Stephen E. Arnold: The Cloud — Twittering Twinkies

IO Impotency
Stephen E. Arnold
Stephen E. Arnold

The Cloud: Flecked with Scattered Twinkie-Like Information

I read “Cloud Revenue Jumps, Led by Old Computing Titans.” If you have a hard copy of the “real” journalism Mt. Parnassus, you can find this story in the August 4, 2014 version delivered to Kentucky. Online, the story carries an August 3, 2014 date and, if you are quick, you may be able to locate it at http://nyti.ms/1xUXLw9.

I found the write up fascinating because the guts of the story pivot on three firms engaged in selling consulting services: Synergy, Gartner, and IDC. The facts of the article appear to come from the financial reports and other public statements of Amazon, IBM, and Microsoft. As real news goes, relying on “experts” and somewhat broad groupings of financial information continues to make the wheels of commerce go round. I like it. The confection is an excellent Twinkie-like approach to a diaphanous, hard to define topic—the cloud.

There were a couple of passages in the write up that I found thought starters.

Here’s the first item, a quote from a Synergy expert:

It’s not just talk—they are backing it up with a lot of investment.

I presume this is a reference to Amazon’s spending which seems to have put the company in the company of bears, IBM’s bet the farm approach to its tactics to keep the company an investment my grandmother would love, and Microsoft which is fresh from its knock-it-out-of-the-park mobile phone and Windows 8 initiatives.

A second passage begins “The so called magic quadrant…” and ends with the paragraph beginning “Amazon is still the star.” In between this atta boy for Gartner’s work is an interesting grammatical construction:

This year, helped by the [IBM] acquisition of Soft Layer, a cloud start up, and its own internal investment, it [IBM] has moved sharply to the right and higher thought it is not yet in the leaders area—the vision is strong, according to Gartner, but the executive still lags a bit.”

I am not trained in poetry, although I think some of the search analysts are, indeed, English majors. But I find these points remarkable:

  1. In a report by experts, IBM has moved. Now did IBM move or did an expert move IBM. The suggestion that IBM can move its $100 billion hulk around a “magic quadrant” drew a yellow highlight from me. I suppose I could have written, my yellow highlighted moved from the table to the paper and marked a yellow line, but that leaves out the who doesn’t it?
  2. I like the idea that an acquisition and internal development trigger the movement of IBM.
  3. In a moment of hedging, the New York Times’ writer added that Gartner analyzed IBM and found that its execution lagged. Okay, so IBM cannot deliver cloud whatever very well.

Third, I noted the disclaimer paragraph:

Measurements in the cloud marketplace are tricky. Companies define their cloud businesses differently. And the big companies do not report their cloud revenue or profit separately, although they do occasionally make statements.

High fives all around because no one knows much about what “cloud” means and the companies are not particularly generous with facts. The flow of baloney, however, appears to have caught the attention of the “experts” and the real journalists.

Please, read the original because it is a tribute to the public relations folks who labored to create this cloud stuff.

My interest is, as you may know, search. Now search has moved to the cloud, and there are some examples. The problem is that hard data about the ease with which the services can be deployed, the costs of the system over time, and the amount of customization required to deliver an acceptable service are sparse, not available, or made up.

Two observations:

Search from the cloud seems to be small potatoes. Sure, there are search services available from Amazon, and I suppose one can assume that the billion dollar bet on Watson will be cloud friendly someday. Microsoft cloud search is best experienced first hand. Fire up Windows 8.1 and run a query. You can see how the system deals with local, SkyDrive (once OneDrive), and Web content. A money maker for sure I assume.

I like certain time sharing services. However, I do not like Hollywood style naming and I do not like unsubstantiated assertions presented as fact. If you find this type of Twinkie satisfying, gorge yourself on the mid tier consulting firms’ outputs. Let me know how reality matches up to a sector where measurements are tricky and facts are not available.

Stephen E Arnold, August 4, 2014