News Flash: Cloud computing skills are in high demand. There’s a shortage of specialists to design, implement, and even deploy cloud applications. But is this really the case outside of the service provider space?


Utilities vs. Solutions

Endusers (and the technical professionals supporting them) tend to make cloud computing unnecessarily complex by considering it a utility rather than a solution. What’s the difference? Imagine budgeting your winter electric bill. Would you ask how much each kilowatt-hour of electricity costs, or how much it will cost to heat your home? Obviously the latter, right? Knowing the kilowatt-hour price is useless without knowing how many kilowatts it would take to heat the house for a desired amount of time.

In the “physical” world, we sometimes have no choice but to use utility services. In the digital world, however, we often have the choice between Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) and Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS). IaaS has utility traits. It’s a starting point upon which to build solutions and deliver services much like we would on physical servers, from the ground up.

On the other hand, SaaS hides infrastructure and orchestration from end users, focusing strictly on solving problems. Alternatively, you can find an IaaS provider, spin up “instances”, install the applications, and then figure out how to launch them. The SaaS model helps you skip the “building” part and go directly to “using”.


A More Mature Approach to Cloud Computing

In the early days of the PC, applications were often “do-it-yourself” or “some assembly required.” No one willingly set out to write “batches” or scripts just for fun. We did it to configure and launch software that could possibly solve problems, such as managing finances or writing letters, for example.

Over time, PC platforms evolved into powerful application environments wrapped in easy to use GUIs to mask much of the complexity. Why? Because endusers need software that “just works” —  they don’t need infinite options to configure. Let’s not forget that the purpose of technology is to solve problems, not to “do cool things”. Most of us just want things to work, without much interest in how they are installed and configured.

Cloud computing is also maturing into higher level, easier to consume services - but at “Internet speed.” In the last few years we’ve seen a market shift from commodity IaaS to PaaS and SaaS. Not surprisingly, people want less exposure to infrastructure orchestration, and more focus on easy to use solutions. Countless price drops from IaaS vendors mean absolutely nothing to endusers. IaaS is just a utility layer for user-facing cloud services, not a solution in itself. Price per core-hour is the same as the price per kilowatt-hour. Regardless of how “cheap”, it’s a useless metric without a solution context.

It’s no wonder many endusers — and the IT pros who support them — are increasingly choosing PaaS and SaaS, letting the application vendors figure out all the mundane infrastructure details. As the cloud evolves, the market demands high level services that solve real-world problems without configuration and management hassles.