My guess is most people reading this are of the technocrat ilk. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, it just gives us a slanted view of the world. We see things from a technology standpoint and not from a people orientation. That’s why the science of User Experience exists. If programmers and technologists at large produced technology that was well suited for the average human, there would be no need to re-engineer it after it was “finished”. And that is the dilemma of Cloud Computing. The reason it has such a huge following with great expectations and at the same time resembles the well known fable Stone Soup, is that the most important ingredient is missing…. the human being.
Who will be the winner in Cloud Computing? Will it be Amazon, Microsoft, or Google? Could it be Rackspace, Savvis, Verio or some other tier two player. Or maybe it’s the proverbial start up that has yet to come on to the radar screen. It could be all or none of these. But what determines who wins isn’t who has the largest data center with throw-away server blades or even who has the cheapest storage array. The winner will be the company or companies that figure out that in order to be successful, you have to flip your business upside down and start in the place where any of this makes a difference.
Ah! you say, not the dreaded “U” word. Yes, it’s the User. Many of us subscribe to the technocratic oath, “If it weren’t for all those stupid users, my job we be a lot easier!” Indeed it would, because without end users there would be no reason to write code, test code, focus group code, market.. sell or support code. There would be no need for hypervisors, virtualization, or network optimization. We could all just talk to each other in binary or Linux script and never even see the light of day. But alas, we develop technology for people who think “single instance management” is what a Geek calls his landlord.
There are three basic tenants that are quintessential for the company who wants to win the Cloud race; Simplicity, Seamlessness and Security. And remember these tenants are not from the viewpoint of the technologist, but from the viewpoint of the dreaded USER!
Simplicity - Imagine a place where the user is the center of the universe. Where any call to any algorithm or any routine or any data path was controlled by the user. Where domains could be set up dynamically based on the user’s persona (action, place, language, etc). Imagine a user not only having access to any application, anywhere on any device but having it available based on usage patterns and individuality. This is the ultimate goal of persistence. Having the ability to not only store off a linear progression of data which is mounted to a virtual drive… but to memorize the usage patterns of individuals and allow them to access their information from anywhere as though they had just put it down on the kitchen table to grab a snack and then come back to it mid sentence, or mid cell/column or mid presentation. The Citrix Any (application), Any (device), Any (where) philosophy maps to this goal.
Seamlessness - If you asked the typical User how much bandwidth they had they would have no idea what you were talking about. The more savvy User might respond, “I have DSL at home but I work on the LAN at work.” They couldn’t tell you the difference between upstream, downstream, packet loss, throughput or MBPS. And guess what? They don’t care! All they want is for their ‘service’ to be dependable and consistent. And that is the perspective the winner of the Cloud race will have…The ability to ‘understand’ the User in such as way that he has service (access to any application or information) regardless of the network he is on or the machine which he happens to have at his disposal. That means that applications must be reliable and consistent whether they are running on a high end desktop or a low end PDA. “Well!”, some of you will say, “that is unreasonable and is not technically possible!” Welcome to the world of Cloud Computing and the dreaded USER! Whoever owns the User Experience is the one who will win the Cloud Computing race. Are you surprised? You shouldn’t be. Why do you think Apple spends so much time and effort advertising applications and not their cool new phone. The tag line is “There’s an app for that.” Not , “there’s a cool new phone for graphics and user interface”. That’s how a technocrat thinks, not a typical User. And Apple embeds its User Experience in its devices… whether the high end desktop or the low end PDA. They make their money off of the music and software to load and run it… and off of any and all of the applications in the Apple Store. How much money do you think AT&T makes off of the applications run on an iPhone… nada, nothing ,zippo… that’s how much. That is why Apple is in a better place to win the Cloud race than AT&T… even though AT&T owns the pipe, the data centers and the monthly access bill. The Citrix Receiver and HDX technology fit this goal.
Security - Users don’t care about 64 bit encryption or VPNs or tunnels or storage array administration. They only care about whether or not other people (companies or individuals) have access to their information when they want them to and don’t have access when they don’t want them to. Imagine a universe where the same persona for domain control (simplicity) was used to control information access. Where an individual would be treated as an object with attributes defining his security parameters. And imagine a security system that allowed individuals to create their own profiles which were deterministic in nature regarding their separate and distinct pieces of information, by media type (voice, video, text) and by distribution (Friends, Home, Work – proprietary, Work – Public, etc). “Too difficult! That would take AI! What are you crazy!” Does that about sum it up? The Citrix (sorry can’t talk about this yet) technology fits this goal.
Many of us who see the world through technocratic glasses will object to this logic and simply state that it can’t be done. Others, like Google who retain on average over 2,500 data points per user (those who use Google search engines routinely) and sell billions of dollars in advertising based on profiles and personas will say… that’s right it can’t be done… by you! Sprint is running a TV commercial today which identifies just how much information they know about the millions of subscribers on their network.. right down to the volume of people who light up their cell phones when landing at an airport to the number of people using Twitter (or even know what Twitter is). All of this information is available today, it’s just that the technocrats are thinking more about how many terabytes of data storage is available and how much per hour a Windows session will cost based on grid computing algorithms.
Do you think the dreaded User gives a rip about that kind of stuff? Simple, Seamless and Secure… the company who understands that and takes advantage of it with their technology is the company who will win the Cloud Computing race!
…and the companies who understand how to create an environment where these three tenants are achievable will also win ….big time! So take your technocrat hat off and start thinking like the dreaded User.