The Cloud. How the IT world is slowing us all down!

It has been a tough month for editor Neil McNaughton. A move to the Office365 cloud was problematical. He is thrown out of a talk at the SEG Denver convention and loses hard-won sports data. But over breakfast in Denver, the penny drops on some egregious cloud marketing spin.

Another book-I-probably-will-never-write will be about why IT has failed to live up to its promise of increasing productivity. I plan to stretch out my March 2014 editorial to a suitable length. A big type face, large margins and widely spaced text should make this doable.

The thesis is simple. If IT is really about ‘productivity,’ then IT should be shrinking itself at a rate approximately equal to the rising clock speeds of Moore’s law. In fact, with no false modesty, I propose that this productivity-induced shrinkage could be termed ‘McNaughton’s law,’ and measured in units of … naughts. For indeed, the shrinkage is not happening and will never happen as long as the IT world stands to benefit from selling more stuff by constantly re-inventing itself with new operating systems, paradigms and what have you.

But first, a word on the differences between a very small company and a larger organization. In other words on the paradox of size. In a large company, everything is hard. Deploying software is hard. Training users is hard. Upgrading stuff is hard. Delivery of anything slows down, dragging users’ expectations along with it such that eventually folks get used to staring at an hour glass as stuff loads from the network. Systems are unresponsive and eventually users get to be happy with the smallest of achievements.

Compare and contrast with the beauty of the small office/home office and a good old fashioned stand-alone PC. Things going too slow? Get a faster machine for a thousand bucks or so. Not enough disk? Add another terabyte for $50. Some new software? As long as it’s Cots* it will be easy and intuitive.

That was until we we signed up to the cloud a few weeks back. I am not talking anything fancy here. Not ‘big data’ or even Microsoft Azure, just a couple of licenses to Microsoft Office365. Getting started with the cloud proved quite tricky. Instead of ‘insert the CD and click on OK,’ installing Office365 needs quite a bit of the sort of IT knowledge that only a mis-spent middle age can provide. Ever tried to get your website’s mail server to point to a different location than the http site? It is not hard but I bet that less than one in a thousand users of Office would have a clue what all this is about let alone navigate the arcane interfaces of the various hosting companies, nameservers and other gatekeepers of the web.

Once things are running (well actually things are not yet really running…) the fun starts. What is the difference between OneDrive and SharePoint? How does one find out? When I use my OneDrive, the navigation bar in my browser tells me I am on a SharePoint site. Help from the ‘community’ is err, unhelpful.

If you are not yet in the Office cloud you might like to know that Office 365 brings you two versions of everything. One to run in the browser and another on your desktop. The online version is clunky and idiosyncratic. Keyboard shortcuts? You may as well forget them. Even cutting and pasting from within the same email brings up a dialog along the lines of ‘are you sure you want to do this?’ Click to open a document or change folders, the cloud lets you know that its is ‘working on it…’ The web-based version appears to have been designed to slow usage down to a crawl. Perhaps that was the point.


I have been attending the Society of Exploration Geophysicists as ‘press’ since I started writing Oil IT Journal/Petroleum Data Manager back in 1996. A key activity for me has always been to attend the technical presentations and to try to distill some of the novelties into my reports from the show. Well this year, while attending one not-very-interesting talk early in the morning, there was a kerfuffle in the room and a couple of SEG functionaries came for me. I was frog marched out of the room in the middle of the talk and told that, as of 2014, press no longer get access to the talks! Meanwhile my colleagues in Amsterdam were getting the royal reception that the SPE reserves for its press attendees. What can I say? Hrmph!

While in Denver, I was sipping my early morning latté in one of the many excellent coffee shops when an ad for Microsoft’s Azure cloud and Office 365 came on screen. This gist was that the Formula 1 Lotus/Renault racing team uses the cloud to capture and store data from races for analysis.

I was sleepily puzzling over how the sluggish cloud could be of any use in the fast real time world of F1 when suddenly it dawned on me. This is a egregious example of ‘he man dual control’ marketing (see my October 2010 editorial). To understand how this works, put yourself in the position of an Azure marketing manager. The problem is that the cloud slows things down. So how do we counter this? By associating the cloud with something that goes very fast! Add in some spin and misrepresentation and off we go!

To wrap things up and explain why this edition is a tad late. As some of you may know I like doing longish runs. My latest was a 75km trail run with a 4000m total climb which I have been trying to do for a while now. My first two attempts resulted in an abandon after 45km. This year I managed 68km, but just missed the time barrier. I was pretty pleased with this, but when I got back home and tried to upload the data from my various monitors to the cloud, the cloud was down and my upload was ‘pending.’ When finally Suunto’s whiz kids got their cloud back up and running all that hard won data was a) deleted from my watch and b) not in the cloud either!

* Common off-the-shelf software.

Follow @neilmcn

Click here to comment on this article

Click here to view this article in context on a desktop

© Oil IT Journal - all rights reserved.