"Cloud" has proliferated as the term for Internet-based computing resources because "everyone can draw one," according to Russ Daniels, the cloud services CTO at Hewlett-Packard, who just added CTO responsibilities at the company's Electronic Data Systems division.
But the usage is fitting because white-board users have drawn the Internet as a cloud from the beginning, Daniels said at GigaOm's Structure conference Thursday in San Francisco. The cloud is the next generation of the Internet, making it more than an infrastructure for automating business processes or letting humans view information, he said.
Daniels is vice president and chief technology officer for cloud services strategy at HP, and on Wednesday he was named CTO of EDS, the services company HP acquired last year. The purchase has helped HP scale up its services business and prepare for a future of "everything as a service," Daniels said.
"We have to be able to talk with our customers and help them with the services that are relevant to producing the business outcomes that they care about," Daniels said.
The Internet so far has helped to carry out established business processes within an organization, Daniels said. Cloud computing will allow people to bring technology to bear in the real activities that drive business and personal life, which are collaboration and information-sharing among people, he said. "That's what almost all of us do almost all the time," Daniels said.
"When you are trying to connect people and are trying to connect across businesses, you can't use process-centric approaches, because you can't dictate process," Daniels said.
Cloud infrastructures make data "programmatically accessible" so that a variety of applications and services can tap into that information, rather than just humans browsing it. This will allow the Internet to solve new kinds of problems, he said.
Daniels' speech to a packed house at the cloud-focused conference was thin on details, but he did give one example of an area where HP is bringing cloud computing to bear: the book publishing business, which interests HP because of its involvement in printing, Daniels said.
HP is looking at the roles of the various participants in publishing, including creators, sellers, and readers, and aims to use cloud infrastructure to connect them through data rather than through process functionality, he said. This approach takes computing beyond the constraints of specific software applications, taking data outside application silos and eliminating the need for application integration work, Daniels said.
In an earlier panel discussion at the conference, representatives from providers and users of cloud infrastructure voiced optimism about the technology, but said there are limits to its power.
The advent of scalable, flexible computing resources has allowed many new Internet services to bloom, said Lew Moorman, chief strategy officer and president, cloud, at Rackspace Hosting.
"We are at a very steep point in the innovation curve because the infrastructure is so readily available," Moorman said.
The panelists named solid-state drives, scalable data stores and emerging programming languages such as Rails as the biggest technologies that will keep driving this forward.
However, they agreed there is still no cloud-based CIO. Cloud infrastructure providers can take care of more and more operational details for companies that sell online services, but there's no one better to actually oversee the vendor's IT operations than someone who was involved in building the service, said Javier Soltero, CTO of management products at software provider SpringSource.