Why There Are People Who Have Never Seen A Floppy Disk

In my role with NetApp as CTO for our Service Provider business it is no surprise that I “live and breathe” Public Clouds. I am blessed to be able to interact with some of the smartest people on the planet from inside NetApp, from our Service Provider community and from our Alliance Partner community. In my mind the question of whether or not Public Cloud Services are a reality or a fad has been answered long ago. Public Cloud Services are real and are here to stay. I see the numbers and have access to information regarding adoption rates that many commentators do not get to see. I also see how much NetApp technology our Service Providers are buying from us to meet demand for their Public Cloud Services.

But that is all largely irrelevant.

I believe the real reason why Public Cloud is here to stay is more to do with the consumerism of IT and the paradigm shift in the relationship between “personal” and “work-related” use of IT.

Like many others in my “baby boomer generation” I remember the days when coming to work meant having access to amazing technology such as WordStar, WordPerfect and Lotus 1-2-3. Then, of course, along came Microsoft with Office which further enhanced the experience I had at work. Eventually I started to get some of the same tools and experience at home, albeit at an exorbitant cost. It used to be beyond hope that one day I could have the same level of access to IT at home as I could achieve at work (some things could only work on “The Mainframe”). What happened over a number of years is that the environment evolved to a point where I can do at home almost anything I can do at work (and I don’t mean just connecting into my work environment over a VPN).

As IT evolved so did I.

Now let me explain how devices and Public Clouds have changed all that.

My 75 year-old mother has just recently purchased an iPad. I did not influence this decision or help her out in any way. In fact, we live in different countries so my ability to be of much use in her decision-making process was negligible. My mother lives in a small country town of less than 1000 people. Just getting to a retailer who sold iPads was quite an exercise but she did it and got herself up and running quickly and painlessly. What I find really interesting about this situation is that my mother has never owned or used a computer. She has not evolved to using an iPad but has started her IT journey with one.

But this is not a story about devices alone. One of the things that was really influential in her decision to embrace IT via an iPad was the fact that her investment was largely limited to that of the device and ongoing connectivity (which she uses a pre-paid plan for, topping it up as she needs to). To date, everything she needs is largely met by the device itself or Public Cloud Services which provide things such as her e-mail (including storage), her photo-sharing (including storage) and access to information via websites. She is not generating much content herself (apart from photos) but anything she has stored on the iPad is then backed up to iCloud.

How jealous am I that she has not had to pay thousands of dollars for a computer, then pay hundreds of additional dollars for software, then pay even more money for tapes/CDs/DVDs/external HDD to provide data protection? It is  like playing Monopoly with someone who receives a “get-out-of-jail” card on the first throw of the dice.

My mother is at one end of the IT user spectrum and my children (her grandchildren) are at the other end. They have a common expectation when it comes to IT which is that you should not have to buy “things” but rather buy “services” in order to have a rich and fulfilling IT experience.

Sure, there are those who will say that none of this would be possible without the device revolution we have seen in the past few years (maybe ten if you include smartphones) but it is still the combination of device and Cloud that makes this type of feature-rich IT experience possible without having to accumulate lots of “assets”. Yes, I am a little bitter. I still have my complete set of Microsoft 3.11 diskettes and 25 hardcopy manuals somewhere in my attic.

The pressure on enterprise IT environments now is to provide as good an IT experience as their customers (users) can get on their own, and at a pace that adds functionality quickly without adding cost just as fast. While I have not personally seen any hard data on the topic I am sure that a small business starting out today armed with a smartphone and an iPad could become productive, competitive and operate efficiently for a few hundred dollars a year.  Public Cloud Services have had a lot to do with enabling that scenario to be real. But if there are those people who still believe Public Cloud is not here to stay then I wish you all the best as you back up your home computer to DVD or ask a person you do business with for their telex number so you can send them a message.

And now I am left to ponder the world I live in where neither my mother nor my children know what a floppy disk is but they can send each other photos that they have never had to print onto paper……………..

Suddenly I am feeling very alone.