The debate over “cloud computing” – shorthand for the business of accessing software applications and services over the Internet or related networks – is a lot like that. Google, which has a vested interest in making more people go on the Web, is a big supporter of cloud services, which are like piped water. Microsoft also supports the cloud, but is like Bisleri.
It wants to hold on to its container-like desktop-based operating system monopoly that it has enjoyed for three decades or so.
In this backdrop, I went last week to Bangalore to attend TECHED09, the congregation of technologists organised by Germany-based SAP AG, which is the world’s third largest software company after Microsoft and Oracle. I am glad I did, because I found the middle-ground here on cloud computing. That’s because SAP, which provides key business software to run office automation in everything from factory management to customer relations, is happy to walk in the clouds, but with its feet on the ground.
Vishal Sikka, the global chief technology officer of SAP, spoke of “timeless software” that addresses needs of customers, with the wisdom of someone who has seen way too many ups and downs in the industry.
“Rules change. Companies change. People change. Values change,” he says. “Change is the animal we are all trying to tame.”
As he spoke of “content vs containerisation” he cited the idea of how Amazon’s Kindle is keeping books alive, even though it may be an e-device that is doing away with paper.
“IT has achieved modularity, but coherence is critical,” he says. “Some things are always local,” he adds, emphasising that he does not expect “mission critical” applications moving to the cloud in the near future.
SAP has 4,200 technologists at Bangalore’s Whitefield suburb supporting customers and making innovations over what one might call a private cloud. But it pays to understand the limitations of the cloud.