Taxis, Zipcars and Cloud Storage

Ben Golub has a new blog post up, titled Taxis, Zipcars and Cloud Storage. Not sure how those things are related? Well, when having a recent discussion on the topic of what kind of car will we be driving in the year 2020, Ben got this interesting insight:

One person, however, suggested a more novel idea. “The car I will be driving,” he said, “is one that I will not own.” Instead, he argued, we’d all be using rent-by-the-hour cars such as those provided by Zipcars and others. Gas, maintenance, insurance, parking, and other costs would all be taken care of by others.

In other words, the biggest innovation would be in the form of provisioning, management, and ownership, rather than any underlying technology.

As in, forget the ownership society – we’re moving to a rental / timeshare society. Remember mainframe computers? Everything old is new again.

The question is not whether these models are viable, but to what extent. After all, the fact that these types of services are proliferating is a testament to their filling a gap in the market:

There is no question that cloud storage, like Zipcars or other rent-by-the-hour car services such as taxis, has a great deal of utility and a great deal of appeal. However, it is interesting to speculate about the extent to which these services can replace the more traditional user-owned and operated models.

For fun, I compared the price of storing 100 GB in various cloud services for one month to the cost of using on-premise storage. To make the comparison more apples-to-apples, I divided the cost of the on-premise storage by 36, assuming they had a three-year life span.

On the surface, the cloud storage seems ridiculously expensive — as much as 20 times the price of on-premise storage.

And therein lies the rub – is there a place in the world for a service that is, on the surface, more than double the price of its nearest competitor? As Ben goes on to note, the premium you pay is for the flexibility – the ability to buy a service whenever you want, however much you want. There are no permanent costs, and you’ll only pay for the time you use the service. In this context, the taxi cab model is a useful analogy. Obviously, riding everywhere in a cab would be prohibitively expensive, but that’s not how one uses a cab. We don’t know whether cloud storage will “take over the world”, but we do know that there are times when it’s superior to other alternatives, depending on the parameters of a given project. Do you use cloud storage services? What do you think?

Read Ben’s full blog post here. 


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