So much digital ink, on InfoWorld and elsewhere, has been spilled analyzing cloud computing -- what it is, whether it's anything new, whether it will change IT as we know it. But a recent conversation has me thinking that cloud computing's greatest contribution may be in the way it applies the principles of mass production to IT.
Last week I spoke with Siki Giunta, vice president of cloud computing and software services at global IT consultancy CSC. Giunta, who has led seven large-scale cloud engagements for CSC, says that from her standpoint everything centers on the cloud service catalog.
In other words, a whole range of IT functions -- from email to dev and test to supplier relationship management -- can and should be thought of as commodity services. Once you accept that, you might as well pick those services from a menu provided by a professional services firm that can deploy and scale them in a standardized, secure, and highly available fashion.
For me, this draws a clear line of demarcation between enterprise-class cloud solution providers like CSC and old-fashioned, full-blown IT outsourcing. The old model was have it your way. The new model: Choose from the catalog; we'll provide a real SLA with real penalties for downtime, but if you want custom stuff, go elsewhere, that's not a cloud service. Interestingly, to Giunta it's almost immaterial whether CSC provides the infrastructure or the customer does. It's the same pay-per-use service from the same mold -- and according to Giunta she can deploy in roughly 10 weeks either way.
This is completely different from how many people think about cloud computing today, which still revolves around uploading VMs to Amazon. As Giunta notes, Amazon has set a high bar in ease of use -- import your VM to Amazon EC2 and you're ready to roll -- but a low bar in serviceability, as in it's up to you to assemble everything you need to run useful workloads, including end-to-end cloud security. Of course, that's what professional service organizations do: Put all those pieces together.