I’ve been on the road with clients and partners of late and one thing I can attest to, other than the fact that trains are a much more civilized form of travel versus planes, is that enterprise interest in cloud greatly outpaces actual cloud investments.
The second thing I can attest to is, at the highest levels of companies, there’s a realization that today’s approach to IT is suboptimal. Cloud computing is supposed to help, but C-level folks aren’t convinced. Why? Because IT is stuck in the weeds and still isn’t thinking about what end users care about, and how to serve end users through cloud computing.
IT values infrastructure, while end users value applications
Applications have value to end users; All the storage, networking, compute, operating systems, hypervisors and middleware that underpin these applications are, from an end user standpoint, irrelevant. We in IT find these piece parts incredibly relevant, sometimes even sexy. Many careers in IT are spent on going deep on one of these piece parts, and many services hours are spent integrating products from each piece part into a platform to run the application, you know, the thing the end user cares about.
It pains us as IT professionals to not have control over each and every layer of the stack I mention above. We want not only control; we want to tinker with each layer of the stack. Vendors provide best practices for their layer of the stack and ask us to follow these guidelines. Sometimes we do, but most times we think our particular environment is so different than others that we need these additional 5 configuration tweaks. We love the control.
Giving up a little control for a lot of benefit
I couldn’t fathom why any self respecting IT professional would buy an iPhone. Sure it was beautiful and easy to use, but could I install additional memory? Could I change the battery? Could I run any application I want? Simply put, would I have the same level of control over the device as I’d become accustomed to.
Some developers asked whether they had the same level of control and flexibility as they were accustomed to with Web and Windows applications when building an iOS application.
I couldn’t do any of those things above, and developers had to live within the confines of iOS APIs.
And yet, just look at how much better life is for end users and iOS developers as a result of Apple saying “no” to the degree of control, configuration and tinkering we’re all so accustomed to within any IT organization.
Cloud vendors still suck in IT weeds, for how much longer?
Try applying lessons from the iPhone to today’s cloud offerings. To date, the most successful cloud provider, Amazon, enables IT to remain stuck in the weeds, with virtually all of the control and complexity they’re used to. Is it any wonder that C-level folks aren’t rushing to approve a “cloud project”?
OpenStack, the open source cloud computing platform, is firmly rooted in the infrastructure as a service layer of the cloud computing spectrum. For all its aspirations, OpenStack doesn’t remove the complexity of piecing together storage, networking, compute resources and hypervisors from varying vendors.
Nebula, an OpenStack based startup that I’ve previously covered, tries to simplify the IT infrastructure piece through an appliance offering. But there’s still a lot of work to provision a platform for the things your end users, and your C-level managers, care about, applications.
In announcing Oracle’s public cloud offerings, Larry Ellison called out Salesforce.com as the “Roach Motel” of cloud services. While true, to a degree, what Larry neglected to mention is the immense value that Salesforce.com is providing to developers, and ultimately, end users, by providing a platform for applications. Sure the applications have to fit within the APIs supported by Salesforce.com. The fact that Salesforce.com’s platform as a service is not standards based, as Ellison pointed out in a roundabout fashion, should not be applied to platform as a service cloud offerings in general.
Make no mistake that enterprise vendors, many of whom are bringing out enterprise cloud offerings, are going to take a page out of the Apple playbook. In fact, some already are. IBM talks about workload optimized systems. Oracle talks about hardware and software engineered together.
These offerings take away much of the time and challenges of building IT environments from piece parts. These environments fast track the delivery of applications to end users. Some IT departments will resist these pre-integrated products, especially in the cloud arena. As I mentioned, we IT folk like control. The fact that an order of magnitude too much control leads to complexity and gets in the way of providing applications to end users is often an after thought. For how much longer?
I should state: “The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies, or opinions.