Thursday, October 2, 2008

Decades of experience with Clouds: Telcos

While at yesterday's SDForum meeting on cloud computing, a panelist pointed out that we've been living with (a form of) cloud computing for decades. It's called Telephony.

On reflection, the telcos do give us an interesting model for what PaaS *could* be like, and a metaphor for types of cloud services. To wit:
  • As users, we don't know (or care) where the carrier's gear is, or what platform it's based on so long as our calls are connected and our voicemail is available.
  • There isn't technical "lock-in" as we think of it. Your address (phone number) is now portable between carriers, and the cloud "API" is the dial tone plus those DTMF touch-tones
  • I can "mash-up" applications such as Voicemail from one company, conference calling from another, and FAX transmission from a third.
  • There are even forms of "internal clouds" in this model -- they're called PBXs (private branch exchanges) which are nothing more than "internal" phone switches for your business
This last point interests me the most - that enterprises have economic and operational needs (maybe even security needs!) to manage their own internal phone systems. But inevitably, workers may have to use the public phone system, too.

Similarly, many enterprises will need to retain 100% control of certain computing processes and never outsource to a cloud; They'll certainly be attracted to the economics that external computing resources offer, but will eventually build (or acquire) a similar *internal* capability. Just wait.

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