Election Special: Is Cloud the "Third Party" of Storage?

As we head toward the mid-term elections in the US, I figured that "cloud" is an IT term worthy of an electability check! I was reminded of a political story from the UK a few years back about the third party [in politics that is] and I wonder whether the cloud—of whatever flavor—is the technology equivalent of that particular lifeform?

In a nutshell—and there have been similar experiences in many countries—the lot of the third party can be severely constrained by the mere idea that it will not win, as opposed to any evaluation of the merits of its manifesto. Back in 1980s UK, the third party was the Liberals, who at each election were trying to break the duopoly of the Conservatives and Labour...sometimes they did relatively better and sometimes relatively worse, but there was just as much protest-voting going on as there was positive-choice-voting that came its way. However, I will always remember a poll that was run at the time; basically it asked if people would vote Liberal if they really thought that the third party might actually win. I can't recall the exact number now, but the essence was that some staggering majority of the electorate—more than had ever actually voted for either of the main parties, let alone a third option—would indeed then choose to vote Liberal (apparently its policies were indeed attractive enough all along!) and the party would be swept to power on a landslide!

And so to the politics of the cloud. It has advocates and detractors in what seem like equal numbers right now—that's the equivalent of the two major party positions. But the world needn't just be a choice of black or white. One also gets the distinct feeling that (as in politics) some of the existing adoption is simply a "protest vote," while a lot of the posturing by each side is (like politics) done without any real investigation of the abilities or merits of the "other side."

Can there be a third party? Maybe. This week, two leading storage behemoths (EMC and NetApp) spent a lot of time and effort promoting the "hybrid cloud." Whatever one thinks of their differences of style, motivation, and implementation, let's all just "reach across the aisle" for just a moment. Each "party" was espousing a hybrid world where some storage is on-premises, some in private clouds, and some in the public cloud. If storage "voters" really understood the increasingly sophisticated control and integration that's becoming available, they might stop their black and white posturing and realize that a hybrid approach not only can win...but probably could and should. A third option, even if it appears to have some elements from each major traditional party/approach can be a very good one: Bipartisanship is not just compromise for the sake of compromise...instead, it can mean the best of all worlds, but only if voters (or, ahem, IT users) are willing to put intransigence and dogma to one side and actually look at the manifesto, initiatives, and potential value!  

Topics: Cloud Services & Orchestration