Killing the cloud with success

Today, there are two threats to cloud becoming a reality.  First are the end users.  Second are the vendors. 

End users, especially at the division layer or in remote offices, are driven towards cloud based solutions, especially SaaS, like moths to a flame.  Any program that works on per user per month basis must be better than this old dumpy client /server or host based system.  Look, it has this cool spinning widget and it works on a smart phone.  The attraction is understandable.

At the same time, they often don’t look into core issues like “what is the security model and does it meet corporate requirements”, “does it meet all my functional requirements” and “how does it integrate with my other systems.”  That latter problem is the killer.

While tools like IBM CastIron can solve a lot of problems, most clients don’t get to the integration discussion until after they have already purchased the cloud based solution.  In fact, in the rush to get to the cloud solution, clients are willing to go to much simpler and less rich environments. 

IT departments would be served well to understand how communicate better with their business constituents.  IT departments often take the requirements on face value and then build the 98% solution at 120% of the cost.  Cloud solutions are usually 80% solutions for 50% of the costs often leaving out the hardest and most costly components.  If IT departments took it upon themselves to really partner with the business, maybe they could get to 95% solution at 50% to 70% of the cost.  The key will be identifying the cost driving factors in the solution.

Identifying TCO at a feature / function level is not easy; however, it is critical.  It is the real role of a good architect and especially the solution or application architect.  Simply telling the constituent all the parts they need is not enough.  You have to be able to understand the short term, long term, and cost impacts.

Vendors are not helping either.  Someone referred to the problem as “cloud confusion” in random blog.  Everything that is available on the internet is called a cloud solution.  There is a huge problem with calling backup storage  “cloud storage.”  What is dynamic about it?  What is virtual?  The Apple iCloud is a little better since does let you for FEE use Apple’s copy of your music from their library by just putting a pointer in and avoiding the storage. This is double dipping since they charge you and have to give you less storage, but we also pay $45 to get a better seat on the airline.  PT Barnum said something about that.

Equally confusing is SaaS.  You’d think that SaaS means a software solution that is built on IaaS and PaaS and multi-tenancy, but not always.  You’d even expect it to be multi-tennant.  It turns out that many of the SaaS solutions in the market are really just client/server systems on the internet that are billed by user/month or some similar consumption based model.  Bob Moul wrote Demystifying SaaS vs. Cloud  to help identify a SaaS product vs. a not SaaS products.

Most consumers of cloud are not worried whether it is really cloud.  They only care it gives them flexibility and outcomes they desire.  When designing any solution, keeping flexibility and outcomes in mind is always a good idea.  Too often, we get trapped in the details to the point of making everything too complex.  Worse, the complexity feeds on itself, too.  There are worse things than calling an analog by the wrong name.

Good news is that cloud will go eventually go away.  Not that it will cease to exist, but it will cease to be discussed.  It will be the default architecture.  Today, everyone is designing for the cloud, the true cloud, with all the assumptions of relocation, compression, and smaller virtualized servers.  Until then, there will be a lot of work getting us to that promised land of low cost elastic solutions with high performance and ease of use.  Cloud Encapsulation will let us bring many of those benefits to non-cloud applications, too.

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A view from the C-Suite

I love working with technical people.  I’ve either been one or managed them my entire career.  When people used to tell me Unix wasn’t friendly, I used to respond “if you want friendly, get a dog.”  One time when I was managing the Basis team for a client on a large implementation, the project executive called me and said my new “guy” had arrived and was lost.  I asked him how did he know he was my guy, he said “he’s wearing suite pants 2 inches too short, white socks, and hard shoes.”  I responded “He’s mine – which way did he go?”  Not all technical people fit the stereotype and many don’t, but enough do that it rings true to anyone I’ve shared this story with.

Since I started my career in college swearing I’d never wear a tie (I was a biologist), live in cornfield (only home in Naperville, IL I could afford), or work for IBM (the implemented a great Unix variant: AIX),  What I find so amazing about working with technical people is how they think.  Technical people love to solve problems.  In my career, I found I wanted to influence not just the details of implementation of the technology, but the thought that went into designing the project.  To do that required  more than just learning to tie a tie and put on suit.  It meant learning to understand how business was conducted and how and what the senior leaders in companies thought.

Here are some great insights collected by IBM of how the executives at your company view the world.  It has been collected, collated, and put into a readily consumable format.  And yes, I work for IBM.  I’m proud of working for them; however, this is my personal blog, so this is more me than the company.  In fact, I required to tell you that this is my personal opinion, plus it really is.

Regardless, since irregardless isn’t a word, this is great information.

Global CFO Study

http://www-935.ibm.com/services/us/cfo/cfostudy2010/

C-suite insights

http://www-935.ibm.com/services/c-suite/insights/

CEO study

http://www-935.ibm.com/services/us/ceo/ceostudy2010/

CIO study

http://www-935.ibm.com/services/us/cio/ciostudy/executive-views.html

Recently, I read the following.

Leave it to Rob Carter, the CIO of FedEx, to clarify what’s really powerful about cloud computing. Carter, the company’s CIO since 2000 and an InformationWeek advisory board member for almost as long, has a knack for discussing technology in a way that cuts to the business payoff, but without leaning on buzzwords that whitewash the complexity involved.

Carter boils down cloud computing, when applied to IT infrastructure, to “general purpose computing.” It’s the ability to connect servers, networking, and storage that are “workload agnostic,” meaning the jobs they handle can be shuffled around among a company’s computers, so those machines are used as efficiently as possible.

http://www.informationweek.com/news/global-cio/interviews/229100022

I agree from an operational view, but not from the bigger picture.  Cloud is part of revolution of opening computing from being a model of the sub-set of our life to a model of our life.  Cloud makes raw computing power almost free.  Now it only a question of what to do with it and how to use it.

I’d also like to thank my friend, colleague, and mentor for encouraging me to first blog on SAP Developers Network and now here.  I don’t think I would have done it without his encouragement.  His is one of the few blogs I seldom miss.

http://andvijaysays.wordpress.com/