So, they can see it all… and they really are watching! For the past six years, PRISM (under public ownership) and that other form of Big Brother, the Internet in general, (under, mostly, private ownership) for much more than six years. While very different in nature, perception and our view of having given permission (or otherwise) these two avenues to our information are also very much the same. As is the answer to how you can take control of both and render PRISM itself effectively irrelevant with regards to your data (more on that a bit later).
My latest, hosted at ComparetheCloud.net
Depending on where you go or what you read, the issues vary but the underlying concerns about Cloud security seem fairly standard: concern about the lack of control over cloud-based environments; concern about access to data and systems from outside of the walls of the business combined; concern and uncertainty as to how to manage current threats, both targeted and random, let alone whatever comes next.
Truth be told, much of this stuff is, relatively speaking, straight-forward if not easy once you’ve done the work, determined your needs and selected the correct, trusted partner (who has passed the requisite due diligence which any business with any significant level of security requirements or concerns should insist on).
Read the rest at ComparetheCloud
For a CEO not up on the tech side of things, asking a techie “What is Cloud?” would be as useful as asking a meteorologist the same question… there are too many wrong answers – for the particular needs of any particular CEO – amongst the right ones, not to mention that the term itself has become almost redundant.
To be fair, the term ‘cloud’ itself has probably contributed to the rapid uptake in both use and press coverage. To paraphrase George Carlin, “Cloud is such a friendly sounding word… It sounds like a snack, doesn't it? New Nabisco Clouds! And new Cheese Clouds, Corn Clouds, Pizza Clouds, Sesame Clouds, Onion Clouds, Tater Clouds”…" Broad, cross-functional, magical… and more – it is a great catch-all term, just not a specific one.
I’ve discussed, argued, positioned (and worse) the topic of cloud with peers, clients and colleagues at dinners, meetings, events, forums and pubs (the noisy ones being the best as I can’t hear half of the argument)… we, they who work in and around this space, seem for the most part to know what we’re talking about, even when at cross-purposes or in disagreement. One thing I have noticed across the board, though, is that there exist four intersecting loops of cloud belief: those who see it as
And, as is often the case in IT, the anomaly is the norm: none of those views are incorrect or correct, necessarily: like the work required to get there and the reward on arrival, it depends on the point of view of the beholder. When finding my way to a solution I often take hybrid as my first target and from there work towards either end as needed. To me, that is the only position from which to start with this cloud thing.
And you know what? This is not the complicated stuff… what really has become complicated is the marketing, the messages, the myriad of names and labels and the one-size-fits-all promises that business users are being hit with (not to mention the contracts!). Dozens of choices at a coffee shop doesn’t phase me (or the average consumer who knows, broadly, what they want to drink) BUT twenty price plans with eight levels of up-front spend for thirty different handsets with fifteen different network add-ons at the local mobile phone wareshopstorehouse can be rather vexing…
Does this mean it time for a new term? (no, please!) As an industry we need to provide clarity and consistency (along with some good solid honesty). While not a big fan of regulation and often less than thrilled with how (and why) standards are (sometimes) implemented, I do rather like both when they are done properly and result in a level playing field and I reckon that clarity and consistency of terminology typically happens when standards are applied. The National Institute of Standards and Technology’s (NIST) “Definition of Cloud Computing” is a strong starting attempt to clarify the ambiguity that is cloud, starting with the following five identifiers:
- On-demand self-service
- Broad network access
- Resource pooling
- Rapid elasticity enabling quick scale-out
- Measurable services
But of course it wouldn’t be cloud if we didn’t have several strong starting points, including the Open Group, Distributed Management Task Force, Cloud Security Alliance, Storage Network Industry Association, and Open Cloud Consortium all have cloud standards efforts ranging from terminology to security.
Cloud computing is not a trend (although the rush to the marketplace is) but rather a fundamental shift in capabilities that enables a fundamental re-think from “what can we do?” into “what do we want to do?” offering a focus on growth and opportunity across industries and world-wide, including all sides of the equation – manufacturers and vendors, service providers, techies and end users and businesses of all sizes.
Clever ways to sell and describe products is a game that will not stop but a little consistency and clarity by vendors describing just what it is that they bring to the table would go a long way… (just like the relationships created by doing so).
I am open and interested to comments and either agreeing or opposing points of view… and come back next week for "Keep it Secure… the Business of Cloud."
A complicated business, this cloud thing, if you want it to be… of course you don't want it to be, nor do your customers, but it isn't "simple" any more than IT is simple: it is made to look that way, though, by people who know what they're doing.
The cloud message I hear most comes across as a variation of the POOF methodology: "quick, easy, click here, pay there, flick the switch and POOF! You're in the cloud!" This does set an expectation that things are (and will continue to be) simple, quick, and easy (oh, and don't forget, cheap: chances are that somewhere along the way that things like "low entry costs," "cost-effective," and "no CapEx," were translated to "cheap," "cheap," and "cheap.")
Seth Godin says that "You can't sell complicated to someone who came to you to buy simple" to which I add a corollary that "you can't sell expensive to someone who came to you to buy cheap!" However you look at it, while things are (or can be) simpler and more cost-effective than they ever have been, simple to understand does not always equate to not complicated and cost-effective does not in any sense of the word guarantee inexpensive (and it is all relative: specifically to each specific set of customer requirements to which you are delivering).
