Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Is that cloud on the horizon going to start raining applications?

Timothy O'Brien speculates that the transition to cloud-based computing is happening sooner than expected. He's talking about the new integration between Salesforce.com (which is apparently the poster child for SaaS) and Google Apps (the poster child for desktop replacement by the Web). And he generalizes this to include EC2, SimpleDB, and the "twenty or thirty other companies that are going to join the industry".

He also warns here that this transition could transform the model for software development in ways uncomfortable for IT professionals.

He could be right. Cloud computing does seem to be poised to finally provide the right platform to suck the juice out of corporate data centres. The idea of virtual everything certainly has an appeal (especially to someone like me who is basically a software guy).

But questions occur... Salesforce and Google seem like a perfect match - but what about the other companies that want a piece of this action? Does it matter that you will have to commit everything to a given cloud platform? And what happens if that platform goes away? The more advantage you take of the cloud, the bigger the pain when it disappears. And what about apps which are a bit more specific than CRM (which in my naive view seems like just a fancy Contacts list - and hence an obvious and easy thing to integrate with an office suite).

Tim would probably call these kinds of questions "self-interested observations from one with the most to lose". He mentions a Salesforce meeting where business types applaud a sign showing "Software" with a big red slash through it... Well, maybe. Last I noticed no-one has quite managed to automate generating code from requirements documents (let alone automating the generation of implementable requirments documents out of people's heads 8^). So I would say it's more like "different software" than "no software".

One thing's for sure.. there's going to be some gigantic platform turf wars going on up there in the stratosphere.

(One big disappointment - it sounds like the Salesforce platform is based on their proprietary Apex language. Ugh. Just what the world needs - one more language to debate over. At least Google App Engine picked a real language for their launch!)

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