The EMC/VMware dog-and-pony show on the Pivotal Initiative may be a kind of turning point for the cloud, or more correctly it might be the second of two turning points. It’s certainly going to be a key element in the forward planning of the players, and in my view it’s possibly the beginning of market recognition of the “truth of the cloud”.
Most people would cite the dawn of the cloud age as the dawn of IaaS, but the real question isn’t what started a trend but what establishes it. Protoplasmic mites may have been necessary conditions for manned spaceflight; it’s probably unrealistic to think they’d accomplish that goal without a bit of evolution along the way. You don’t create an IT revolution by deciding whether you favor public or private shared hosting. There’s just not enough money on the table because there aren’t enough compelling benefits. Everything we’ve experienced in the cloud today hasn’t moved us out of the primordial soup.
The question, of course, is what will do that, and I think that we could deduce the answer if we’d take the trouble. If you want to make the cloud a revolution, then you have to be able to create something in the cloud that’s way more valuable than the pre-cloud stuff. If the cloud is only a cost revolution, it’s ultimately going to be a subtle play on relative economies of scale. If it’s a benefit revolution, the sky’s the limit.
If you’re creating a benefit revolution, though, you have to present something that wasn’t there before. Push Word into a hosted form and what benefit do you have? The same one you had locally. OK, maybe you can say that you can access your files anywhere, but I’ve carried a laptop around now for maybe 20 years and that gave me “anywhere-files”. OK, then you say “well, you could lose your laptop”, except that I can then say to cloud-Worders “well, you could lose the Internet a lot easier”. You get the picture; we’re dabbling here.
I think the compelling argument in favor of Pivotal is that you can’t create a benefit revolution without a benefit-driven architecture for the cloud, an architecture that focuses on building cloudy things where nothing could have been built in pre-cloud days. The key statement from EMC/VMware in December at the Pivotal launch was “We are experiencing a major change in the wide scale move to cloud computing, which includes both infrastructural transformation and transformation of how applications will be built and used based on cloud, mobility and big data.” Dissected at one level, that means Pivotal will address the transformation of applications to a newer benefit-biased form, based on harnessing flexible resources, point-of-activity empowerment, and expert-agent analysis of large quantities of activity-contextual data.
You can dissect too much, though. A bank runs a commercial that shows a mother and daughter coming into a competitive bank to count coins so the little girl can buy a dollhouse. The robo-bank decided that she wants a mortgage, that her age is the term she’s looking for, and thus makes a nonsense offer. That’s an example of a failure of point-of-activity intelligence to consider context. But you can see from this example that the process of making the cloud into an agent that can support work or life in an appropriate way is no small one. It’s not just pushing a bunch of servers into the cloud, or saying you have cloud support for big data. And that’s the too-much-dissection risk. Progress at Pivotal can easily become the creation of support for the nuclear objectives of the initiative—cloud, mobile, big data. Pivotal has to be a cloud architecture for analytical empowerment of mobile users through contextual data injection. And that’s where Pivot has to start, if it’s ever going to make the grade.
Our primordial mites could collectivize and build something that has the mass of a modern human, but at the completion of that mite Granfalloon won’t even be smart enough to drag its knuckles, much less launch a Saturn booster. Pivotal, to succeed, has to start at the top, with the fusion of things that make point-of-activity empowerment real. Otherwise we’ll step on its remnants next time we’re out in a bog.