Cloud Computing Back In The Future

3851653293_287b8817ca_z Yesterday found me in the National Hall of London’s Olympia, checking out Cloud Expo Europe. Much, in Linked Data circles, is implied about the mutual benefit of adopting the Cloud and Linked Open Data.  Many of the technology and service providers in the Linked Data / Semantic Web space benefit from the scalability, flexibility, of delivering their services from the Cloud as Software and/or Data as a Service (SaaS / DaaS). Many employ raw services from the cloud themselves, helping them accrue and pass on those benefits.

kasabi_logo_4col A prime example of this is Kasabi. A Linked Data powered data marketplace, built on the latest generation of the Talis SaaS data platform that already provides services for organisations such as Ordnance Survey and the British Library.

I know from experience, the Kasabi operation realises many of the benefits put forward as reasons to reach for the cloud by proponents of the technology – near to zero in-house infrastructure costs, ability to rapidly scale up or down in reaction to demands, availability everywhere on anything, lower costs, etc.

So I was interested to see if the cloud vendors were as data [and the value within it] aware as the Linked Data vendors are cloud aware.

Unfortunately I can only report back a massive sense of disappointment in the lack of vision, and siloed parochial views, from practically everyone I met. The visit to the show took me back a decade or so, to the equivalent events that then extolled the virtues of the latest stack of servers that would grace your datacenter. Same people, same type of sales pitch, but now slightly fewer scantily clad or silly costumed sales people, and an iPad to win on most every stand.

How can a cloud solution salesperson be siloed and parochial in their views you may ask. Isn’t the cloud all about opening up access to your business processes across locations and devices, taking you data out of your datacenters into hosted services, and saving money whilst gaining flexibility? Yes it is, and if I was running any organisation from a tiny one like Data Liberate to a massive corporation or government I would expect to be shot for not looking to the cloud for any new or refreshed service.

But, I would also expect to be severely criticised for not also looking to see what other value could be delivered by capitalising on the distributed nature of the cloud and the Web that delivers it. The basic pitch from many I spoke to boiled down to “let us take what you do, unchanged, and put it in our cloud“. One line I must share with you was “back your data up to our cloud and we cane save you all that hassle of mucking about with tapes“.

Perhaps I am being a bit harsh. There is potentially significant ROI that can be gained from moving processes, as is, in to the cloud and I would recommend all organisations to consider it. I expected a significant number of exhibitors to be doing exactly what I describe. My disappointment comes from finding not a single one who could see beyond the simple replacement of locally hosted hardware (and staff) with cloud services.

Perhaps I am getting a bit too visionary in my old age.

There was glimmer of light during the day –  I read Paul Miller’s write up, and scanned the Twitter stream for #cloudcamp, which took place in London the evening before.  Maybe I should have just attended that, which unfortunately I couldn’t.  Then I might be less downbeat about the ‘Cloud’ future just taking us back to the same old implementations of the past, just hosted elsewhere – an opportunity being missed.

If you know different, let me know and raise my mood a bit.

Disclosure: I am a Kasabi Partner and shareholder in Kasabi’s parent company, Talis.
Clouds from picture by Martin Sojka on Flickr
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