Cloud computing or software as a service (SaaS) has a lot of advantages, especially for small and medium sized companies with fewer resources to devote to an IT infrastructure. The cloud vendors, whether Google, Amazon, Salesforce.com (or whatever company) provide all the software and back-end infrastructure support. They even update the software on the fly sparing your company many of the headaches associated with implementation and ongoing maintenance.
Given that all the transactions are actually crossing the internet, however, it would make sense that it would simply add to the increasingly clogged byways of the internet. But when I spoke to representatives from Google and Salesforce.com at the Enterprise 2.0 Conference in Boston last week and asked them about this (in separate conversations, I might add), I was surprised to hear them argue the opposite—that Cloud computing could actually *reduce* traffic. Confused? Read on.
As a bit of background, the idea of a clogged internet has been on my mind recently. At the beginning of May I published Will P2P Really Kill the Internet? and a week later I published What Does the Future Hold for the OS? in which I argued that the OS will become increasingly less important as we do more of our computing in the cloud, that is, on the internet. In that post, I got a comment that stated “It won’t happen. I doubt the net could handle that much traffic.” Well, just to show that I pay attention to what my readers say, that thought stuck with me. And last week when I was at an Enterprise 2.0 conference event where representatives from Google, Amazon and Salesforce.com pitched the idea that a company could move *all* of its IT infrastructure to the cloud to a group of skeptical CXOs, the clogged internet argument popped into my head.
The CXOs brought up a lot of good arguments as to why they could not move certain information to the cloud, but they never asked about internet traffic, so after the event was over, I walked up to the stage and approached Ross Piper, SVP of Enterprise Strategy at Salesforce.com and later Jeff Keltner, Business Development Manager at Google Apps. I asked them what would happen if they actually succeeded at attaining this vision and most applications moved onto the internet. How would this affect the increasingly clogged pipes of the internet?
Both argued in separate conversations that it would actually reduce traffic because instead of moving large files around many times, you are actually moving around references to the files sitting on their back-end servers and most of the heavy lifting would not be on the internet itself, but on the company server infrastructure. What’s more, they also argued what I call the Jay Leno – Doritos argument. You may recall back in the 90s, Leno made an ad for Doritos in which he said, “Don’t worry, we’ll make more.” When it comes to internet capacity you could make a similar argument, as demand increases the infrastructure will adjust and we will make more.
If you buy this argument, you could see where increasing use of the cloud actually reduces the pressure on the internet pipes as people stop moving large documents around using email and instead point to a file on cloud vendor’s servers. It might just work, and if it doesn’t, we can at least hope for the Leno effect. We’ll make more.