Five More Minutes on the Cloud…

What the Cloud Isn’t…

I have many colleagues, that when asked about the cloud, will launch into a lengthy and somewhat confusing lecture about XaaS (Infrastructure as a Service, Platform as a Service, Software as a Service, etc), or outsourcing, or virtualization. While there are certainly technologies that enable cloud computing, I have a different view.

I don’t know what the market will do. I don’t know what will be asked of my business, and I don’t know what will be asked of me. What I do know is that everything is changing, and we are at the center of the maelstrom, right now. Five year from now, companies will be building hyper-standardized, fully virtualized environments out of commodity hardware purchased and deployed as stacks, roles will have changed, and the way technology is procured, implemented and consumed will be drastically different.

Businesses will need to be able to adapt quickly – this we know. The pace of the world continues to increase, and business will need to adapt increasingly quickly as well. This means you will need to deploy new applications as quickly as possible, and stop being an impediment to the business. Businesses run on their data and applications, and we in the information technology business need to get out of the business of being plumbers and carpenters. Rather than spending all your time and money learning how to put together your infrastructure, it is possible now to deploy infrastructure blocks that greatly decrease your deployment time, and hence your time to implement new services. It’s the ‘buy the car’ model, rather than the ‘build the car’ model.

Traditionally, IT is funded by project, and services are deployed months or years after first requested. This ultimately limits strategic projects, since funding is limited and tied to specific projects, and results in infrastructure that is tied to a specific project or technology. Since each project is funded separately, and the business has the ability to dictate requirements, the infrastructure suffers from decreased standardization, which then results in increased time and money keeping the lights on, since every separate technology requires its own methodologies and techniques for operations and maintenance.

Of course, existing applications continue to provide value, and they represent years of investment of time and money. Since they are tied to specific infrastructure, they are limited in its flexibility. And in an equation we are all familiar with, are oversized to accommodate peak periods. The years in over-investment to accommodate spikes reveals itself as lost capacity and investment, and thousands or millions of dollars of untapped potential in unused infrastructure. If you think about all this, some stark realities come to light…

The business:
– might be in power, but it is not empowered
– is forced to adopt a rigid approach that limits and delays
– requires clairvoyance to ensure the timing is correct and funding is available

Now I don’t want to oversimplify, and I probably am, since there are years of industry trends and human behavior that led up to it. But it’s pretty stunning to think that the manner in which projects are funded is (if not the root cause) a significant contributing factor to the bloat and inflexibility we see now.

What the Cloud is…  A Business Model

This is why the industry is trending toward cloud computing. Cloud computing represents a fundamental shift in how we conduct the business of technology, and why, when asked, I simply tell anyone that will listen, that cloud computing is nothing more (or less) than a different business model for IT.  It is a paradigm shift in how we leverage the technology that makes something ‘a cloud,’ not the technology itself.

So, what is cloud computing?

OK, it’s a business model, but what does that mean?  It means we need:

  1. … a new approach for funding:
    1. up front investment in pool of shared technology
    2. future fee-for-service or charge by use for ongoing funding
    3. results in pool of hyper-standardized capacity available immediately
    4. pool is shared across all projects, better utilization
    5. regain lost capacity, increased ROI
  2. We need a new infrastructure:
    1. One which offers greater operational efficiency for entire environment
    2. An Infrastructure that allows existing (and new) applications can expand and shrink on demand
    3. One that is tiered into VDCs with policy-driven SLA and controls

The above requirements will drive new types of technologies:

  • One will likely be procured as a stack
  • One which creates / depends on hyper-standardization of technologies
  • Hyper-standardization creates hyper-efficient operational methodologies
  • Hyper-standardization creates decreased time on break-fix and maintenance

The benefits for the business are:

  • The infrastructure is already there before they request new services
  • This means they can deploy new applications immediately
  • This allows rapid response to changing business conditions:
    • quick integration of new business units
    • quick divestiture of business units
    • tiered VDC allows for streamlined qualification process
    • opens opportunity for self-service portals

The benefits for IT:

  • less time on break-fix
  • less time on provisioning, qualification, and implementation
  • more time on strategic initiatives
  • roles change as technologies converge
  • automation increasingly leveraged for daily tasks and SLAs

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