Cloud Computing – Get Your Head Out of the Clouds

A Picture of Kurt CavanoJuly 30, 2013 By Kurt Cavano

I’m so tired of hearing about how cloud computing is the solution to every problem. There are so many flavors of cloud, so what really matters is not that you are in the cloud, but how you are using the cloud. Some history and perspective…

When we started GT Nexus/TradeCard 14 years ago, there was no such thing as the term cloud computing. But we realized early on that building a network that allowed all the supply chain partners of a company to collaborate with each other required a different way of thinking. And since each of those partners collaborated with multiple other partners, we had to think very differently than the prevailing mindset. This meant:

  • All partners had to be on the same version of the software, which meant that it needed to be outside the four walls of all partners, hosted in a neutral third party.
  • Everyone had to share the same data – real time, not pass it around in a spreadsheet. This meant we needed a multi-tenant application with a single database.
  • Collecting large license fees and setting up expensive hardware infrastructures up front was not going to work, given the number, diversity and geographic dispersion of the trading partners we were trying to connect. A new, pay-as-you-use model had to replace the old enterprise software licensing approach.

What we didn’t realize was that we were architecting a system that would go on to be called cloud computing – who knew? A system where you can connect once and gain access to all the participants already connected, similar to LinkedIn or Facebook. What mattered wasn’t that we were in the cloud; instead, it was the way we were architected to allow all the parties to collaborate and transact on a single version of the truth.

Sure, there are point cloud solutions, like cloud storage, but that is like renting a storage unit for your old furniture – big deal! And cloud servers, which are like leasing a car instead of buying one. Back in the day we called it time sharing. So, the next time you get the big sales pitch about the cloud, make sure you dig into the architecture and ensure that it supports the type of many-to-many collaboration required for managing today’s global supply chains. Otherwise, you may be stuck with real clouds… the ones composed of water vapor.

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