What we call “cloud computing” today will be a regulated utility sometime in the future, just like water and power. Just like water and power, cloud computing is a (progressively) critical economic production enabler and its consistent availability and quality are essential for ensuring predictability in business planning, capitalistic activity, and economic output.
Server virtualization was the first critical enabler for cloud computing. Software defined networking (SDN) is the last part of the puzzle that will enable the evolution of “the cloud’ to “a utility.” Many service providers and enterprises are busily deploying SDN today. Their immediate technology choices will have dramatic consequences for the IT industry that will ripple into the future.
A seminal thought experiments in one of my collegiate courses was a situation with 100 prisoners, all of whom had a 1% solution to freedom. Together, these prisoners could construct a key and set themselves free. But, one of the prisoners had a particularly special singing talent. In exchange for putting his talent on display, the singer would collect the 1% key from each prisoner. At the end, the singer would set himself free, leaving the other 99% in bondage forevermore.
While this may seem like nothing but a thought experiment, consider the case of proprietary hardware or software, such as networking gear or hypervisors, sold by effective monopolists. One can argue that the monopolists have earned their position by having the most competitive mix of product and strategy, just like the prisoner singer having earned his freedom by virtue of his talent and method. However, one has to ask about the end state – where the monopolist has disproportionate market power, being the equivalent of the free man while the rest are prisoners.
As SDN drives cloud computing transformation from a cutting-edge concept to a utility that will power every service provider and enterprise, the question will be whether the 99% will opt to be prisoners by giving the keys to the kingdom away to the 1% monopolists. While this is clearly how the existing monopolists are angling, the OpenStack revolution has the potential to level the playing field for all players and continue to unleash waves of innovation that can dramatically accelerate economic development and wealth generation for more than just the 1%.
As you are considering your options for an SDN technology, take a step back and think about the broader implication of your choices and the impact that your decisions will have on the evolution of cloud computing. In this case, choosing not to pay for monopolistic rents not only saves you money, but also puts you in a position to leverage future innovation that you have made possible through your actions.
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