Cloud Computing Enters The Awkward Teenage Years

Cloud Computing

James Staten at Forrester recently published his Top 10 Cloud Predictions for 2012. In it, James talks about how cloud is maturing, and warns of the challenges as cloud enters, as he describes it, “the awkward teenage years”.

“Cloud technologies matured nearly across the board … but there’s much more growth ahead as the cloud is no longer a toddler but has entered the awkward teenage years.”

It is a great piece, and I really love this analogy. I have been using it myself recently, as it fits and resonates so well. It also perfectly highlights the growing need for ‘adult supervision’ in cloud computing.

As a toddler, cloud was not expected to have any maturity, discipline, self-control, or to understand the real world. So we all just did our best to help it grow, resigned in the process to just clean up after it and at least to prevent any life-threatening injuries.

However, as cloud becomes a teenager, I think a key to building real maturity (as in real life) is in giving our budding teen the benefit of adult experience and supervision, while expecting it to show a growing level of responsibility. We need to give our teens the benefit of our ‘grown-up’ experience in the real world, provide them with a positive role model, be a ‘responsible adult’ for them, and expect them to show an increasing degree of self-discipline.

In this analogy, the adult supervision is the discipline of management and security that we know so well at CA Technologies – discipline that we know works, and that we know is necessary, even if our rebellious teen doesn’t think so (yet!):

  • It means providing discovery to find out about our teen’s ‘rogue’ activities – not to shut them down (though sometimes that may be necessary), but to be ready to support them when they come to us for help.
  • It means providing security and compliance to help our teen stay out of trouble with the law, and (heaven forbid) to bail them out if they do get into mischief.
  • It means giving them modelling and simulation capabilities, to help them learn how to drive in a safe environment, so they know exactly what to expect once they finally hit real streets, with real applications.
  • It means providing automation and assurance so they stay focused on what is important and don’t get distracted – and if (or as James notes, when) they do crash, they don’t just stay alive but they recover quickly.
  • It means helping to assemble credible capabilities to showcase their talent and advance their best abilities, not just grabbing the first ‘uncool attempting to be cool’ thing that comes along.
  • And it means providing ‘grown-up’ financial management tools, so they learn how to fit their lofty goals within a real-world budget – and so they can learn to pay their own way when they leave home too!

We all want to help our teenagers become responsible adults. That means for our teenage cloud, it is rapidly approaching the time ‘to put away childish things’ and grow up. For better or worse, that means more responsibility, more maturity, more discipline, and more self-control.

Of course, we cannot expect our teen to do it all themselves, just as we cannot expect to do it all for them. But the grown-ups among us who have IT maturity need to at least provide the adult supervision to help them grow responsibly.

They may not do it exactly the same as we did (with mainframe, distributed, desktop) – but those of us with experience in the real world of IT need to give cloud some basic principles by which to find its own way. Like any teen, they may make mistakes despite our best guidance (and that is okay because that is how teenagers learn) – but those of us who have made the mistakes before need to be there to help pick them up when they fall over.

Bottom line – cloud is growing up, running mission-critical workloads, taking care of others, and soon enough will be driving itself to school. But if we want it to become a productive member of society, we need to provide adult supervision and be a positive role model.

And that means it is time to provide ‘grown-up’ management and security, with the time-honored disciplines that we all know are needed. Because without adult supervision, the teenage cloud may turn into a juvenile delinquent.

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Andi Mann is vice president of Strategic Solutions at CA Technologies. With over 20 years’ experience across four continents, Andi has deep expertise of enterprise software on cloud, mainframe, midrange, server and desktop systems. Andi has worked within IT departments for governments and corporations, from small businesses to global multi-nationals; with several large enterprise software vendors; and as a leading industry analyst advising enterprises, governments, and IT vendors – from startups to the worlds’ largest companies. He has been widely published including in the New York Times, USA Today, CIO, ComputerWorld, InformationWeek, TechTarget, and more. He has presented around the world on virtualization, cloud, automation, and IT management, at events such as Gartner ITxpo, VMworld, CA World, Interop, Cloud Computing Expo, SAPPHIRE, Citrix Synergy, Cloud Slam, and others.