Every once in a while you see this crop up in discussions about the cloud. It’s easy to see why. It feels like there is something ground breaking going on, but clearly the technology that came before set the stage. Grid computing, utility computing, SaaS, network 1.0, and ubiquitous virtualization have all prepared the way for the cloud to rise. So it’s clearly an evolution of what came before.

At the risk of being thrown into the hype bucket I’m going to take the stance that it’s also revolutionary. Whoa! Why? The revolution comes from changes in the way we think, feel, and relate to the Internet and the infrastructure that powers it.

Ultimately it’s about empowering choice.

Choice The cloud provides choice. How long you use resources, how much you pay, what resources you consume, where you consume them, and what you do with them. It’s the intersection of hyper-connectedness, computers a la carte, and “Have it your way.” (YouTube)

The difference between those who ‘get it’ and those who don’t is that some core tenets and assumptions start underlying all of their thinking about the cloud.

Core Cloud Tenets I’ve been trying to pin down some of these ‘core tenets’ of cloud computing and I don’t think I’ve quite figured them all out yet, but they definitely revolve around choice.

The utility charge model isn’t new. Virtualization isn’t new. What’s new is these assumptions we’re making about how we relate to the Internet and infrastructure at large. I think it’s very similar to what’s been driving the other exciting technology areas right now: Web 2.0 (social networking in particular) and mobile computing.

Here’s a couple of the tenets I’ve figured out so far:

  • Self-service

  • No commitments

I’m certain there are others, but these are the two I’ve dredged up so far. Would love to hear your input in comments below.

Self-service Programming interfaces, on-demand service, and related are all a reflection of our need and desire for get what we need and get it now. The cloud enables the self-service model for infrastructure. That’s powerful.

No commitments This one is scary for some because they are used to succeeding via lock-in, but the reality is that this is just the result of the same driving desire behind self-service. “If you can’t help me or satisfy my needs I want to go elsewhere.” It manifests as the utility or subscription charge model, but it’s really about the desire to be unshackled and able to respond agilely to customer and market demands.

Final Thoughts It’s an evolution, a revolution, and a new model for relating to the critical infrastructure that enables our society. Where we’re really going to see sparks fly is when ‘choice’ enters large enterprises as it inevitably will. These are places where ‘choice’ is generally frowned on, but these tenets and drivers won’t go away. They can’t. They are what makes it a ‘cloud’ and these assumptions underly every conversation about it, even though unspoken, for folks who ‘get it’.