What the Cloud Means to Real People

I hate Microsoft’s “To The Cloud” ad campaign. Mainly because it is stupid but also because my kids now run around yelling it just to annoy me. I equally dislike just about every other attempt to explain to real people what cloud computing means.

A Cloud I Can Sink My Teeth Into

The other day I was reading one of the Game of Thrones series on my now stone-age Kindle. You know – the one that when you touch the screen you leave a smudge but nothing else happens. Inspired by some royal feast where yet another favorite character was brutally assassinated, I decided to go out for a bite.

As I sat in the long line at the drive through, I pulled out my Droid X, opened the Kindle app and picked up reading where I left off until I got my Spicy Chic-fil-a sandwich and  waffle fries.

Back at the ranch I settled down to enjoy the bag of fried goodness and realized I left my Kindle upstairs. Luckily the iPad was there on the table so I opened up the Kindle app, sync’d the book in about 10 seconds and finished another chapter.

This is what the cloud REALLY means.

Device independent dynamic user experiences with mobile contextual awareness. No matter the device, my data is with me maintaining context. I never once had to declare the cloud as my data’s destination. Truth be known there is a copy of it locally cached, but I did not have to explicitly make that copy sync it’s state to the cloud. The geniuses at Amazon had the foresight to assume that I would want to pickup where I left off (duh, right?) and baked that contextual awareness into the experience. Awareness here in the form of remembering where I was in the book and not forcing me to find the location – or worse – go back to the device I last used to retrieve it.

The cloud is truly successful when I never even know it is there.

Geeks tend to want to condense the cloud into droplets of use cases that look familiar to other IT types and focus on things like data center cost reduction. When thinking about the cloud we focus too much on the physical cost benefits without acknowledging the fundamental way that true data mobility changes the way we work. I get the idea that we need to take incremental steps, both in terms of technology and mindset, but we need to be addressing the impact of applications that maintain contextual awareness independent of device or location.

“To The Cloud” is not the mantra we should be using. “Free Your Data” is more appropriate. If you are not thinking about how to do that then migration to the cloud remains a boring IT budget exercise that benefits only the accountants and not the real people paying the bills.

9 thoughts on “What the Cloud Means to Real People

  1. “Free your data” … and the rest will follow? Seems to be the case. Syndicating your data across any and all consumption “channels” of choice is liberation, indeed.

  2. Excellent post! Completely agree with the view point. However, not sure it’s going far enough. 

    I also love the Amazon Kindle transparent, device independent experience – great use of the cloud. But I think  it is only the first step: my portion if the experience – comments, highlights, the context are all “buried” inside the Kindle app. I cannot link to specific pages or comments from my favorite cloud based note taking app; I cannot search them with my phone/tablet/desktop/cloud search engine; I can only get to them from within the Kindle application. Kindle, as excellent as it is, is a walled garden, and as such is limiting the experience and productivity that is based on it. Many other cloud based applications work the same way, you’re either in, or you’re out. Welcome to the next great application, good luck taking your own context, contribution, or commentary with you. 

    So what does “free your data” really means? For the cloud to become truly ubiquitous these bits and pieces of my information need to belong to me (or the company in the enterprise space), independent of the application. I would like to have the same seamless experience, and yet be able to use my own content everywhere, in any application, and any way I choose to. This might require re-inventing info-management in the cloud, creating the proper management platform and tools for future applications. The journey is just starting towards true data freedom.

  3. Amotz – that is my point exactly. The cloud should be making us rethink how we design data and the applications that expose it so that the user’s context is persisted and made independent of any particular device or location.
    The reader example was one I think everyone can relate to but as purveyors of technology we need to start thinking more about the contextual relationship between user and data and how persisting that context independent of device can work for the consumer.

  4. Yes, this is what the cloud really means. When you apply this approach to an insurance adjuster, a law enforcement officer, a nurse or a contractor it really gets exciting. They can just as easily access business related content from any device, not just the PC in the office but from anywhere with little to no interruption in continuity or context.

  5. I just started a new role working for a WCM company (last week!) so I’m reading up a storm. This was a great post! Not only did your Game of Thrones reference ( “yet another favorite character was brutally assassinated” ) make me smile, you really helped clarify the whole web content in the cloud concept for me. I related to it as a Nook user who realized last week that if I use the Nook iPhone app I won’t go into a panic when I forget my Nook.

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