Nick Carr: The ways cloud computing will disrupt IT

Carr discusses the inevitable transition to utility computing and why IT would be wise to brace itself.

Is it surprising to me that that trend is underway? No, it reflects the fact that more and more computing is done in central datacenters now. Forget about the corporate world. If you look at how individuals use their PCs or smartphones today, a huge amount of stuff that used to require buying a hard drive is now done out in the cloud. All Web 2.0 is in the cloud. It doesn't surprise me because it reflects how people view the way their computers work. But if it's already at 20 percent that seems pretty remarkable in such a short span of time.

In what ways are you seeing enterprises use Web 2.0 today? 

The value of that model isn't limited to college kids on Facebook trying to find dates. There's a lot of opportunity for companies to take this Web 2.0 model that builds on shared systems, the ability to provide the user with a lot of information, and tools that enable them to control what information they share and who they share it with at any given moment. It really replicates the fundamental aspects of business organizations where a lot of what you do is figure out which colleagues have information that you can use, how to share it with others, how to get information into the right hands.

We really haven't seen powerful social networking tools evolve for individual businesses. It will be a generation shift. People who are so plugged into social networks at home or at school, they're going to want those same capabilities at work. It's really driven by the user because it upsets the traditional IT apple cart. IT departments and staffers will generally drag their feet and then will play catch-up.

Vivek Kundra, the new federal CIO, has said that the personal technologies he uses are so much better than what he was using professionally that he just had to adopt things like YouTube for the D.C. city government...

Quite a while ago, I was interviewing Marc Benioff about the origins of and he had a very similar story. He was working at Oracle at the time but using things like online. And he said, "This is really powerful and I can do all sorts of customized stuff with it. Why can't I do this with enterprise applications?" In the story he tells, that was the inspiration for Salesforce. You can relate to that because when you compare most corporate applications to what you find a-dime-a-dozen of online, computing is much easier through the services you get online everyday than it is going through your traditional corporate applications.

One last question for you. What is the most significant thing enterprise IT shops should brace themselves for?

The big thing they'll have to brace themselves for is that the functions that until now have accounted for most of their spending and most of their hiring are going to go away, such as all the administrative and maintenance jobs that were required to run complex equipment and applications on-site. This isn't going to happen overnight, but much of that is going to move out to the utility model over time. That doesn't mean IT shops won't continue to exist and have important functions -- they might have even have some more important functions -- but it does mean that their traditional roles are going to change and they're going to have to get used to, I think, having a lot fewer people and probably having considerably lower budgets. Again, I'm talking about change that will play out in 10 years, not change that's going to happen in two years.

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