Q&A: Nicholas Carr on 'the big switch' to cloud computing

Author says cloud approach is reliable enough for many apps, but warns about vendor lock-in

Nicholas Carr

Nicholas Carr

On the positive side, as the head count shrinks, their visibility and importance to the business may increase as they move away from managing the machinery and the applications and the licenses to focusing more on the business logic. But if you go into it thinking, "I can only do something that allows me to maintain my current staff or to expand my staff," you're probably going to run into roadblocks with the cloud pretty quickly.

Some companies that have outsourced their IT operations, particularly larger ones, keep outsourcing relationship managers in-house as well as business analysts, who continue to work with end users on their needs. Would you expect to see the same type of model playing out in the cloud?

I think so. In very simple terms, cloud computing is a form of outsourcing, using outside suppliers. And I think it will tend to have that same effect on IT shops. There will be some kind of information systems broker who, similar to the people who manage outsourcing relationships, figures out how do we distribute our systems and our requirements and applications among these cloud providers.

You still need somebody to make the connection between the business and the application. Though in a radical scenario, that job may move outside the IT department and into the businesses themselves.

As it already has within some organizations.

Right.

I saw you being interviewed on The Colbert Report recently. What was that experience like?

I watch the show a lot, so I kind of knew what I was getting into. But my wife was like, "Don't do it! Don't do it!"

They prep you. The producer told me to make a few points that you want to make, try to be serious and clear, and try to ignore [Colbert] because he's going to try to play off you and trip you up. And that was good advice. They said, "Whatever you do, don't try to make jokes with him." You're the straight guy, and that's the role you have to play. It was fun, actually.

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