While watching TV the other night, I saw several trailers for movies, all of which advertised “in 3D.” This got me thinking about how 3D and the move toward cloud computing share similar stories.
3D was first utilized in film in the 1950s, but because of several factors, the format was not widely adopted until almost 40 years later. Even then, the application of 3D in feature films was relegated to a niche market. Only more recently, with advances in technology, standardization of format, reduction in cost and complexity, and advocacy by a highly successful and popular industry giant, has the format gained popular acceptance. In the 2 years since this seminal moment (thank you James Cameron) the percentage of films produced in 3D has skyrocketed. It is safe to say that 3D is now an accepted and expected feature for the movie industry.
Does this remind any of you of a parallel journey in IT? (Hint you are reading Journey to the Cloud)
If you peel back the components of 3D film technology, you will find the building blocks began with standard 2D cinema. To get to the 3D experience, defined as the “enhancement of the illusion of depth,” one of several new techniques were applied to the filming or post production processes. Similarly, the migration of IT from physical 2D architectures to virtual, multi-tenant 3D platforms has provided a deeper, richer experience. However, like the first iterations of 3D in feature films, early adopters have had to suffer the slings and arrows associated with an emerging technology.
Early 3D in films required the use of special glasses (remember those blue and red lensed cardboard beauties?), and was mainly a novelty. Similarly, the early cloud computing entries into the market were targeted at technical people to leverage for select, tactical needs such as SaaS applications and B2B capabilities. In both arenas, the lack of standardization of the technologies utilized and the requirement of the viewer/user to participate at a higher level than normal consumers resulted in slower adoption and lack of overall success of the initiatives. This initial period was known as the “golden era” of 3D film making, and to many IT people, the early days of cloud services (a niche solution to address specific technical challenges) could also be defined as such.
In the movie industry, 3D was mothballed for 30 years until the application of the technology to a new breed of horror/slasher films. This “revival” period enabled this genre of films to tap into unexplored creative juices. The application of 3D in movie series such as Jaws, Friday the 13th and Amityville may not have been critical successes, but they did expose the general movie-going population to a new experience. Likewise, the revival of cloud included new capabilities such as multi-tenancy, on-demand consumption and rapid provisioning; however, it still remained a niche service for non-business critical processes and functions.
The recent resurgence of 3D can be linked to the commercial success of Avatar by James Cameron, the highest grossing film of all time. Although similar 3D technology had been used as far back as 2007, the advent of HD 3D and the ability of the public to view them at most movie theaters enabled the explosion of acceptance and expectation around 3D films. Now, 3D films are viewable in theaters, at home on 3D TVs, and most recently on mobile devices. The movie-goer is no longer limited to where they can go to enjoy the technology.
This is the point where cloud computing resides today. The pendulum has swung from the side of the providers to the side of the consumers. More choice, better technologies, and the elimination of technical boundaries and roadblocks has enabled competition, driven innovation, and reduced cost. We, as the consumer of cloud services, can now be as selective as the movie-goer, and determine what content, from what device, consumed anywhere at any time, we want to spend our time and money on.