Cloud Computing Will Never be Wholly Commoditized

A little part of me dies inside whenever I hear people liken cloud computing to the power grid or some other utility.

There are of course some definite similarities. When we plug something into an outlet we expect the power to work. Once started, utilities offer high availability of services.  Some forms of cloud computing (public clouds) generally offer pay by use just like utilities. But where there is a critical point where the analogy between utilities and cloud computing fails.

Cloud computing is the distributor, the channel, the facilitator of the real reason anyone uses IT infrastructure; accessing and manipulating data. With a power grid you access electricity. With water you access it and use it. Water, electricity, gas, these are commoditized. Data on the other hand can never be commoditized.

To put it simply; when I plug in my TV to the wall socket I do not make sure that the proper electrons that I want powering my TV are running through the lines. I don’t visibly inspect the water coming out the faucet (ok I did once - made me never want to do it again). When I pump gas into my car I don’t care if I received only 20% North Sea produced gas and 80% Persian Gulf.

I can say with near definite certainty that I don’t really care about the atoms that make up each of these utility products. With the same certainty I can say the same of you; you also don’t scan each atom that powers your homes. But I will tell you this; I definitely care about my data and every brush stroke on every image, every letter in every report, every digit found on every financial statement.

The structure we build the cloud on is becoming commoditized, as it should. The basic infrastructure we use to deliver your data is becoming commoditized. The computers, network pipelines, software, and all the rest is becoming cheaper to build. Commoditizing helps speed the process as companies build out their standards.

But the data that runs along that infrastructure is not commoditized. It is your data. It is your college term papers, your family photos, your business’ financial reports; it’s the phone calls you make to your spouses, etc.

We are invested in our data. We are not invested in utilities. And it is a big difference.