Ignore at Your Own Risk: Cloud Computing Evolves

Have you heard? Robert Scoble is jumping from FastCompany to Rackspace Hosting (NYSE: RAX  ) to help launch a new Building 43!

Just nod and smile if you have no clue what that sentence means or why it's important, and let me assure you that it is a major win for the most significant technology shift we have ever seen, since the initial Internet boom.

I'm still figuring it out myself, but this may be a breakthrough opportunity for both Scoble and cloud computing. 

Rackspace's gain
Rackspace understands that cloud computing and Web 2.0 are driven by community. And if Scoble has anything, it's a vocal tribe that closely follows his movements. Rackspace wants to host this ongoing conversation.

Scoble is a tech blogger, interviewer, and author of Naked Conversations: How Blogs are Changing the Way Businesses Talk with Customers. His blog, Scobleizer, grew to prominence while he was evangelizing for ex-employer Microsoft  (Nasdaq: MSFT  ) . He earned a ton of authenticity cred for often constructively criticizing Mr. Softy, while he had a more congenial tone toward competitors like Google (Nasdaq: GOOG  ) and Apple  (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) .

After a brief stint at a tech start-up, Scoble was hired by Mansueto Ventures to develop and grow FastCompany TV.

Welcome to the new Building 43
Now he's off to Rackspace and Building 43. The project is named after the well-known building at Google, which houses the company's master plan as well as its founders' offices. Scoble sees the new Building 43 as a "decentralized community for people fanatical about the Internet."

While it's difficult to imagine what that will ultimately look like, expect it to be a social media extravaganza, building on the following Scoble has amassed using Twitter and FriendFeed. Rackspace has essentially hired a mentality-fitness coach, saying:

Like Robert [Scoble] pushed Microsoft, he will make us uncomfortable. He will praise our competitors and point out our missteps. But, he will force us to get better. He will force us to embrace the future and the commitment required to getting there.

The team at Rackspace knows that being a high-growth Web-hosting company will not be enough going forward. Rackspace thus also scooped up virtual hosting provider Slicehost and online backup company JungleDisk, all in an attempt to become "your" trusted business-critical-cloud-computing partner. These fearless Rackers have their eyes squarely fixed on Amazon.com's (Nasdaq: AMZN  ) Web Services business and appear ready to mix it up.

FastCompany's loss
This is a serious blow to FastCompany's online efforts. Midwest billionaire Joe Mansueto, founder of Morningstar (Nasdaq: MORN  ) and owner of FastCompany, apparently brought Scoble on board to be the voice of its social media initiative. The value-centric Mansueto trusted that Scoble could help unlock the worth of FastCompany's existing social assets: a business social network called Company of Friends, and FC Now, a staff-written blog maintained by the print magazine.

Unfortunately, transforming a traditional print media enterprise into a Web 2.0 player is harder than it looks. TechCrunch reported that Seagate Technology  (Nasdaq: STX  ) chose not to renew its "1-millionish" annual sponsorship of Scoble's broadcasts.

Future's so bright
I don't claim to know if the Scoble/Rackspace pairing or its new endeavor will succeed, but it's smart, forward-thinking, and ambitious. Rackspace employees are registered fanatics about customers, community, and authenticity. The future should be bright for this small-cap, especially if it can convert this passion into a larger share of the hosted, software-as-a-service business.

These are the early days, and while we don't know all of the possible implications of deals like this, they're all important, so I'm keeping my head in the clouds. If you're smart, you will, too.

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Fool contributor Andy Louis-Charles knows the cloud is going to be huge, based solely on the fact that he wrote this article using Google Docs and loved it. Microsoft is a Motley Fool Inside Value pick. Google is a Motley Fool Rule Breakers recommendation. Apple, Amazon.com, and Morningstar are Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendations. The Fool owns shares of Morningstar. The Fool's disclosure policy  doesn't mind the rain.


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  • Report this Comment On March 31, 2009, at 4:38 PM, Deviddo wrote:

    You know, I keep hearing about blogs but I've never met anybody who writes one. I've also never been able to figure out how to use one exactly mainly because of the first sentence. I think the author greatly exaggerates blog usage. I can state with confidence that if I spoke with 1,000 random people I would not find one who has a blog. Believe me, I have tried just because I wanted to learn how.

    Now the cloud computing I can understand. That is cool and I like it very much. I believe I am participating in that via Google docs, which is very handy indeed.

    There are many aspects of the internet that are fringe but which are touted as mainstream when they are not. I've never met anybody who could teach me about Facebook. I mean, what is this wall thing? I don't get it. If somebody could show me I would probably love it but it all remains a mystery. They claim to have 175 million members worldwide. That is 2.5 percent of the world population. Not impressive. No wonder I cannot find somebody to help me.

    I have never met a single person from my high school who kept a webpage anywhere. I have looked hard for this as I have wanted to relive some memories. Even the kids who were science experts in school have zero web presence.

    If people are really using it to socialize I sure would like to be part of it, if only I could bump into somebody somewhere who was actually doing it.

    Oh, I did meet somebody on the internet for dating on a pay site so I did at least accomplish that!

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