In the deep back of my mind I recalled the other day the startling similarity to a cloud drawing I had just completed to the heady days of Program Groups ,Main Group, Games Group and so on. Of course I am going on about that time in our lives when we lived in the world of Windows 3.x. You remember it? You do?
Let me cast your mind back. You had a desktop full of program groups. Each program group had a title (main, games, applications, accessories ) and you spent your days running your applications and accessing your data within these nice neat boundaries. I personally remembered the ‘art’ of the IT administrator making the desktop boot up the same so the user had a simple existence and a very happy experience.
So what differences can we spot? Can we spot between these halcyon days of Program Groups,drag drop and tiled windows, and the emerging cloud desktop of the future. Lets take a look.
- Both allowed a user to ‘group’ their applications to suit their ‘eye’
- Both allowed the user to ‘not care where the data was coming from’
- Both gave the IT admin concerns about security, data backup, remote support, service level and availability
- One made it very hard to provide a single sign on experience to the user ( tough one – could be both of them )
- One makes it easier to blend social experiences with the corporate experience ( cloud )
- One made it easier for a IT admin to ‘roll out’ a standard experience (Windows 3.x)
- One made it easier to deploy on all different hardware types ( cloud )
- One had a straightforward backend infrastructure ( Windows 3.x with client server architecture )
One made it easier to write and deploy applications ( Windows 3.x – pre registry and user personalization )
One had a static lifecycle of applications and demands; the other changes nearly every 3 months or so with new services and media expectations ( cloud being the latter )
One needs common or bespoke APIs to ‘talk’ to resources in different locations ( cloud )
People will say the Cloud variety is more flexible, allowing for the blend of social networking with corporate need, working across all devices both on and offline. Cloud also makes it easier to write and deploy applications, and the ability to ‘manipulate’ information turning data into knowledge in unparalleled. The Windows 3.x days were restrictive compared to what we can do today. In those days applications were hard coded on the hard disk, and providing users with any self –service (unlike today with application stores, virtualised apps etc ) seemed a pipe dream.
Furthermore, the simple architecture that Windows 3.x was afforded seems ancient with a one dimensional environment of servers, storage, security and network. Imagine now the complexity we have with cloud services. Whilst we may be getting an innovative end user experience the ‘cost’ of getting to that experience is huge. The cost includes the networking complexity of caching information to give browsers real-time experiences for media, the security models to allow federation single sign on across the different clouds, the protection of corporate IP with the proliferation of end point devices and the overall user satisfaction of a ‘good day at the office’.
To add to the ‘cloud angst’ there is the lack of personalisation in the public cloud. I mean – if you pay peanuts then you get treated like a monkey. Right? Bit harsh OK.Even with private cloud and IT as a service your experience is dictated by a service level probably agreed with someone in your organisation and the anonymous provider, so your experience will be ‘hard coded’ into your desktop. Your influence may be similar to those Windows 3.x days. Is this what you need? Is this what you have at home or on your mobile device? I don’t think so.
So with the benefits of these heterogeneous devices and endless choice for Software As A Service applications we have to factor into the Windows 3.x effect that for many users all they want ( and need ) is a desktop experience that just gives them a fairly standard set of applications without all this choice.
Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying cloud is wrong or that we should go back to Windows 3.x. Cloud is awesome and is part of the inevitable technological revolution occurring in the 21st century.
The point I’m trying to make is that we need to learn from and not forget our Windows 3.x experiences, and look at what we are actually trying to give the end user. Too many people seem to forget the harmony with the end user, and will leave them with a desktop of clouds that is unusable. But it will be pretty,but not much better than Windows 3.x. I have personally seen ‘cloud’ desktop environments that are good for power saving, aesthetic to the eye, totally decoupled from the device, fully browser and rich media provisioned – yet, totally user unfriendly because of the loss of ‘user experience’. It sort of reminds me of the early days of ASP computing. Be warned
So take heed – you cloud service providers and architects. Don’t just get carried away with the technology in your data centers and ‘cloud’. Leaving users with something they cant use without entering multiple passwords, confusion around where their files are, inability to manipulate information across cloud boundaries and a support nightmare with service agreements and operating agreements, is not a good move. Ignore your users at your peril.
THE STONE AGE DIDNT END BECAUSE WE
RAN OUT OF STONES