And hey, it's happening already - and any IT professional (and even small business owner?) has to start thinking about it:
- Applications are being delivered as a "service" both on salesforce.com - and on their sister site, AppExchange. In fact, AppExchange is essentially a community where 3rd-parties can contribute compatible applications that salesforce.com then hosts as a service.
- Google (and others) are dipping their toe in the water (and more!) by providing applications like calendars, spreadsheets & productivity tools, and others, in a hosted environment - they store all data - and not just documents. i.e. I used their Browser Synch to store all bookmarks, personal preferences, etc. -- so, no matter what computer I sit down at, I have my entire browser preferences available. Doesn't this really begin to blur the line between local computing and what happens in the "cloud"? hey, and maybe stay tuned for the much-rumored "Gdrive"...
- Amazon.com - here's the big entrant - offering-up their "Elastic Compute Cloud" (EC2) as well as their "simple storage service" (S3), and even a queueing service. Users can leverage Amazon's huge IT infrastructure by creating virtual machines of any flavor and deploying applications of their choice on them, using the EC2 storage, etc. It's getting to the point where I won't need a backup drive, and IT managers don't need a single in-house server.
How are we going to get there? 2 ways - "Build" and "transition".
- Build - well, that's exactly what the above companies are doing - it requires lots of capital, and a huge user base. And the race is off...
- Transition - by this I mean, decreasing the barriers-to-adoption of using these resources. For example, on the consumer side, look at things like JungleDisk, a new entrant, that makes it simple & accessible for anyone with a PC to use the Amazon S3 - and for only $0.15/month/GB. I might not need a hard drive soon. And for example, on the enterprise side, consider utility automation controllers like Collage, where compute requirements will be assigned to the most economically-advantageous resources -- either in-house, or perhaps, to Amazon's EC2!