Clouds: A Brief Reflection on the Inflection Point
Keith McFarlane

Keith McFarlane

I remember looking up at clouds when I was a child, trying to discern the shapes; seeing the many things clouds could become — Big Bird, a dinosaur, a slice of cake – had the power to make me smile, giggle, or just stare for what would seem like hours. And it truly was the becoming, that slow drift from one shape into another, that made the whole experience so magical:

cloud buffalo herds becoming cloud geese in formation, beach ball clouds suddenly sprouting claws and horns to become hideous monster clouds. They were silvery-white puffs of rainwater with the infinite ability to change and surprise.

There is so much change within the enterprise software industry right now, so much newness and confusion, that it’s easy to take on an attitude of detached cynicism; in fact, any casual skim through tweets and blog posts on the subject of cloud-based platforms might give you the impression that sarcasm and derision are important skills to point out in a CV. I have had my bouts of this, and it’s not an easy pattern to shake. However, I’ve come to a personal realization that there is something big, something of great importance for business, possibly the world, emerging from the sullen skies. All of these strange new concepts — clouds, grids, IaaS, SaaS, PaaS, private and public social networks — are pointing in the direction of massive change, and the sort of disruption that many fear, and a few embrace.

Sure, we’ve all grown a bit tired of the marketing hype around “the cloud.” But there’s so much beyond marketing that’s left to discover, improve, create. We are at the very beginning of a revolution in the way software is built, maintained, and provided to end users, and the effects are as irreversible as the changing shape of a cumulus. All that’s left to determine among software vendors is this: who will take a place among the gathering and welcoming clouds, and who will remain planted in the infertile and overused fields of packaged enterprise software, dying for lack of sun?