Is “Cloud” Just Another Word For Proprietary?

The single worst four letter word to have come out of the world of technology -in my 25 year career in it- is “proprietary.” Back in the eighties I was working for Pacific Telesis selling networks and accoutrements for business. It was right about that time when IBM’s kludgy personal computer system was overtaken by DOS which was promptly sold to Bill Gates, and, as they say, the rest is history.

At about the same time, Steve Jobs and his pesky version of the personal computer was engineering a different approach to computing and he built his own operating system which was designed for less than 1% of the world market. Did Jobs et al know they were sacrificing the mass market rather than compete with Gates and IBM for the business world? Of course he knew, and so it goes.

I doubt, back then, Jobs dreamed of his iPhone or iPad or the notion of piercing the enterprise veil with his nifty little devices. And I’m sure IBM had no clue how they might leverage their resources to marshal their forces and compete against clones, not to mention the Internet as some strategic thing for which to plan. No telling how much they drained by trying to create drives and widgets that cost three times what clones cost and were destined for the trash heap. Yet were no lessons learned on any of this?

When our own blog went public, we tried to write the definitive explanation of the cloud and the terms associated with it: Defining Cloud Computing’s Key Characteristics, Deployment and Delivery Types It remains a staple on our site and gets more Google hits then anything we’ve published: http://tek-blogs.com/a/rt9bx . There is not much folks haven’t heard there before, but the hits we still get reinforces the idea that the very concept is still so abstract in many people’s minds. In the nineties, when folks wanted to symbolize the Internet, a cloud was often the metaphor used. It replaced words like the “ether” to describe how when you went online, you were out there in space somewhere.


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But more recently, we see how the word proprietary has wedged its way back into our lives, and businesses, and, once again, we seem to be willing to ignore the warnings that come with it. The difference today is, the proprietary nature of computing is more aligned with a different piece of the network, the community.

Here is what our good friend and social networking Guru, Mark Tamis, has to say on the subject,

“It’s kind of like the web “standards” of yesteryear, where everyone has their own version – like how HTML was rendered differently based on the Browser you’re using. Each company is trying to retain their competitive advantage by making barriers to exit higher, and with regards to the various “Clouds” their differences make the promise on-demand self-service only a reality within the realm of each vendor.

“On that note, in spite of Enterprise Software Vendors who claim that the Cloud is a Revolution, it is actually only just an evolution which has helped to reclassify the associated IT Expenditure as OpEx rather than CapEx – allowing companies to use these financial resources to concentrate delivering on their business value proposition.”

Mark Tamis’ enterprise comment points to some of the more formidable application provider’s like Oracle, who recently hopped aboard the cloud train to claim its place in the realm, despite the fact they haven’t a clue how to make money without selling the servers to go along with it. Naturally, Larry Ellison’s grand standing is not without detractors and who but Salesforce.com’s Mark Beniof just last month (http://tek-blogs.com/a/8n7dv ) took the yachtsman to task for his glib tack: “”You can see this is a different message than Oracle OpenWorld. It is not a message of proprietary mainframes. This is not a message of closed systems. This is a message of open systems, of a cloud-based world that is social, that is mobile.”

The only problem with that is that Salesforce.com has resisted open source and open communications for the last decade so pot/kettle. If you’re a member of the SF.com community, they will write the rules on who you can play with in their sand box and they get to decide on whom is trusted. All if the name of security issues naturally.

I doubt we’ll ever see an end to the ranting and raving between billionaires, just as I doubt we’ll ever see the end of the big boys using proprietary locks on their competition. As long as the user is willing to go along with being hamstrung by his providers, we expect this to re-evolve in one fashion or another.

Tek-Tips

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