There is an ongoing debate in the industry, in the blogosphere, and frankly, internally at GigaSpaces, on whether or not cloud computing is anywhere near becoming a viable business offering for enterprise customers.
First, a general comment on these types of paradigm shifting technological developments (or for that matter social and other developments). We tend to either grossly under-estimate how quickly they will be adopted, or grossly over-estimate it. For example, as an industry, I believe the rapid adoption of the Internet was grossly under-estimated (I'm talking '95-'96). During the bubble period, we grossly over-estimated how rapidly things such as online B2B Exchanges will be adopted (I shudder even saying these words now: 'b2b exchanges'. ugh...).
Not in my lifetime
Another example from the social/political world is what we're seeing in the U.S. presidential race. I believe that if you asked Americans as recently as 2-3 years ago about a woman president or an African-American president, the great majority would have responded with "Not in my lifetime" or "America isn't ready". Today, you'd get a very different response, of course. And even if this election does not produce a woman or African-American president, the barrier has been crossed. The psychological barrier of the voters, and the psychological barrier of many other potential candidates who might run in future elections (including Asians, Hispanics, Jews and other minorities). It is clearly a viable option.
Sometimes change comes fast & furious
Cloud computing is one of those things that many people are under-estimating. Change is coming fast. It is inevitable and closer than many think. The reason: it just makes too much sense to ignore. The economics are so compelling, that all you need is one player in an industry to adopt it, and the rest will have no other choice but do the same, if they value their profits and their existence.
Objects in the mirror may be closer than they appear
A few days ago Erick Schonfeld blogged a post on TechCrunch entitled: Who Are The Biggest Users of Amazon Web Services? It's Not Start-Ups. I highly recommend reading the full post and the ensuing comments. A couple of fascinating things come out of it. The first was that Amazon made $131 million in revenues in the last quarter from AWS. Tiny compared to the $5.7 billion in total revenues, but unbelievable for a business so young (meaning the AWS business). Imagine it was a start-up company with such quarterly revenues so soon. They'd be the next Google.
The second thing was this:
So who are using these services? A high-ranking Amazon executive told me there are 60,000 different customers across the various Amazon Web Services, and most of them are not the startups that are normally associated with on-demand computing. Rather the biggest customers in both number and amount of computing resources consumed are divisions of banks, pharmaceuticals companies and other large corporations who try AWS once for a temporary project, and then get hooked.
Like I said, the economics (including simplicity, time-to-value, etc.) are just to compelling. once the psychological barrier is crossed, it'll catch on like wildfire -- and you can't go back.
The skepticism we are seeing now from some people about security and other issues is reminiscent of the skepticism that Salesforce.com and other SaaS players faced. People said that companies will never let a "web site" keep enterprises' most valuable lead, customer and deal information for access through the public Internet. So much for that.
Just from GigaSpaces' own activity in this area I can sense the tsunami fast-approaching. We started "playing around" with the idea of offering GigaSpaces -- middleware software, mind you -- as a service on Amazon EC2. It makes a lot of sense because GigaSpaces XAP is essentially application infrastructure software born for the cloud -- as I describe on this GigaOm post. We put up a GigaSpaces AMI (Amazon Machine Image), maybe wrote a couple of blog posts about it here and on the GigaSpaces Blog, and that's pretty much it. Within days, we had significant amounts of traffic leading to both our AMi and the GigaSpaces web site in Amazon EC2 related searches and inquiries. Pretty soon we started getting commercial interest. Today, only a few months after this quiet non-launch, we have approximately 16 companies in various stages of working towards running their application on GigaSpaces as the platform on the Amazon EC2 cloud. In addition, we're seeing a lot of partner interest with a couple of very concrete things to be announced shortly. Wait till we actually launch this thing!
But I don't mean to be delusional. There are certainly barriers left to overcome before we see mainstream adoption of cloud computing. However, I do expect them to be overcome quicker than expected because there is so much vested interest for a lot of people to do so.
I'll write about the remaining barriers and how they are being addressed in a future post.