A Look at the Cloud Hype Cycle

A Look at the Cloud Hype Cycle

January 26

Is the Cloud all hype?

The short answer is no. At this point a majority of people and businesses use some form of what constitutes “cloud,” whether you’re a business accessing a web-based CRM app like Salesforce.com (or my personal favorite, Contactually) or you’re my mother accessing the photos on her iPhone via iCloud Sharing. Thanks to the cloud, startups can get moving without having to invest in lots of infrastructure, small businesses can improve their backup and disaster recovery efforts without stuffing their IT closets with lots of hardware that can fail, and social media entities like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and others can connect literally billions of people without requiring them to download dedicated apps or store information on their hard drives.

I would go as far as to say that smart devices like iPhones, iPads, and the kaleidoscope of Android phones and tablets would never have achieved the ubiquity in such a short time without cloud-based apps and other services. Imagine if your smart phone needed to hold all your photos you have, emails, notes, status updates, videos, and games, among other things, all on its physical hard drive. Chances are you’d still be using that device mostly to make phone calls, assuming you hadn’t time-traveled back to 1989.

However, cloud computing has been hyped plenty over the years as a cure-all for just about every IT and business problem out there. Skeptics have ranged from your humble IT administrator to Oracle’s Larry Ellison, who ranted back in 2008 (HT, Jeff Vance of Datamation):

The computer industry is the only industry that is more fashion-driven than women’s fashion. Maybe I’m an idiot, but I have no idea what anyone is talking about. What is [cloud]? It’s complete gibberish. It’s insane. When is this idiocy going to stop?

Even so, the hype surrounding all things cloud seems to have died down over the last couple of years In a 2013 VentureBeat post titled, When the cloud hype cycle shuts down, the real fun begins, guest columnist Brian Gentile of Jaspersoft writes:

Back in 1995, Gartner aptly coined the phrase “hype cycle” to describe the process by which a new technology matures from the earliest of adoption phases all the way through its acceptance as a mainstream technology…the hype cycle is initially triggered when a technology is first introduced to a broad audience. Then, the ensuing adoption path treks through a peak of inflated expectations, a trough of disillusionment, a slope of enlightenment, and finally, a plateau of productivity.

Cloud-related apps and services have made us significantly more productive on a lot of levels. But cloud isn’t without its flaws. I recommend using a cloud service to back up your data in case of a major catastrophe, but you’ll be able to recover that data much faster if you keep at least one copy of your backup onsite. And while you may be irreproachable about using unique passwords and avoiding phishing schemes to protect your online data, the organizations holding your data may lack a foolproof data protection strategy, as we’ve seen on too many occasions.

Hype by its nature tends to suggest all or nothing thinking. I think cloud has moved far beyond that point. So it’s time to retire the whole hype notion and view cloud for what it is — a great set of technologies that improve and simplify our lives but does not (at least on their own) have the ability to cure cancer or bring about the Apocalypse. Those extremes still fall on our shoulders.

Photo credit: Dawn Ellner via Flickr