Why Cloud Can’t Escape the Law of Entropy

The laws of physics cannot be ignored, no matter how amazing the technology is

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“Cloud makes everything so easy.” “Cloud computing is the great democratizer.” “Simplicity is the essence of cloud.” These are among the tried and true benefits that are trotted out in praise of cloud computing, and in many senses they have proven true. Hence, the now very mainstream adoption of cloud applications and computing platforms that we see all around us.

But the laws of physics cannot be ignored, no matter how amazing the technology is. Recalling your high school physics class: things that begin in a state of simplicity and order devolve toward complexity and disorder, unless you apply work. (Witness Saturday mornings in my house as neatly organized toys and LEGOs inevitably evolve into a disaster zone—apologies for the not entirely accurate yet highly representative analogy.) And as cloud has become the norm, the law of entropy is now becoming apparent in the cloud realm, despite its initial breathtaking simplicity and ease.

This is not to say cloud applications and platforms aren’t easy in many senses—far easier than traditional technologies. But it all depends on how far in or out you are focusing your lens. When you look at a single application or platform, especially in its initial adoption, it can be amazingly simple and well-organized. (When I zoom in on a small patch of my living room rug, I see a cleverly constructed LEGO space dog-fighter jet.) But that is a limited view. Pull the lens back, and you’re not looking at one system—you’re suddenly looking at dozens, hundreds, potentially thousands of cloud applications and systems, and the labyrinthine mess that they have now created. (The dizzying sense of despair that sets in as I scan the sea of LEGOs, checker pieces, Hot Wheels, and origami creatures on my floor.)

In essence, the fact that cloud has been so simple and easy to adopt is the very thing that is leading to unprecedented new complexities. Cloud adoption has crept up on many organizations, and they are now scrambling to deal with how to make all the pieces work together. We have seen this play out before—when client/server technology proliferated new enterprise applications, when web apps emerged. Each wave of innovation leads to a data fragmentation, application sprawl and spaghetti code.

The point is not to stop adopting these powerful new technologies. It’s to remember that as we go along, we need to invest in the often-underappreciated work that goes into combating the resultant entropy and chaos, so that the end result is as good as the initial beginnings.

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