Cloud Computing: A Social Relations Perspective

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    The second half of the 20th century has been characterized by an explosive development in information technology (Maney, Hamm, & O'Brien, 2011). Processing power, storage capacity and network bandwidth have increased exponentially, resulting in new possibilities and shifting IT paradigms. In step with technological changes, the paradigmatic pendulum has swung between increased centralization on one side and a focus on distributed computing that pushes IT power out to end users on the other. With the introduction of outsourcing and cloud computing, centralization in large data centers is again dominating the IT scene. In line with the views presented by Nicolas Carr in 2003 (Carr, 2003), it is a popular assumption that cloud computing will be the next utility (like water, electricity and gas) (Buyya, Yeo, Venugopal, Broberg, & Brandic, 2009). However, this assumption disregards the fact that most IT production environments, unlike water and power supply, are in a constant state of change driven by new demands from users and the desire to utilize advances in technology. Research in IT outsourcing (ITO) has documented that social relations play a key role in successful ITO (M. C. Lacity, Khan, & Willcocks, 2009), for instance, in establishing and maintaining trust between the involved parties (Sabherwal, 1999). So far, research in cloud computing has neglected this perspective and focused entirely on aspects relating to technology, economy, security and legal questions. While the core technologies of cloud computing (e.g. virtualization and workload balancing) are tried and tested, the consequences for IT professionals in the affected IT departments have not been studied in detail. Similar to Marston et al. (Marston, Li, Bandyopadhyay, Zhang, & Ghalsasi, 2011), this paper points to the need for studying the social, relational and inter-organizational challenges associated with the widespread introduction of cloud computing. Based on previous studies in ITO and a review of existing articles on cloud computing, the purpose of this paper is to document a gap in the cloud computing research and identify relevant perspectives to be adopted in future studies of cloud computing.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalJournal of Information Architecture
    Issue number1-2
    Pages (from-to)21-30
    Publication statusPublished - 2013

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