Cloud computing vs. traditional apps – a sys admin viewpoint

Cloud computing vs. traditional apps
    Photo by Akuppa

An interesting article appeared on TheServerSide.com. Written by Peter Varhol, it discusses the big players in Cloud Computing (Microsoft, Amazon, Google, etc.) and why their actions could end up restricting choice on the part of developers.

So why would sys admins give a toss about these developments? Simple actually. Changes in development architecture seem to effect the IT professional community faster than other market segments. This is because development and system administration are so intertwined (afterall, it wasn’t until 2008 that Microsoft began splitting their TechEd convention by developer vs. IT professional).

The article title “Application Development is Dead”, seems a touch melodramatic, to say nothing of premature. That said, however, Mr. Varhol gets his point across nicely. When tools for development are limited the results will be far reaching.

He states “… we lust after abstraction, and there are an infinite number of ways of achieving it.”

Mr. Varhol then states his concern: “Nevertheless, choice is starting to find itself in relatively short supply…”

When technology radically changes short supply isn’t new. When Windows 95 was released there were only a handful of development suites ready for the (relatively) new 32-bit architecture. The biggest names were Delphi (Object Pascal) and Visual Basic. Mr. Varhol’s concern seems to be rooted in the fact that the cloud computing architecture currently maintained by a few could limit what tools or frameworks are even accessible. He may well have a point. Since early 32-bit application development was created on your own system, there popped up infinite languages to use. Not so with cloud computing.

As a pragmatist I believe that the market will dictate availability (provided corporate and government coercion abate). That said, change is still a comin’. So be prepared for changes to how you access your applications, to say nothing of the new look, feel, and (hopefully) features.

Remember that learning curves can be one of the biggest challenges to system administrators. We get so close to the few products we use on a daily basis that we sometimes don’t take the time to learn about new technology and the products and services that these advancements spawn.

Given the budget crisis that many businesses are facing it is likely that you will be denied your request for training dollars. If this is the case, remember the oft cited refrain: “What is your career worth to you?” (I suppose another way to say it would be: “Go fetch that rusted crowbar out of your shed and pry open your wallet.”)

If Mr. Varhol assumes correctly that choice of development will be limited, system administrators will feel the effects in the future releases of sys admin tools. Be prepared. Technology is moving faster than any bureaucracy can predict (or control). It would be easy to be left at the side of the road.

Don’t let that happen to you.