Intelligent Cloud Services: Too Smart for Their Own Good?

By | Jun 23, 2014

In 1957, prolific science fiction writer Issac Asimov penned "The Feeling of Power." In it, Asimov describes a futuristic world in which humans no longer have the knowledge to perform even basic mathematical functions, leaving the task to computers instead. When math is reintroduced under the name "graphitics," there is speculation about its authenticity, let alone the ability of any human to comprehend its myriad rules. Midsize IT professionals may be witnessing the start of a similar progression with the rise of intelligent cloud services — are they too smart for their own good?

Going... Going... Gone!

While there is little chance the average IT admin will forget how to add, subtract or multiply any time soon, a June 18 Ars Technica article makes a good point: Software and applications are disappearing. Consider legacy customer relationship management (CRM) software, for example. Painstakingly designed in-house from the ground up, many legacy deployments are now being replaced with cloud alternatives. It is a logical move, since cloud-based solutions are faster, operate in real time and give frontline employees access to everything they need at a single glance. But what happens to the legacy? In many cases, it vanishes forever.

For Web-based apps, cloudwashing is even more worrisome. Many programs now depend on cloud services to function, and if that support is taken away, they are rendered useless. Ars Technica uses the example of MMORPGs, massive games filled with dedicated players who have spent countless hours questing and adventuring in a virtual world. When servers are shut down, that world disappears, along with the legacy of these players.

Why does this matter for IT professionals? Because just like the mathematics example above, there is always some value in legacy technologies — perhaps a clean coding style, efficient design or ability to harmonize with other business practices. Tossing these programs out in favor of more agile cloud alternatives often seems like a good idea, especially from a bottom-line perspective, but what is the long-term cost?

Not on the Menu

In a recent interview on Bloomberg TV, Caroline Hyde spoke with Dave Coplin, Microsoft U.K.'s chief envisioning officer. According to Coplin, humanity at large is suffering from what he calls "infobesity," ready access to an abundance of information at any time on any device. The same holds true for midsize companies bogged down by massive volumes of legacy software and ready to embrace the simplicity of intelligent cloud services as an answer.

But rather than tossing old services completely, it helps to think of compute resources like a menu: What a company needs changes from season to season depending on which resources offer the best value. It makes sense, therefore, to rotate services off the menu as needed, but there is no reason to lose the recipe. Instead, it is worth considering cold storage as a viable location for legacy code or in-house systems if for nothing else but historic value. More importantly, however, these stored and handmade solutions may offer IT insight if admins are confronted with cloud conundrums that have no apparent solution.

In other words, it is better to know that 2 + 2 = 4 than to be told.

This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter.

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