Simon Wardley - What is the cloud?

A talk I attended at the Future of Web Apps conference 2010

The next talk I want to write up from FOWA was by Simon Wardly.  Simon works for Canonical and is a bit of an expert on complex systems.

Simon was an excellent speaker with plenty of enthusiasm and stage presence; the title of his presentation was Situation Normal, Everything Must Change.  Talking about cloud computing by trying to first of all give it a definition.

What we learnt throughout the course of his talk was that you can’t really give one definition to cloud computing because it isn’t a thing, it is a shift.  Much in the same way the Industrial Revolution doesn’t have an exact definition because it is a description of a shift of several things.

Simon talked in depth about the path that most commercial entities undergo as their popularity increases;

  • Innovation leads to
  • Custom built products which leads to
  • Generic products which finally leads to
  • Commodities or Services

Cloud computing is simply the shift from generic products to commodities.

In order for something to make the jump from product to commodity there are four things that need to be in place;

  • The concept (The idea needs to be there)
  • The right attitude (People need to be accepting of the idea and see a need for it)
  • The right technology (To support the move from product to service)
  • Suitability (Not everything suits being made into a commodity)

Simon believes that it isn’t a case of if you start using the cloud it is when, I have to agree with him that it is certainly the way things are going.  The issue with not using the cloud is that if everyone else is using cloud services and you are developing products you are immediately behind the competition.

Simon’s company sponsors Ubuntu who have an enterprise cloud solution that can be found at, whilst I haven’t tried playing with it yet apparently it is stupidly easy to set up and I think it is something I will be trying very shortly.

Finally I have noted some myths of the cloud that Simon busted;

  • The cloud is not necessarily green - the more efficient it is the more we will use it.
  • The cloud will not save you money - as above.
  • Not all IT is the same - there are many aspects to IT.
  • Not all IT will become cloud - not all aspects of IT is suitable for changing to the service.

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