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Innovation in the cloud: Do-it-yourself online eye exams

Bernard Golden | Aug. 17, 2015
In this first in a series of columns about disruptive products and services enabled by cloud computing, columnist Bernard Golden looks at a company that’s changing the eyeglasses prescription paradigm.

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Proponents of cloud computing often insist that one of its biggest benefits is not decreased costs, but greater agility. To them, obtaining infrastructure in minutes rather than months is a game-changer. Of course, as I noted in a column last year, viewing lower costs and increased agility as separate cloud characteristics is incorrect; instead, lower costs and greater agility are, so to speak, two sides of the same coin. 

Notwithstanding the confusion regarding cost and agility, many people fail to appreciate the point of agility. For them, cloud computing's agility offers the opportunity to speed up a lengthy process in an application's lifecycle; however, they leave the rest of their processes undisturbed. The ultimate result is that one group in the overall IT organization is happy developers while for everyone else, it's business as usual. 

As I noted in another column discussing cloud agility, approaching cloud computing in this way is actually dangerous. Using cloud computing to address developer agility without enabling better business agility which requires streamlining the entire application lifecycle poses the potential for IT to be seen as self-involved and not contributing to better business outcomes. This is a recipe for "shadow IT," as business units, dissatisfied with the fact that application timeframes aren't appreciably shorter, look elsewhere to solve their problems. 

However, even if you perceive that the true purpose of cloud agility is to "serve the business," it's easy to misunderstand the real potential of cloud computing. The power of cloud computing is not in doing the same stuff faster, it's doing new stuff that could never be done before

Of course, we commonly see examples of this Airbnb, Pinterest and Netflix spring to mind. But people (and I include myself in this) totally underestimate how much innovation is being unleashed by cloud computing, and how this innovation is leaking into every aspect of our society and economy. 

Disruption is a word that gets thrown around very easily in Silicon Valley -- where I live and it's often applied to less-than-earthshaking ideas and offerings. But dismissing the term because it's applied to so many trivial projects is a huge mistake. Cloud computing is enabling applications that hold the very real potential of transforming existing industries, redistributing their revenue streams and, yes, disrupting their value chain. 

In this series of columns, I will be highlight several examples of cloud-based offerings that are nearly certain to make the future of the industries they address look very different from their recent past. Here, for instance, is a new service that has a 50 percent chance of affecting you. 

Eye exams move online


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