Why The Cloud Beats Legacy Compute Models

Recently I was a speaker at Westcon’s Cloud event in Orlando, FL. While the event was being held close to Disney, Universal Studios, and other hot spots for fun and games, the event itself was all business as the audience of value-added resellers (VARs) were busy trying to figure out how to position cloud and take advantage of this market transition.

mainframeI did a presentation on cloud and tried to lay the groundwork on why the cloud matters. One of the things I tried to impress upon the audience is that cloud isn’t just an alternative to traditional computing; it’s actually the only compute model that will work given the direction that IT is going. To make my case, I referred back to the last major shift in computing — the rise of the Web.

When I started my career I was a Unix person, and many of the non-Unix people I worked with were DOS gurus. Even word processing was largely done on DOS machines, with the F key functions playing an important role. When Windows was first introduced, I remember significant pushback from the user base. It wasn’t needed; it was faster to use the F keys and so on. While it may have been true that Windows wasn’t required to do computing the old way, it did become a core part of the Web.

Sure, the Internet had been around for years and geeky people like me used telnet, FTP and News to discuss Star Trek and debate whether Area 51 really exists (it does). However, the Web would not have scaled to where it is today without the development of a graphical interface. Windows was a much better compute platform for the Web than DOS, Unix, or a mainframe. It wasn’t just an alternative; it was better because it matched the industry trends at the time.

The same can be said about cloud today. Legacy, client-server computing was ideally-suited when networks were private and workers sat in one location and used a corporate issued device. Heck, client-server worked well (although not ideally) when workers started to be mobile and carried around that corporate-issued machine and VPNed in for access. The key is that IT had total control of everything — apps, network, servers, data center, and the client.

Today, the work environment is totally different. Workers are bringing consumer devices into the workplace with a wide variety of screen sizes, form factors, and operating systems. Workers connect from home, over WiFI, using cellular access, and whatever method is available. The tightly-controlled environment that IT enjoyed is gone and this is what should drive the shift to cloud.

Cloud is a great enabler of mobility and, in turn, mobility can drive cloud. Cloud applications tend to be browser-based so there’s no OS dependency. Cloud services are designed to work over the public Internet so some of the network issues aren’t there anymore. Don’t get me wrong, there’s certainly a need for WAN optimization in the cloud, but that’s the focus of another blog. The main theme is that cloud is a better compute model for mobility.

Internet of Things (IoT) is another driver of cloud. With IoT, businesses can collect massive amounts of data from sensors, mobile devices, and other platforms and the information needs to be rapidly processed and decisions made. Building out the compute power to do this with legacy technology would be very expensive and just not cost effective. In many ways the cloud was tailor-made for IoT.

Instead of fearing the cloud, IT and businesses leaders should embrace the cloud. Not because it’s cheaper or because it’s the new shiny thing. Cloud should be embraced because it better aligned with the trends in IT than legacy compute models.

Image credit:  Naotake Murayama (flickr) / CC-BY