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Commodity clouds, the 'Tuning Tax' and what Cloud users really need

Bernard Golden | May 27, 2013
Application-tuning capabilities coupled with today's commodity cloud offerings are more than many users need. Just like broadband Internet, though, it's only a matter of time before these 'overserved' users turn to the commodity cloud to meet 'unserved' needs. Will this leave enterprise cloud deployments in the cold?

Commodity Cloud Is No Fad
Put another way, this perspective sees today's commodity cloud user base as a brief explosion of simple applications that will eventually give way to a market primarily comprised of applications similar to the majority of workloads that today run in corporate data centers.

From this perspective, the cloud computing market of the future looks like this:

It's a mistake, however, to examine today's dominant application profile and operational practices and project that they represent the majority of tomorrow's market. Clayton Christensen, in his groundbreaking work The Innovator's Dilemma, observed that many complex and expensive technologies are overkill for many potential users. In his word, these technologies overserve many users.
Consequently, for reasons of cost or hassle, these potential overserved users forego using the technology and aren't represented in the market as it exists at the moment. Characterized differently, this rich-tuning capability is seen by these overserved users as a tax-an extra cost that must be paid even though it's undesired and unnecessary. And the tax is high enough that it dissuades many people from implementing applications.

When cheaper, easier-to-use technology emerges, these overserved users emerge and embrace the new technology, even though it's initially inadequate to satisfy the current market user base. Ultimately, these underserved users eventually come to dominate the market, the emergent technology improves enough to satisfy the users formerly committed to existing technology, and the market shifts to the new technology.

Seen in this light, the cloud computing market actually looks more like this:

In other words, the commodity cloud offerings will enable a whole set of users who previously couldn't use the existing technology approach because their applications weren't important enough to get IT's attention to obtain the hands-on tuning work-or, even more commonly, couldn't economically justify the cost associated with the hands-on approach. Far from representing a minority of the ultimate cloud computing market, these users will come to represent a far larger portion of the market than the enterprise users.

Commodity Cloud Won't Be For Everyone
This isn't the end of the question, though. When what Christensen calls a disruptive technology emerges, it does more than grow the pie by letting overserved users finally get their mitts onto a way to satisfy their needs. Disruptive technology fosters an entirely new set of users, ones we might call unserved. This is a market that couldn't exist absent the characteristics of the new technology, and it's one that only emerges when the capabilities of the new technology are explored. New businesses built on aspects of the new technology only come to be understood after it's placed into the market as well.


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