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Headed for disallusionment? The cloud's place in the hype cycle

Thoran Rodrigues charts the progress of the cloud by looking at Gartner's Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies.

With the possible exception of "Big Data," "Cloud" is probably the most overused, overhyped term in IT today. Every single technology company out there is "moving to the cloud", regardless of the business they're in or of the things they sell to customers (Microsoft even has the cloud OS). Every software or service is being cloudwashed by vendors, from Oracle databases to email applications. We are seeing the hype cycle for emerging technologies moving at full speed for cloud computing as a whole.

Gartner defines the hype cycle for technologies as a series of stages that technologies go through over the course of their lifetime, ranging from the excitement and over-enthusiasm with which many new concepts are greeted all the way through maturity and actual usability. There are five different phases in the hype cycle:

  1. "Technological Trigger" - Some technical or conceptual breakthrough, that may or may not be associated with a product launch, creates a lot of publicity.
  2. "Peak of Inflated Expectations" - As publicity increases, so does general excitement with the technology, even if it has seen little or no practical application. There might be some success stories, but there will be even more failures.
  3. "Trough of Disillusionment" - As failures mount, interest in the technology begins to wane, and the hype starts to disappear. Vendors have to evolve their products or fail.
  4. "Slope of Enlightenment" - A new wave of adoption comes along as the technology matures, proper use cases become well understood and vendors improve their offerings.
  5. "Plateau of Productivity" - Finally, a technology reaches a plateau where it is used for the benefit of the market as a whole. Technological adoption becomes mainstream.

To illustrate this concept, here is Gartner's own hype cycle for emerging technologies for 2012:

Click to enlarge.

Interestingly enough, they place "Cloud Computing" in the peak of inflated expectations as of 2011, in contrast to being in the beginning of the trough of disillusionment in the chart above. Another interesting point is that different cloud technologies are in different points of the cycle. The constant press and the enthusiasm of vendors to slap the term "cloud" to anything and everything they sell are keeping the hype going. In a sense, even the huge success of social networking companies such as Pinterest, which relies heavily on Amazon's cloud offerings, stimulate this hype wave.

Where are we headed?

Given that we have all this hype surrounding the cloud, the natural movement would seem to be that we will soon move into the trough of disillusionment (according to Gartner, we're already there). As companies begin to realize that they went into the cloud with the wrong expectations and that their investments aren't paying off, interest in cloud computing will gradually decrease and vendors will have to work hard to reposition their offerings and evolve their services to the point where they become useful for the mainstream. If, as I've said before, this is a year of experimentation with the cloud, stories of failure that lead to reduced interest should soon start to appear.

Would such a move be bad? Not necessarily. Reduced interest would not only force the main vendors to improve their offerings, but also lead to improved definitions and understanding of what the cloud can (and what it cannot) do for companies. One key example comes to my mind: I keep hearing people talking about moving applications to the cloud in order to achieve cost reductions. The cloud does not lead directly to cost reductions. It instead allows you to optimize your costs by spinning up and taking down servers as needed, without having to pre-provision excess capacity. Maybe if more companies fail to achieve cost reductions this cloud myth will disappear for good.

Another important thing to keep in mind is that going through the trough of disillusionment doesn't mean that companies should stay away from a technology. It only means that the myths surrounding the technology are being dispelled, and that reality is starting to set in. As it does, and as vendors improve their offerings, early adopters may be very well positioned to capture its market value.

As usual, the most important thing is to be able to separate the truth from the myths of the cloud. The proper expectations can not only keep you from feeling disappointed, they can actually help direct a move to the cloud with the selection of proper use cases and strategies. Where do you think we are with respect to the hype cycle of the cloud? Please share in the comments. Take the poll below and let us know what you are using the cloud for right now.

About

After working for a database company for 8 years, Thoran Rodrigues took the opportunity to open a cloud services company. For two years his company has been providing services for several of the largest e-commerce companies in Brazil, and over this t...

14 comments
Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

about Gartner's continued input into the hype cycle. Now they've indicated that they understand it, I'm frankly horrified.... It's deliberate. :(

Solenoid
Solenoid

I watch the cloud trend. I sample its offerings. I've dipped my feet in the water, and found it unsuitable to my professional needs. If I were doing more complicated tasks and processes, it may make more sense to use it. I'll refuse to buy in, let alone rely on it. Note that I have not said that anyone else is wrong for taking advantage of beneficial emerging technologies. Go do your thing. In the meantime, the watching of this trend is my amusement. It is less polarizing than the fanboy posturing around many other topics, although advocates are just as into it for personal reasons without the deifying one company over another. The cloud has shown itself capable of widely varied innovations. Keep it up. However, don't expect everyone to skip to your beat, just 'cause it's a catchy tune.

andrew232006
andrew232006

What was the cloud's technological trigger? I don't see it. What is "the cloud", what separates it from the database tools that have existed for more than a decade? Is "the cloud" really anything other than a buzzword to make people think all their database problems and security issues will be gone? "Don't worry about security issues or backup plans, the cloud will take care of that for you! Forget about all those storage issues you had in the past, security breeches, data loss and corruption, upgrade issues, compatibility issues, those were database problems, this is the cloud! And since the cloud is doing all this for you now, go ahead and cut your IT staff in half" The emperor is naked.

cwarner7_11
cwarner7_11

I am still using the Cloud for my e-mail server. Have been for probably 15 years or so. Works great... I'v played around with storing some non-critical files on the cloud that I want to share. Biggest problem I have with that is that the url's are generally unwieldy and prone to error ("sory, your link didn't work."). Tracking down the url's when it is time to share is a bit of a bother... Not a very convenient way to do business. I will, however, continue to use the cloud for my e-mail server.

GrizzledGeezer
GrizzledGeezer

...the loss of allusions... but it's hardly the same thing as "disillusionment", which is most-likely what the writer meant. Ever heard of a spell-checker? How about a dictionary?

dgoodale
dgoodale

If an author can't even get the title right, what are the chances they got the ARTICLE right?

ittechexec
ittechexec

There is so much hype because executives think the cloud is this magical, mystical realm where amazing things happen all by themselves. I blame the Microsoft commercials a couple years back for Windows 7 that were famous for the line "just go to the cloud." If leadership really understood what the cloud is, they would still be excited about the possibilities. However, they wouldn't be totally deluded like they are now that the cloud will solve everything and they can cut nearly all their staff, too!

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

to do by a cloud advocate is either: "Javol, mein Fuhrer." or "Da, Commissar."

Bazzie
Bazzie

Some of the richest self-made people in the world are dyslexic. A friend of mine is a doctor and couldn't spell if it would save his life, yet an excellent doctor. To be a great subject matter expert you don't have to be perfect at spelling. It's a good skill to be able to look through the noise and keep the valuable bits... Having said that, a spell-check would have helped :)

maj37
maj37

I am not sure the misspelling in the title is the author's fault. In many print and online news organizations the titles/headlines are written and proofread by the editors not the authors. I do not know if that is the case here or not.

leo.paesen
leo.paesen

The day you can write as good Portuguese as the author writes English, you can make a comment. Not everybody is as good as you are.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

that's what spell-checkers are for, especially when working in a language that isn't one's native tongue. But the author has it spelled correctly several times in the rest of the article. I'm not sure how the title wound up wrong, but at the least the blog host / editor should have caught it.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

the author is supposed to be an IT professional and a good enough writer of English to write blogs at TR. His failure to run a simple English spell checker over his work is extremely unprofessional - and it matters not if English is his first or second of fifty-second language, he dropped the ball on this, and did it big time.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

does NOT work in the subject section of the replies, but works in the comment section.

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