Likewise, IT personnel raised on expensive, largely hand-managed environments are bound to envision a future that continues established practices, even if the new capabilities associated with virtualization obviate their need. It will require a new generation of IT practitioners to comprehend cloud computing's potential; when they come into power, established systems will be discarded in favor of the new.
We're asking the wrong people. In a fascinating discussion about newspapers, called Newspapers and Thinking the Unthinkable, professor and media analyst Clay Shirkey notes that, in all publishers' discussions about how the Internet would affect the news business, one assumption was unshakeable and unquestioned: Whatever news solution eventually emerged would require large, print-focused new organizations as the primary distribution mechanism. There was no ability to imagine a journalism world that didn't have major media companies such as The New York Times and The Los Angeles Times at its heart.
From the established, dominant provider's perspective, every solution had to continue and reinforce established arrangements. Asking IT about the future of IT infrastructure inevitably results in prescriptions that maintain IT's current position, even if the outcome is unsatisfactory to users. Stated more cynically, asking IT about public cloud computing is like asking the turkey about Thanksgiving you can be sure of a negative response.
Notwithstanding the reasons why today's cloud predictions are too conservative and likely to fall short of what the IT world of 2020 will actually look like, one fact remains: These prescriptions are completely inadequate to address the requirements of our economy and society circa 2020.
As William Gibson's quote indicates, the future of IT is already here. It can be seen in the examples described in my last column. It's a mistake to see the examples as outliers unrepresentative of real applications. In fact, they represent the real future of IT. The challenge for IT is to prepare for that future rather than a future that reflects nothing more than the linear continuation of the past.
Sign up for CIO Asia eNewsletters.