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Big Data in the Cloud: Field of Dreams or Catch-22?

Posted by Jason Bloomberg on Jan 17, 2014

My good buddy Joe McKendrick at Forbes Magazine recently penned a thought-provoking piece: Cloud Providers May Not Be Ready For Big Data Onslaught, Users Fear. He’s right, of course – many Cloud environments aren’t ready or able to handle the Big Data sets and corresponding analytics that many organizations are now looking to shoehorn into the Cloud. That conclusion, however, brings up two important questions: why aren’t the Cloud providers ready, and what are we going to do about it?

One line of thinking goes as follows: to build a Cloud properly, you need to offer unlimited elasticity, which builds upon the illusion of infinite capacity. There’s no such thing as infinite capacity, of course; but Clouds should be big enough to give their customers the confidence that they’re big enough for even the most gargantuan of Big Data challenges.

I call this the Field of Dreams scenario: if they build it, you will come. The theory is that Cloud providers will invest all the time and money necessary ahead of customer demand to ensure that when that demand finally comes along, they’ll be ready. Sounds good in theory, from the customer perspective. But from the provider perspective? Overbuilding. Unnecessary expense. In other words, bad business.

On the other hand, we may be in more of a Catch-22 situation. The providers are only too happy to build out their Clouds to meet customer demand, but the customers won’t demand that capacity until the providers offer it. The result: steamed customers who are wondering when the Cloud providers will finally get their act together. Providers who have misread the customer landscape, and have failed to predict the pattern of immanent demand.

Regardless of which movie you’re watching, Field of Dreams or Catch-22, customer demand and provider capacity aren’t lining up as efficiently as anyone would like. The answer? Give Adam Smith’s invisible hand some time to coax the market into balance, and in the meantime, let the buyer beware.

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