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The IT World: Over-Complicating Things

Posted by | Posted in Finance, Geek Stuff | Posted on 28-10-2008

You tube my space, and I’ll Google your Yahoo.

On reading my usual morning emails and geeky articles from various sources, I came across a term that seems to be making an appearence more and more often in the IT world – Cloud Computing. It’s something that seems to have popped up in the last few months, and now everyone wants in on it.

But it’s the “it” that confuses me. Aside from the ambiguous nature of these terms (Web 2.0 is another example) that might be the cause of the confusion, it’s the reason behind why these terms have started to pop up more frequently that confuses me more. For the majority of them, I don’t even understand why a term has been coined for the concept. Take “cloud computing” as an example. Wikipedia describes it as:

…a style of computing in which IT-related capabilities are provided “as a service”, allowing users to access technology-enabled services from the Internet (“in the cloud”) without knowledge of, expertise with, or control over the technology infrastructure that supports them…

I’m no expert (well actually, I suppose I am, of sorts) but hasn’t that always been the case? People use websites nomatter what their purpose, without knowing who made them, how they work, or who built and owns them. So why now has a term been coined that describes the bleeding obvious?

As always, it comes down to money. The marketing sorts all sit around in their fancy offices devising new ways to pry the cash from our hands. And whenever a new buzzword comes along, so too do the dollar signs in their eyes. And suddenly every major IT company is using the new-fangled confusion to try and sell their products. It’s like trying to sell a car based on the fact that it has wheels. Of course it does, you pillock – it’s a car.

It makes you wonder why some arse even coined the phrase in the first place. Believe it or not, it’s not usually the marketing people who coin the buzzwords, it’s the self-obssessed wannabes in the IT community. They’re all trying to get their name out there and recognized, in the hopes of having their five minutes of fame on the intertubes. So someone, somewhere, will coin a phrase; the fanboys will start using it like it’s been around forever; the critics will start pulling it apart and critisizing it (in the same vein attempt at getting their name recognised) and then eventually someone will find a practical use for it. By which time a new buzzword has hit the scene.

The aforementioned Wikipedia extract above also uses another phrase that’s “taking the IT world by storm”, as they say – and that’s “as a service“. Apparently, everything is now provided “as a service” – software (as a service), infrastructure (as a service), communications (as a service), the list goes on. As far as my limited business knowledge goes, there are only two types of “things” that you can offer your customers – a product, or a service. As far as I know, by using a website you’re not using a product, you’re making use of a service. So people have forever been using the internet (or the “cloud” as all the bohemian idiots would have me call it) as a service, so why the sudden emphasis on it? If you ask me, we’ve always used the internet (and everything on it, such as IM clients, email, and online storage) “as a service”, and nothing has changed except the marketing strategies of the IT companies who’ve got something to gain by flooding their potential customers with fancy-sounding buzzwords. It’s a prime example of an in-built heating system if ever I’ve heard one.

Maybe I’m getting (more) stubborn in my old age, but if anyone asks, I’m not “accessing software as a service in the cloud”, I’m “using the internet”, thanks very much.

There is one word, which isn’t IT-related, that I quite like, and that’s “buffoonery”. Shouting at the top of your lungs, “Stop that pea-minded buffoonery at once!”, is sure to get someone’s attention. Unless you’re an IT professional trying to get your name on Slashdot.

UPDATE: The news of the day is that Microsoft has unveiled Windows Azure – which from what I can gather, is basically on operating system that is stored on the internet (or in Microsoft’s “cloud”) rather than a person’s own computer, and is used to run applications that people can use over the internet. It’ll also be used to store personal files and information, much like your standard PC is used for, but it allows people to access the information and files from anywhere with a net connection, and on any device capable of using the internet.

You know what that says to me? Glorified web hosts. That’s all they’ll become. Again, the marketing people are making a big song and dance about something that has existed for years. A major selling point of cloud computing is that it is massively scalable, meaning that as an application grows in popularity, the developers don’t have to spend money upgrading the system as it was already designed to expand without losing any quality of service. Again, that sounds to me like your average web host. I can build a website… sorry, a “software as a service”… and let someone else host it for me on their servers.

I’m not saying that the idea of having universally accessible information and applications is a bad idea, but I do think that there are people out there who stand to make a lot of money by simply reinventing the wheel. Or at the very least, renaming it, and giving it a nice shiny new badge.

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