Phorum keynote Nick Carr: Think of the cloud-based Internet as the "world wide computer," not web - Technical.ly Philly

Mar. 28, 2012 2:31 pm

Phorum keynote Nick Carr: Think of the cloud-based Internet as the “world wide computer,” not web

Nick Carr says cloud computing is a new disruptive technology, but the story of its disruption is an old one. Carr, the author of The Big Switch, and Does IT Matter?, says cloud computing adoption parallels the evolution of power production in the early 20th century. “Today of course, we take the electric utility system […]

A presentation from Phorum 2012.

(Photo by Yael Borofsky)

Nick Carr says cloud computing is a new disruptive technology, but the story of its disruption is an old one.

Carr, the author of The Big Switch, and Does IT Matter?, says cloud computing adoption parallels the evolution of power production in the early 20th century.

“Today of course, we take the electric utility system for granted,” Carr said in front of an audience of about 100 business and IT leaders at World Cafe Live in University City this morning.

“But if you think back 100 years ago this was a radical shift for corporations and businesses because up until then all of them assumed they had to produce their own power and invest their own assets in producing power.”

It became a disadvantage, he says, for companies to continue to produce their own power.

That historical parallel, Carr says, tells businesses a lot about how to react to the rise of cloud computing. The lesson, he says, is to “build a bridge” across the technological divide from the old way of decentralized, private IT to the new way of treating the cloud as a centralized utility.

“Rather than think of the Internet as the world wide web, it’s useful to think about it as the world wide computer,” said Carr. “It’s very much the plug-in model that we saw with electricity.”

The audience gathered to see Carr in the venue’s large basement space at Phorum 2012, a cloud computing conference organized by PACT, The Greater Philadelphia Alliance for Capital and Technologies, to educate the business and IT community about the future of the industry. We wrote about the conference in late February. [Full Disclosure: Technically Philly is a media sponsor of the event.]

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Carr was introduced by Bob Moul, Chairman and CEO of AppRenaissance and President of Philly Startup Leaders, and Jeffrey Nelson of CA Technologies. Attendees will spend the day learning from experts about using the cloud to improve their business, about the state of the cloud computing market, and about the barriers to adoption of cloud computing. Participants can choose from one of two tracks, “Views from the Enterprise,” or “Views from the Trenches,” to finish out the afternoon before a networking reception to end the day.

Throughout the day, the event will also feature a “Demo Pit,” where 15 companies will demo their technologies to conference-goers.

After the jump, our takeaways from Carr’s keynote.

Carr laid out five early models of cloud adoption that are already underway in the broader economy.

1.) Cloud as a model.

Companies are not necessarily going out and using the cloud as a public shared utility, says Carr, but they are revamping their own internal IT strategies based on the cloud technology. “What you get are efficiency gains that are inherent in cloud computing.”

2.) Cloud as supplement.

“One of the great advantages of cloud computing,” he said, “is that it allows you to tap in to new capacity or expand existing capacities without investing a lot of your own capital,” he said.

3.) Cloud as replacement.

Carr says this trend is most visible in the rise of Software as a Service (SaaS), but it’s also happening in the entrepreneurial community. “Entrepreneurs tend to be in the cloud as a replacement camp,” Carr said, because they can avoid massive investments in equipment and maintenance.

4.) Cloud as democratizer.

The cloud is a more affordable model of IT, which Carr says opens up the technology to more people to use in all sorts of creative ways. “If the PC democratized the computer. Cloud democratized the data center.”

5.) Cloud as business innovation.

Cloud computing can be a platform for innovation itself, says Carr, by changing markets, relationships between businesses and customers, and the economics of how companies do business. “All of these things are now up in the air and unresolved, thanks to cloud computing,” he said.

The future of cloud computing is an open frontier for businesses to innovate and compete. “Once you can begin to take the technology for granted, you have an explosion of innovation,” he said.

Watch video of Carr explaining why the cloud computing revolution is happening now, below.

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Yael Borofsky was the lead reporter for Technically Philly from from December 2011 to June 2012 before leaving to pursue an urban studies graduate degree at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Previously she was an editor with the Breakthrough Journal in San Francisco. She loves hockey and coffee.

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