Bringing the cloud down to earth – WCC2010 Keynote by Nicholas Carr


Nicholas Carr is of course the infamous author of “IT Does Not Matter” published in the May 2003 edition of the Harvard Business Review. The paper was widely criticized heavily. I generally don’t agree with the criticism against the arguments, but feel that the title deceive.  The paper argues for IT becoming a “utility”, in the same way that electricity became a utility. So the title is equal to saying “Electricity does not matter”, clearly not the case.  What is the case, however, is that IT has lost its benefit as competitive advantage (at least for the average company) and it is more of a necessity than ever before.

Carr started his talk by reiterating this message. He then commenced at pointing to the inefficiency of fragmentation that plagues “conventional” IT platforms. Companies have paid a huge “IT Tax” to do business, i.e. an increasingly big percentage of capital budgets are  spent on IT.  Nicholas quoted Eric Schmidt as in 1993 saying “When the network becomes as fast as the processor the computer hollows out and spreads across the network”. Enter cloud computing.

If anybody doubts the cloud, note that the consumer has already adopted the cloud. Just look at the myriad of services available in the cloud, and think about the user numbers…  Will businesses follow suit? Carr presented 5 ways in which businesses may use cloud computing:

  1. Cloud as a model, i.e. building private clouds.
  2. Cloud as a supplement, i.e. getting new capabilities on the cheap.
  3. Cloud as a replacement, i.e. using dynamic capacity according to the demand.
  4. Cloud as a democratize, i.e. everyone is becoming an IT guy.
  5. Cloud as a revolution, i.e. do we have business and IT alignment at last?

When speaking on democratizing IT, he mentioned a case of the New York Times Archives.  Four TB of TIFF files were converted to 11 million PDF files in under 24 hours at a cost of US$240 by one guy… makes one think doesn’t it?

He concluded that Cloud computing is indeed the classic disruptive technology. Initially the technology might have only been suitable for low-end requirements, but innovation around the technology and development of the technology is growing so fast that it will soon meet the needs of high-end users… Will those using the sustaining technology be caught off-guard?

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One Response to Bringing the cloud down to earth – WCC2010 Keynote by Nicholas Carr

  1. Adele Botha says:

    Sounds very interesting. Thanks for sharing the talk with us.

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