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Incomplete Thought: Why We Have The iPhone and AT&T To Thank For Cloud…

December 15th, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments
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I’m not sure this makes any sense whatsoever, but that’s why it’s labeled “incomplete thought,” isn’t it? ;)

A few weeks ago I was delivering my Cloudinomicon talk at the Cloud Security Alliance Congress in Orlando and as I was describing the cyclical nature of computing paradigms and the Security Hamster Sine Wave of Pain, it dawned on me — out loud — that we have Apple’s iPhone and its U.S. carrier, AT&T, to thank for the success of Cloud Computing.

My friends from AT&T perked up when I said that.  Then I explained…

So let me set this up. It will require some blog article ping-pong in order to reference earlier scribbling on the topic, but here’s the very rough process:

  1. I’ve pointed out that there are two fundamental perspectives when describing Cloud and Cloud Computing: the operational provider’s view and the experiential consumer’s view.  To the provider, the IT-centric, empirical and clinical nuances are what matters. To the consumer, anything that connects to the Internet via any computing platform using any app that interacts with any sort of information is also cloud.  There’s probably a business/market view, but I’ll keep things simple for purpose of illustration.  I wrote about this here:  Cloud/Cloud Computing Definitions – Why they Do(n’t) Matter…
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  2. As we look at the adoption of cloud computing, the consumption model ultimately becomes more interesting than how the service is delivered (as it commoditizes.) My presentation “The Future of Cloud” focused on the fact that the mobile computing platforms (phones, iPads, netbooks, thin(ner) clients, etc) are really the next frontier.  I pointed out that we have the simultaneous mass re-centralization of applications and data in massive cloud data centers (however distributed ethereally they may be) and the massive distribution of the same applications and data across increasingly more intelligent, capable and storage-enabled mobile computing devices.  I wrote about this here: Slides from My Cloud Security Alliance Keynote: The Cloud Magic 8 Ball (Future Of Cloud)
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  3. The iPhone isn’t really that remarkable a piece of technology in and of itself, in fact it capitalizes on and cannibalizes many innovations and technologies that came before it.  However, as I mentioned in my post “Cloud Maturity: Just Like the iPhone, There’s An App For That…The thing I love about my iPhone is that it’s not a piece of technology I think about but rather, it’s the way I interact with it to get what I want done.  It has its quirks, but it works…for millions of people.  Add in iTunes, the community of music/video/application artists/developers and the ecosystem that surrounds it, and voila…Cloud.”

  4. At each and every compute paradigm shift, we’ve seen the value of the network waffle between “intelligent” platform and simple transport depending upon where we were with the intersection of speeds/feeds and ubiquity/availability of access (the collision of Moore’s and Metcalfe’s laws?)  In many cases, we’ve had to rely on workarounds that have hindered the adoption of really valuable and worthwhile technologies and operational models because the “network” didn’t deliver.

I think we’re bumping up against point #4 today.  So here’s where I find this interesting.  If we see the move to the consumerized view of accessing resources from mobile platforms to resources located both on-phone and in-cloud, you’ll notice that even in densely-populated high-technology urban settings, we have poor coverage, slow transit and congested, high-latency, low-speed access — wired and wireless for that matter.

This is a problem. In fact it’s such a problem that if we look backward to about 4 years ago when “cloud computing” and the iPhone became entries in the lexicon of popular culture, this issue completely changed the entire application deployment model and use case of the iPhone as a mobile platform.  Huh?

Do you remember when the iPhone first came out? It was a reasonably capable compute platform with a decent amount of storage. It’s network connectivity, however, sucked.

Pair that with the fact that the application strategy was that there was emphatically, per Steve Jobs, not going to be native applications on the iPhone for many reasons, including security.  Every application was basically just a hyperlink to a web application located elsewhere.  The phone was nothing more than a web browser that delivered applications running elsewhere (for the most part, especially when things like Flash were’nt present.) Today we’d call that “The Cloud.”

Interestingly, at this point, he value of the iPhone as an application platform was diminished since it was not highly differentiated from any other smartphone that had a web browser.

Time went by and connectivity was still so awful and unreliable that Apple reversed direction to drive value and revenue in the platform, engaged a developer community, created the App Store and provided for a hybrid model — apps both on-platform and off — in order to deal with this lack of ubiquitous connectivity.  Operating systems, protocols and applications were invented/deployed in order to deal with the synchronization of on- and off-line application and information usage because we don’t have pervasive high-speed connectivity in the form of cellular or wifi such that we otherwise wouldn’t care.

So this gets back to what I meant when I said we have AT&T to thank for Cloud.  If you can imagine that we *did* have amazingly reliable and ubiquitous connectivity from devices like our iPhones — those consumerized access points to our apps and data — perhaps the demand for and/or use patterns of cloud computing would be wildly different from where they are today. Perhaps they wouldn’t, but if you think back to each of those huge compute paradigm shifts — mainframe, mini, micro, P.C., Web 1.0, Web 2.0 — the “network” in terms of reliability, ubiquity and speed has always played a central role in adoption of technology and operational models.

Same as it ever was.

So, thanks AT&T — you may have inadvertently accelerated the back-end of cloud in order to otherwise compensate, leverage and improve the front-end of cloud (and vice versa.)  Now, can you do something about the fact that I have no signal at my house, please?

/Hoff

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  1. December 15th, 2010 at 14:25 | #1

    You are not the only person who does not have AT&T 3G connectivity at home. So you are saying that the iPhone is so compelling you are willing to do without coverage? For me, a phone still has to be a phone.

  1. December 15th, 2010 at 13:09 | #1
  2. December 15th, 2010 at 19:00 | #2