Zen and the Art of Cloud Computing

As Pirsig once said "The solutions are simple - after you have arrived at them. But they're simple only when you know already what they are" - a testament to the success of cloud computing and why it is here to stay.

"The test of the machine is the satisfaction it gives you. There isn't any other test. If the machine produces tranquility, it's right. If it disturbs you it's wrong until either the machine or your mind is changed" wrote Pirsig in 1974 in his classic book Zen and the Art of Motorcyle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values. These words could not be truer today in a world where speed, convenience and ease of use are all necessary components in the modern consumer experience.

Through documenting in the first person a motorcycle journey made across America with his son and two friends Pirsig's reflections on attitudes to motorcycle repair led to the realization that his travelling companions and even some repair technicians didn't want to involve themselves in the workings of the machine - they were "spectators". Similarly, in many facets of modern technology a consumer does not have to understand how the machine works in order to take advantage of it.

This is particularly true in the field of cloud computing where some would argue "the machine produces tranquility" as consumers reap the benefits of ubiquitous access to access their data anytime, anywhere and from any device. As a consequence, millions of consumers have already taken their data to popular mobile cloud services such as Dropbox and some have taken the further step of synching many of their work files to those services for the added convenience they offer.

Businesses are starting to realize their employees are embracing the cloud whether they like it or not and are having to adapt accordingly. So why does the cloud computing machine produce such "tranquility" in consumers and businesses?

For consumers the cloud puts vast computing power at their fingertips - you don't need a high-powered or high-priced computer to run the cloud's web based applications. With fewer bloated programs hogging your memory consumers are also likely to see improved performance as well as reduced software costs as most cloud computing applications such as Google Docs are free. The software updates are automatic and you can have unlimited storage capacity, increased data reliability and universal document access. It is also easier to share documents in the cloud making it easier to collaborate on projects.

For businesses cloud computing enables them to move quickly from an innovative idea to an actual product or service by removing big upfront investments in technology. It also allows businesses to scale up or down quickly providing much needed flexibility when responding to changing customer demands. With technology such as WANdisco's Fusion active transactional data replication making it easy to move large volumes of data to the cloud whilst continuing with transactions, companies can now move critical applications and processes to the cloud effortlessly.

One only has to look at Uber to see how the cloud is disrupting markets by allowing new entrants to rapidly enter and scale up. It is spawning new business models by transforming the ways companies are organised as IT departments are increasingly integrated into operations. Through increased data analytics it is revolutionising information sharing and business management.

The market research firm, Gartner, expects the global market for cloud-computing services to reach $240 billion next year at a time when other parts of the IT industry are stagnant or even declining. The reality is cloud computing is turning IT on its head as characteristics around quality are defined from the consumer's perspective rather than the providers.

As Pirsig outlined in his theory around the metaphysics of quality, "quality" or "value" cannot be defined because it always exists as a perceptual experience before any intellectual construction of it. Through the cloud consumers only pay for what they use and as a result providers must increasingly create an experience that they value. The cloud and its many applications serve to support business functions and the end consumer and continually adapt to satisfy their needs. In contrast traditional IT architecture has tended to design features and components of the system first without thinking of the context in which the technology will be used.

As Pirsig once said "The solutions are simple - after you have arrived at them. But they're simple only when you know already what they are" - a testament to the success of cloud computing and why it is here to stay.


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