Cloud: An innovation or just old wine in new skins?

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I read statements like “the cloud isn’t actually new”, or a bit harder “it’s just old wine in new skins” over and over again.

Yes, you can think about it that way but I have my difficulties with those statements. Why?

Disruptive innovations (those innovations, that really change something) don’t need fundamentally new ideas. Actually the fewest innovations, that really changed something, entirely consisted of all new ideas.

No matter, if the Ford T, the PC, the passionately loved and hated MS Windows or the smart phones … all of them weren’t new ideas but a recombination of known ideas at the right time, i.e. the market was ready for them, both form a market demand point of view and from a delivery capability point of view (the capability to deliver the “new” product in an appropriate quality). As a counter example the Apple Newton certainly was a great product, but the market wasn’t ready for it.

Thus, the “revolutionary” thing about the cloud isn’t its parts, but their combination and the timing.

So, for me the actual innovation about the cloud is that combination of elasticity, flexible pricing models (to the point of the often used pay per use model), customer self service and instant delivery. Yes, each of those ideas is around for quite a while, but this combination is new, a real innovation with disruptive potential.

It’s a bit as with an extraordinary meal: The ingredients are well known, you can get them on the market or in your favorite store, but their combination and the preparation turn them into somthing extraordinary. I know, this comparison isn’t working too well since an extraordinary meal doesn’t depend on an appropriate timing. That would rather lead us to fast food, which was a disruptive innovation in its time … but if that still has to do with extraordinary meals? … 😉

For those reason I have some difficulties with the statements I mentioned in the beginning. The innovation nature of an idea does not depend on the innovation nature of its parts, but on their combination … and of course on the timing.

Given this, for me the cloud fulfils the prerequisites of an actual disruptive innovation. If it really will become one we will see, when the hype mist that covers the cloud at the moment is going to clear up …


  • Mirko Novakovic

    5. July 2011 von Mirko Novakovic

    I like a statement in the great Whitepaper http://media.amazonwebservices.com/AWS_Cloud_Best_Practices.pdf from Jinesh Varia:

    The cloud reinforces some old concepts of building highly scalable Internet architectures [13] and introduces some new
    concepts that entirely change the way applications are built and deployed. Hence, when you progress from concept to
    implementation, you might get the feeling that “Everything’s changed, yet nothing’s different.”


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