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It wasn’t too long ago when “living in the clouds” sparked visions of rolling hills, untethered joy, Julie Andrews and other dreamy and whimsical sights and sounds in my mind. Maybe there is still a time and a place for that—as Bill Cosby used to say, those of you with children, you’ll understand! But in the world of business, and ECM, there is no longer a place for it…

I was fortunate to attend the Microsoft Professional Developer’s Conference in LA as a guest of Microsoft’s last month. Two things hit me right off: (one) pretty much every person in attendance blogged, facebook’d and tweet’d—my apologies in advance to OED—seemingly all at pretty much the same time! (two) Microsoft’s cloud, Windows Azure, is more real than not…as are some others. Better wake up the brain cells.

To me, the truly impressive thing about Azure was, well, not its infrastructure, scale, configurability. Though impressive enough, they’re the annonymous linebackers to the superstar QB—the dude you really pay to watch. And he to me, was ability to develop and deploy using Azure. Seemlessly developing against a “cloudy” SQL server like it’s sitting on your very own laptop (actually better because it won’t kill your laptop in doing so!), writing and compiling your code of choice (give or take…though including Java through Eclipse), and deploying using something other than ANT and a thousand man-hours. Lots of exciting stuff!

This rhetoric though really is not about Azure, nor am I in any shape or form an expert in it. And, besides Microsoft, Amazon, IBM, Dell, EMC and a whole bunch of other folks are in various states of making noise in cloud computing. Watch for it. It’ll impact all of us.

What this rhetoric is about is ECM in the cloud. Hosted ECM or ECM SaaS has, of course, been around for a number of years already. There are a number of good success stories around. Just see SpringCM, WordPress or even Salesforce.com…the lines between managing structured and unstructured content are awfully blurry these days. Are these true examples of cloud ECM? Perhaps. Or maybe the definition is still evolving.

The days of the multinational running a full-blown, multi-purpose ECM platform on a cloud-ready “traditional” ECM toolset (take your pick: Documentum, Filenet, Oracle, Sharepoint, Alfresco, et al) is not far off. There are some challenges left for sure. A little technology. A lot inertia.

Which Cloud Deployment Model? Oracle or SQL? Java or .net? Or maybe, who cares? Our cloud challenge may well become how to ask more relevant questions to get more useful things done faster, better.

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