park on that bench in front of the lake with the ducks, or even lazing on your couch. Smart phones are in the exact same boat. But I can tell you that you are not going to knock out your end-of-year accounts on those devices. Sure, there are some who will say "But Ian, I do." And if you're one of those, good for you. But you're in an extreme minority that isn't growing, nor will it.

And the most important fact is that people fear change. People will not willingly give up the security of their disks in lieu of those in the Cloud. Cloud writers/gurus/warriors/evangelists/bloggers/watchers often live in a world which is purely aspirational, not filled with FUD (which is often perpetuated by cloudwashers & marketeers), & where their ideals exist peaceably. It's a mind share that right now in the current climate just cannot be overcome by slick-salesmanship, good marketing or even divine intervention. And historically, it's an easy to prove case also.

The cloud while nothing revolutionary, does have many chops that can help your business. It can become a very good friend to your business. But, the cloud will forever be just a drinking buddy to your 'desktop'. They'll be best friends. They'll get drunk together, sometimes sing some great tunes while getting along famously, other times they'll fight like a pair of rummies & not talk to each other. But, they will become closer & share even more with each other. And, we will all look on like concerned friends, continuing to wonder how it will all end. And the cloud should accept that. So should you. And your friendly neighborhood cloud sales person.