The cloud computing revolution will not be televised

There will be no 'quick switch.' Cloud computing will instead phase in over time.

People are asking me a lot these days about the impending "death of the datacenter" as predicted by those looking at cloud computing.

I believe the shift away from the traditional datacenter model will be more like the proverbial frog in the boiling water. That is, if a frog is placed in boiling water, it will jump out, but if it is placed in cold water that is slowly heated, it will not perceive the danger and will be cooked to death. The use of cloud computing will come into the enterprise over time, and while the datacenter will indeed change, the gradual move to cloud computing won't be a "big switch."

The end result is that the datacenter as an asset won't be as important as it once was, but I'm not convinced it will die within most enterprises. Indeed, I'm not sure that most Global 2000 companies could run their IT entirely on cloud computing platforms, even given the projected advances in the technology. There are just too many applications that are not -- and will never be -- right for the cloud.

[ Stay up on the cloud with InfoWorld's Cloud Computing Report newsletter. | Confused by the cloud hype? Read InfoWorld's "What cloud computing really means" and watch our cloud computing InfoClipz. ]

So what happens to those running the datacenter? Well, there will be some jobs losses due to the outsourcing of systems maintenance to cloud computing providers since you're no longer running around replacing as many down disks or fried servers. The focus will be on virtual datacenter management from the existing datacenter assets to the cloud computing platforms. By the way, managing on-premise and cloud-delivered systems at the same time is not at all new for most datacenters.

Eventually datacenters will get smaller, but in a very orderly and gradual way. It could take years for many larger enterprises and the government, and the degree of use of cloud computing will vary greatly from enterprise to enterprise, depending on business needs. Most will be lucky to get to 10 percent "cloud-hosted" by 2012.

The larger and more noticeable shift will come from new companies that can place most of their IT on the cloud. As they get larger, they may not even need a datacenter at all. This won't seem strange to them because you can't miss something you never had, and the cost efficiencies that cloud computing brings won't drive them to their own datacenter anytime soon.

The hype around cloud computing could lead many to believe that big change is coming. It is, but as a gradual change over time, one you may not even notice.


Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.