It's Impossible to Tell Just How Big Cloud Computing Could Get
A set of Dilbert strips once featured Dogbert the Quantifier. He billed himself as being able to quantify the unquantifiable, via a process he referred to as “making absurd claims of value while hoping that no one asks questions.” Even Dogbert the Quantifier, however, would have a tough time with the cloud computing market, as a recent look at the field from Forbes suggests that it's impossible to determine the numbers on this market.
The Forbes report started with a basic look at the field suggested by cloud economics master Joe Weinman, who took to an IBM conference to note that those businesses looking to cloud-based systems just as a means to cut costs were missing the point. Weinman noted that there were a host of new digital players coming out, and many of these weren't even pushing into adjacent markets but completely new frontiers that were “completely random.”
This mix of constant incoming figures into markets that few expected to see said players in—corporations from Burberry to UPS are stepping into completely different operational models—makes it essentially impossible to determine costs and value beyond the simplest figures. Even then, these are often of limited impact, as any assumptions that go into this figuring may be ruined as a new change in the market emerges. Since Weinman is well-known in the field for providing formulas to determine various financial aspects of cloud systems, that's especially unsettling.
Weinman actually recommends that people start looking at cloud not according to bottom-line numbers but rather according to three key metrics: operational excellence, product leadership and collective intimacy. Each provides a slate of benefits in their own right. Operational excellence, for example, makes business processes better and businesses more agile. Product leadership can spur relationships with suppliers and clients as a product establishes itself as the best of its class. Collective intimacy focuses on bringing clients closer to a business with the best in product.
When dealing with the cloud, a system that's not only changing rapidly and finding new use cases, trying to attach a dollar figure to it is almost like trying to measure the size of an actual cloud. By the time any implement could be brought to bear, the cloud would have moved and diffused, making any earlier measurements invalid. Essentially, only a Dogbert the Quantifier strategy can work in trying to attach bottom-line value to the cloud on anything but a limited sense: make absurd claims of value and hope no one asks questions.
The cloud has value. It brings improvement to processes and results up and down the spectrum. Trying to pin a dollar value to it, however, is the kind of folly comic strips are made of. The key, as revealed here and in the Forbes report, is to look at the cloud's value in different ways, and work accordingly from there.
Edited by Stefania Viscusi