Cloud computing's me-too problem: Little boxes all the same

Cloud technologies are mainly repackaged versions of each other. Who will seize the opportunity to create something new?

I've been a big fan of "Weeds" on Showtime, now in its eighth season. If you're a fan, you know that the show have went back to its original theme music, "Little Boxes" by Malvina Reynolds: "Little boxes on the hillside/Little boxes made of ticky tacky/Little boxes on the hillside/Little boxes all the same."

Although the song's lyrics are about cookie-cutter suburban developments, they remind me of the cloud computing market, whose technology seems to be becoming "little boxes all the same."

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As I go from conference to conference and provider to provider, the technology patterns I'm seeing are clearly starting to repeat. Part of this is a natural phenomemon when a technology market is hot: Everyone jumps in to offer the same new trend. Innovation in a hot market is risky, as it takes time to achieve and by definition means offering something different from what is "hot" (otherwise, it wouldn't be innovation). Offering what everyone else seems to be doing is the safer path.

A benefit of this "little houses all the same" approach is that enterprise customers can compare apples to apples. But what if they need oranges?

I covered a great example of this in a blog post last week on how the use of "open cloud" approaches is becoming the "new black" among cloud technology providers. The same can be said about cloud-based storage, database support, management, and even the reference models the vendors show you.

What's missing is innovation and creativity. There are many problems that still need solving in the cloud computing space, and new approaches should be created to solve them. Service governance comes to mind, as does service management. Also, most provisioning systems I see clearly need new and innovative approaches.

The people charged with running enterprise IT are the real victims here. They won't have access to the technology that can really change the game. Instead, they will have technology that is simply trying to provide what everyone else is doing: little boxes all the same.

Cloud computing is a chance to work with a freshly washed whiteboard and rethink how we approach computing. Although there is some innovation in the cloud today, I don't see the level of creativity we need to truly change the enterprise IT game. The same boxes in different packaging just won't get us there.

This article, "Cloud computing's me-too problem: Little boxes all the same," originally appeared at InfoWorld.com. Read more of David Linthicum's Cloud Computing blog and track the latest developments in cloud computing at InfoWorld.com. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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