When you talk to a cloud solutions vendor—and we talk to all of them—the breathless refrain is, “The cloud changes everything!” You hear that over and over and over again.

When you talk to enterprise development managers, some of them are interested in the cloud, but many of them aren’t. Some of them see cloud-based systems as valuable for deployed applications, or for hosting development tools, or for reducing IT costs. Some of them value the scalability of the cloud, but others are concerned about bringing a third-party provider between them and their intellectual property. Some of them aren’t worried about security or standards—but many are.

And, of course, while the ROI benefits of the cloud sound great in marketing literature, it’s unclear exactly what the long-term financial implications are. Certainly there’s a shift from capital expenditures to operational budgets, but not all organizations value the CapEx vs. OpEx tradeoffs the same way.

What about DevOps, the new term often used for a combination of application life-cycle management + IT service management + the cloud? We hear that a lot more from vendors than we do from our readers.

So far, it looks like that the cries of “The cloud changes everything!” is a lot more hyperbole than reality. Certainly, we’re sure that a few organizations have totally embraced the cloud; use hosted development tools and collaborative workspaces; have powered down their data centers; and live an entirely Internet-based app world of mashups and virtual images and platform-as-a-service deployments.

We’re equally certain that the inverse it also true, that there are companies that see no reason to give up their tried-and-true development tools and practices, and are quite content to continue hosting their software, data and middleware inside their very own data centers, on their own hardware, running on their own networks behind their own firewalls, thank you very much.

Our own IT organization falls into a third group. Our core business systems continue to be developed and deployed using traditional technologies, but we’re carefully (and optimistically) experimenting with cloud-based solutions. The jury is out, however, as to whether, when and where those new technologies will be used for production systems.

In this issue, beginning on page 38, you’ll find the first installment of a three-part series, “How the cloud (kinda) changes (sorta) everything.” Is the cloud the future of enterprise IT? Come with us as we find out.

‘Native’ and Web side by side? Don’t you believe it
There’s fear in the Silverlight world, and rightly so. Microsoft, with its reported commitment to HTML5 in Windows 8, appears to be following the tide to cross-platform application compatibility. So, too, is Adobe, with its support for Web standards in a new Web application development tool called Adobe Edge. Are Flash developers also feeling unease?

Perhaps we have Apple to blame—or credit—for this development. If it would have embraced the Flash runtime (and Silverlight) in the iOS operating system, folks wouldn’t be clamoring for standards. Those platforms would be the standard. Flash, after all, is on more than 95% of desktops, while Silverlight is said to be on more than 80%. But where do those appear on mobile phones and tablets? Outside of Windows Phone 7, the answer is “nowhere.” Because Apple (and then Google) would not allow it.

Developers like standards. It means they can write their applications one time and have them perform the same across multiple platforms, without the need to customize for runtimes or find no support for their chosen language on a given platform.

This leaves Microsoft and Adobe talking out of both sides of their mouths. On the one hand, they embrace open standards, reminding us that they provide broad reach for Microsoft and Adobe Flex/Flash/AIR developers. Then they tell us that for “native” applications, their proprietary solutions are best because of their close ties to the underlying platform development tools and ease of integration with back-end systems.

They say they’re adding massive support for HTML5, CSS and JavaScript because they want to provide their customers with the tools and technologies they want to work with. Then they say that the standards don’t yet have the tooling or capabilities in areas such as rich data visualization, content-protected interactive video and 3D animations to be competitive—yet.

So don’t kid yourself into thinking there will be multiple solutions. It’s a device-driven world in which applications have to perform and behave similarly across platforms and devices. The “native” argument doesn’t hold water, and sooner rather than later, you’ll hear less and less about Silverlight and Flash, and more about development tools that offer the ability to add graphical richness to HTML5 applications. It’s the browser that’s becoming the native platform now.