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Cloud Computing: Let's Hope Gartner Doesn't Eff it Up

Time for the Reign of Terror to End

Gartner reported this week that Cloud Computing has reached the height of expectations in the so-called Gartner hype cycle. This means Cloud will soon fall into the trough of disillusionment.

To this I say: What an irresponsible statement! I've written before about hype and its pernicious use, but this is an example of hyping the hype about the anti-hype. This hype cycle chart has got to go. If taken seriously, it will cause grave damage to some wonderful things that are now going on the field of information technology.

It's time for the Reign of Terror to end. Time for technology marketers to stop trembling in fear of the big, bad wolf. Time to stop admiring the naked Emperor and his new clothes. It's time to stop paying attention to the hype cycle or anything else from Gartner.

Nobody Else Got the Joke
As I noted before, I thought the Hype Cycle was a damned good joke when I first encountered it. It was apparently so deeply cynical and ironic, it seemed to be the creation of Mel Brooks (or, for you younger folks, of Stephen Colbert).

But I quickly realized that laughing out loud at this creation in front of my corporate colleagues was about as smart as telling Tommy DeVito in GoodFellas that he was funny. This very unscientific, very funny "hype chart" was to be treated--as all things from Gartner are to be treated--with reverence.

Failing Upwards?
I first had my suspicions about Gartner some 20 years ago, when Manny Fernandez was appointed CEO. Prior to that, he was the CEO of Gavilan, the poster child of unfulfilled promises at the dawn of the portable computing age. In an era when Toshiba, Zenith, and others (remember the Data General One) were pushing, pushing, pushing to create the modern laptop, Gavilan stood as a singular example of a company that promised everything but delivered nothing.

Just saying the word "Gavilan" at after-work parties in the industry in those days could earn the type of guffaws that saying "online privacy" or "Jodie Fisher" would receive at your get-together today.

Yet Mr. Fernandez had obvious managerial skills, and Gartner grew exponentially during his 10+ years of tenure.

Why?

Gartner filled a role that was not being filled by the pioneering IT industry market-research firms such as IDC and Dataquest. Whereas these latter two companies tracked buying patterns and made predictions of future market growth, Gartner stepped in and offered detailed critiques of the actual products. Over the years, it evolved, in Gartner's words, into "the IT Professional's best first source for addressing virtually any IT issue."

I'm not sure what the second-best first source would be, or the best second source. And I suppose the "virtually" means "we address everything except what we don't" rather than "virtualization," although I'm sure Gartner covers virtualization. It's tough for me to parse this tagline, as English is the only language I understand well.

In any case, the company long ago created a world of its own, full of minor potentates who send marketing executives hopping down to the restroom when the slightest look of disdain crosses their faces. God forbid you want to quote one of these people, whether as a reporter or marketer; I doubt that the Myanmar government is more difficult to deal with.

Rather than confronting this bullying head on,  or ignoring it and focusing on customer input, I've seen companies instead spend absurd amounts of time trying to figure out how to get their product listed in one of the treasured magic quadrants, another Gartner scheme.

Critiquing products is one thing, and certainly any number of publications in the IT business over the years terrorized a few generations of  product marketers with their reviews. The reviewers were often admittedly subjective, at other times made use of less subjective on-site "labs," but--here's the point--were open about what they thought and why they thought it.

Gartner, on the other hand, gained a mystique, invoking its "proprietary methodologies" (in other words, you don't know what we're thinking and we won't tell you) that have been bought hook, line, and sinker by enough IT buyers so as to create a monster.

When it comes to the very unscientific hype cycle chart, the splendid irony is that Gartner is one of the main hypesters. I think that if you hype something, then report that it's being hyped too much, you have created a form of a tautological argument, or maybe a circular reference. When you hype something, then say it is being hyped too much, you are also trying to create a self-fulfilling prophecy. Whatever, you haven't really served any useful purpose, have you?

Here's Why Cloud Is Important
There are billions of people living on $1.25 a day or less in the world. I tire of hearing this statistic, because it doesn't impart any specificity to what is going on in the developing world, and is usually thrown out there to induce guilt among us "haves" and "have mores."

What it means in reality is that there are a lot of perfectly normal people getting by on two meals a day, with no electricity or running water, yet who manage to live lives without squalor, send their kids to school, and develop close family relationships that steel them for whatever crisis is at hand.

It also means there are people in the world with immune systems that put the average Westerner's to shame, who will spend their entire lives with no medical care whatsoever, and who will never ride a bicycle, let alone drive a car.

But these people are not to be pitied or condescended to. Most of them come from families that have lived in their part of the world for thousands of years; they've worked out how to survive and enjoy life.

This is where Cloud Computing can do the most good, whether delivering services through cellphones (which are plentiful in many very remote places), or causing a revolution in European government that one hopes can spread to all corners of the globe. By attracting thousands of people to events in Shanghai, Tokyo, New York, Silicon Valley, and elsewhere, one would hope that Cloud and its developers are not stopped in their tracks by nonsense such as the hype-cycle chart.

I conducted a recent exercise in which I mashed a few statistics together to tease out a group of countries (including Bangladesh, Ukraine, Morocco, and Senegal) that are more aggressive than you might imagine in buying IT. True Cloud Computing, which shifts the capital expenditure burden from users to providers, should be allowed to play a major role in these countries' burgeoning use of IT.

What It Is, What It Isn't
Wait a minute, am I hyping things here? No.

Hyping literally means to say something that you don't expect people to take literally. It is overstatement, a ridiculous statement, a preposterous statement.

Hype is not "Cloud can do wonders in developing nations" or "come to the conference, you'll love it."

Hype is Merrill Lynch saying Cloud will be a $160-billion opportunity in 2011, while counting online advertising as $95 billion of that amount. There's likely no need to mention this, as I suppose you've grown accustomed to trusting Wall St. hypesters as far, but no further, than your local three-card monte dealer.

Hype is Gartner saying 20% of all businesses will have absolutely no IT on-site by 2012, a statement almost guaranteed to generate severe pushback frm IT buyers (and thereby enable the self-fulfilling prophecy that Cloud is overhyped).

So let's kick this crappy hype chart thing to the curb. Let's hope the likes of Gartner don't completely screw up the momentum behind Cloud Computing through some glib hocus-pocus that passes for intellectual endeavor.

Let's also hope that technology marketers will focus on what they know is best, always sensitive to what their competitors are doing of course, but spending no time worrying about hype-cycle or quadrant nonsense.

And to you IT buyers out there, look for proven expertise, sure. Do your due diligence with market research. But you've got brains, use them. Throw away those crutches and live!

More Stories By Roger Strukhoff

Roger Strukhoff (@IoT2040) is Executive Director of the Tau Institute for Global ICT Research, with offices in Illinois and Manila. He is Conference Chair of @CloudExpo & @ThingsExpo, and Editor of SYS-CON Media's CloudComputing BigData & IoT Journals. He holds a BA from Knox College & conducted MBA studies at CSU-East Bay.

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