Monday, November 26, 2012

Coming Full Circle: Computing Goes Back to the Enterprise

Clouds are all the rage in the computing world.  Clouds are being promoted as the ideal computing model for today and the future.  Beyond the obvious call center services, office productivity applications are now cloud-based as are all the social media sites in vogue today.  There are dozens of companies who will host entire computing infrastructures thus removing all the server farms from the control of the enterprise. 

Clearly, there are financial incentives that make cloud computing the preferred method of supporting computing needs of today rather than the traditional enterprise hosting model.  The question to be asking now is “How long with this model last before we switch back to enterprise hosting?”

For those too young to remember, cloud hosting is a “been there, done that” model.  Used to be that mainframes were the only computers and companies would open timeshare accounts if they needed large-scale computing resources they did not possess. 

Dumb-terminals gave way to PCs when the technology and associated knowledge of computing started to advance.  Throw in Local Area Networks (LANs) and suddenly it was possible to harness a lot of computing power with a relatively low price compared to “big iron.”  Distributed computing took root and looked to be the model for the long-term future. 

Along came DARPA and their need to connect a number of universities to its massive collection of computers.  The Internet was born with CMU creating the first browser to help bring images to the PC on your desktop.  Quickly the computing model swung back to large computing systems being accessed remotely albeit with a dramatic change to the underlying computers.  Throw in plentiful bandwidth, orders of magnitude faster than 1200 baud modems, and LANs gave way to a web of Internet-connected servers that hosted the content needing to be accessed. 

So if you believe that technology operates in cycles, what will be the catalyst that will move us away from cloud computing and what will the next model look like?

The catalyst is PRIVACY!

Today, web sites all over the world are buying and selling our private information.  Hackers are grabbing passwords as such an alarming rate it’s any wonder the credit card industry is still in business.  Governments are creating regulations and passing laws that make access to business and personal information stored by the service providers as easy to access as a phone call.  The tipping point is coming and when it hits, there will be a swift migration back to the secure world of the internal data center.  No one will trust that their sensitive information is safe.

The good news is that all the knowledge about building apps that run on mobile devices will continue to be useful.  Bandwidth will continue to be plentiful.  Knowledge of hosting infrastructure will still be valuable as individual companies will host all their own services.

Social media and free e-mail services will provide transitory storage services as local storage will take a quantum leap forward allowing all personal data to be kept local.  The web will continue to be an information resource but not a storage location. 

How soon will this transition happen?  I believe this transition will start in less than 18 months.  When you look at what is happening within the hacker community, web site privacy and laws being passes around the world, privacy is already under attack.  BofA has had to issue me new credit cards 3 times in the last year due to “unexplained charges.”  No admission of security failure; just “fraud prevention.” 

While I may be off on the timing, I am certain I have nailed the catalyst.  Opportunities will abound for those who understand history.