The seven elements of Cloud computing’s value

Thursday, June 25, 2009 by

Last week I was invited to speak as part of the London leg of TIBCO’s NOW roadshow, which focused primarily on Cloud computing and TIBCO’s new Silver offering (you can see what we think about that specifically in this report).

My job was to talk about “articulating the value of Cloud computing”. This was a fun challenge: so much of the talk about Cloud today starts by arm-waving at the 30,000ft level – and then zooms right down to the level of “virtualised compute resources” and “dynamic scalability”. What I hadn’t seen so much of was an attempt to map out more of a big picture of the value that Cloud computing can potentially deliver in the context of other approaches to consuming IT infrastructure resources.

So after reading countless blogs, conference proceedings, customer stories and news articles, I sat and stared at a blank piece of paper for a while, thinking about how I could pull all the different perspectives together to show one picture that captures all the different ways in which Cloud computing can potentially deliver value. This is what I ended up drawing and presenting in my talk:

You can see that there are seven elements of value I’ve highlighted, and they fall into three “value types”: economic, architectural and strategic.

  • The economic value of Cloud is largely about being able to align the timing and size of the investments you make with the value you receive – variously referred to as “pay as you go”, “pay as you grow”. You don’t pay $millions for infrastructure that only delivers value months or years later; you pay for what you actually need, when (or soon after) you use it. And you don’t purchase an asset that then depreciates (like crazy).
  • The architectural value of Cloud is about having an simple, consistent abstract environment presented to developers and operations folks that hides a lot of complexity, making it much quicker and easier to develop and deploy applications.
  • The strategic value of Cloud might be easily conflated with the economic value, but I think it’s different. It’s this: Cloud platforms help you focus on what makes your organisation more effective and different, and leave all the other stuff to a third party that is dedicated to doing a great job for a competitive price. This is about focus and it’s also about avoiding having to train people to do things that fundamentally don’t add value to your organisation (think “Lean IT” if you like.)

Have I captured all the potential elements of Cloud computing value? I’m 90% sure I have – but if I’ve missed something please let me know! Either way, the discussions I’ve had around this picture so far make me think that it’s a useful model for exploring different Cloud propositions as stated today and comparing them. What do you think?

Next up: I’ll post another version of this picture that contrasts the value of “private” and “public” Cloud propositions. Both types of propositions have value – but it’s important to be clear about what that value actually looks like in each case.

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