Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Is there a cloud myth?

There's a new kid on the buzzword block. He's been lurking in the shadows for a bit but he's taken center stage. His name is Cloud. He is a mystery and as we learn more about him, he remains more mysterious. This Cloud seems like he can do just about anything, he can do so much! He hosts databases and applications, offers insights and metrics, he is everywhere and nowhere all at once. He is a myth and a legend. It seems he can do it all!

Even with this Cloud guy around though there's still software that has to do things with data, and communicate with other software and people. That aspect hasn't changed, so why suddenly does the cloud have all the answers? The issues I see with software isn't with software it's with people.

Software can be whatever we make it. It can make good decisions for us, it can stay awake always, it can crunch numbers and transform data, it can provide endless hours of entertainment and automate almost anything as long as we enable it to. The disconnect is that most people don't know how to enable it or quantify things in a way that's consumable by software. Sure we're getting better at that and some people have this thing mostly figured out, but there are so many who don't who make countless decisions under the gun that the magic bullet of the cloud isn't going to save anyone.

In fact, there is no magic bullet. No application, nor platform, nor engineer can solve all your IT problems no matter what their marketing departments are telling you. This is the myth they build to sell product, when we know that in reality it's only a shift in complexity. Any system has a finite lower bounds of complexity. I define system in this sense as a collection of modules that perform some activity. Any oversimplification below this bounds would cause incompleteness in the system.

Complexity costs. Costs are usually determined in software by effort. The best way to reduce costs are to simplify the business processes that dictate the software. Complex business processes cause software to become more complex which results in more effort in analysis, planning, development and maintenance. A reduction to the impact of business rules and constraints on software will result in lower front-load costs and TCO.

The myth of the cloud simplifying will NOT make your software better, whether you developed it or bought it. It will NOT make your users more aware and tech savvy. And it will NOT make your apps better or more maintainable. It WILL reduce the cost of hardware and space that you maintain. It WILL fail somethimes. It WILL reduce certain maintenance procedures, but trade for others.

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