Why the cloud may require you to learn multiple words for snow

Cloud is at the centre of a convergence trend that is impacting people across all of ICT. This convergence is breaking down the walls that separated the traditional silos of IT, networking, storage and security. But with this breaking down of the walls we also need to better understand the subtleties of each others domains in more details.

A famous urban legend is that eskimos have many words for snow, as it makes sense to – if you spend your whole day in snow – to distinguish the subtle and not so subtle differences.

Similar in IT, where others simply refer to IT as IT, the people living in IT tend to distiguish between operations, development, support (helpdesk), testing, portfolio management, information and master data management, etc. etc.

And the same is true for networking, where others see the network (or even the internet) as a homogenous blob, the people running and managing the network distinguish many parts and layers, separate it out into core and non-core and many other subtleties.

The cloud (together with its enbaling peer: software defined functionality) is rapidly changing that. Anyone who tried to set up a simple IT fuction like cloud compute at one of the many cloud IaaS providers will have noticed how many of the configuration questions are network related (and not trivial to answer).

The challenge for network folk is slightly different as more of their traditional network functions are no longer implemented in or on dedicated network kit (their kit) but run on general purpose compute infrastructure as software. SDN (software defined networking) and NFV (network function virtalisation) are two of the main drivers in this area.

But even a bigger driver to learn and understand each other languages is the fact that the clouds inherent “as a service” model is driving a move from being organised along horizontal or functional layers (network, storage, compute, applications, support) to beeing organised around services (CRM, Collaboration, Supply Chain, etc.). These services (typically implemented as SaaS services) namely include their own implementation of all the underlying layers inside their service.

In theory (and often in practice) these services hide the underlying complexities from their end users, but often not from the teams supporting or offering (for example in the case of “private SaaS”) these services. These teams will need a more holistic and less silood view of the whole stack than they had in the past.

And that will mean we will all need to speak and understand the languages and words that are used in the layers that used to be foreign to our own areas of expertise.

At some point we may even develop a simplified high level language that goes across the domains. A bit like Esperanto or like Fangalo, the language that miners used in South Africa, a mix of words from Dutch, English and the about 500 local languages, with a simplified grammar, no distinction between past, present and other tenses and a vocabulary of only about 2000 words. It could be learned quite rapidly and allowed people to work in cross functional and cross national teams within a very short time.

In the cloud we could have such a “digital” language (or skill set) for people working on the cloud (whose tasks will be more technical than traditional business tasks) , but still a lot less technical (and less specialised) than the task of the people working behind the cloud (engineering the very complex cloud engines and networks that power the cloud).
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