In reality, you actually can do both, but you better do it well if you want it to stick (and remember, the easy-to-sign customer may end up being the one you wished you hadn't closed).
Broadly considering, no Cloud Provider, large or small, truly understand what the entire market wants or for that matter what an entire segment of customers want: part of what we are offering with today's computing and communications capability is the chance to do new things or old things better, stronger faster and cheaper. You are meant to work with them to exploit the cloud to do whatever it is they want to do, which of course starts with listening to what they want and then applying your knowledge, expertise and experience to work with them to translate those wants into needs… and how to deliver them.
I have a favourite trick in getting this process rolling at the start of a new hunt looking to start the build process of a strong, long-term relationship – you know, that space and time when you aren't yet certain of the drivers of those sitting across the table or the focus and appoach that they or their organisation takes to IT in the business, let alone their agendas!
Remember those coloured, layered plastic pages of the human body in the Encyclopedias of our youth? The first picture was of a person (which we'll liken to your cloud business answer for your customer's business problem); turn the top page to reveal first muscles below the skin, next the blood system, then the organs and finally the skeleton (which equates to what, who and how you deliver that business answer). Everything in between is, well, everything in between – but this allows you to start with the big picture if that turns out to be the right starting point – or the bones if that is what your audience needs on the day… while preparing you well for anything in-between.
Don't sell complicated as simple, because it isn't… and what you are about to do with your customers is game-changing, one way or the other and that seldom is simple.
Get used to the concept of co-existence
The progressive views about your marketing, your customers and your competition as espoused by Seth Godin are seldom things with which I find disagreement…. he walks a different path that started with his book Permission Marketing (summarised nicely here – and I highly recommend the book of the same name, not to mention all of the rest!).
Seth’s views on de-focusing from your competition – which to me only makes sense since you are unlikely to destroy them and so should get used to the concept of co-existence – and applying that attention instead on what you do, say and sell, (and who you do, say and sell it to) is spot-on… but I reckon it stops a little short. While he is far from incorrect I suggest that if you also extend your focus, wisely with research, planning and networking, you might find additional routes to explore.
In other words, pick which of your competitors merit your applying a different focus and perspective – and a different set of goals – to find and define opportunities to exploit for mutual benefit.
Now at this point it’s not unfair to think “mutual benefits, ok… which ones are mine, then?” when you are looking at splitting deals. Truth be told it is amazing how far a little quid pro quo can go and most change their views as this approach is applied. So, if you are open to such things (and don’t mind a few bullet points) then consider:
• Extended Propositions and aggregated references supporting the targeting of larger scale opportunities
• Agile delivery with access to a cross-organisation resource base (the ability to afford to win that big deal)
• Opportunities to share costs to engage and share world-class resources
• Scaled buying power reducing costs, increasing pre-sales support and accuracy
• Extended overall reach and raised profiles all ‘round
Now this isn’t a plug (unless of course you’d like to speak further on the subject, in which case feel free to consider it a plug) but I have use my own “Loop” business model which targets accelerated growth by a combination of co-operative competition and the right planning and preparation to “acquire to grow” or to be better positioned for acquisition… and it isn’t rocket science.
The origins of this type of model are simple and I don’t claim to have invented the approach: Top and middle tier Managed Service Providers continue to succeed and to grow largely by using “group credentials” of co-operative consortiums when going for those big opportunities. And, as markets tighten and opportunities diminish, recent trends are showing those big players extending their reach into the lower-margin and higher competition SME space in search of new business: and they can afford to invest in lower margin accounts especially in a space with an on-going need for cost reductions that makes MSP offerings worth another look.
One opportunity to not miss along the way is the small business distrust of Managed Services and even greater distrust of “big business” – so why not disrupt by aggregating, co-operatively, with your “competitors” (selected based on their capability and offerings; track record and size; attitude and goals; and in some cases geography).
Disrupt things with a Consortium model
Not only effective as a countermeasure, a consortium in this case is a natural disruptor which builds on existing structures and frameworks to deliver bigger and better. Collaboration – of resources, networks and partners / supply chain – will support your targeting larger scale opportunities within newly-aggregated current segments. And, as partners learn to trust and work together, it should enable reaching ‘up’ into the growth space to take back your market from those big players.
There is a Cloud Computing point to all of this: we know the Cloud computing playing field is complicated with platforms, delivery vehicles, orchestration, management and we know even better the complications in customer clarity of both requirements and everything they need to deliver to them. Wouldn’t a clever player crossing both of those complex spaces, in a constantly evolving environment (not to mention a rather challenging economic situation, overall) look to find and exploit opportunities from whatever angles might work (in just the same way as my colleagues, competitors, suppliers and customers worked to bring some joint clarity and awareness on this brilliant Tell me why I should use your Cloud? blog here at Compare the Cloud?)
While I often object to incorrect platitudes packaged as sage quotes, there are as always exceptions to the rule, so let me finish with Sun Tzu and "Know your enemy and know yourself and you will always be victorious" or, as translated by Don Vito to Michael Corleone as “Keep your friends close but keep your enemies closer.”
After all, isn’t that what networks are for?
“Sales and marketing fail when they either are selling or marketing the wrong thing, or the right thing in the wrong way” ~ me, 2012
In planning a recent holiday, we started (as I assume most do) with choosing a destination, based on either the mission (see, visit, do something…) or the vision (city; dive; rest…) for the holiday. We narrowed things down by applying our requirements criteria including travel time and budget, adjusting and extending our view as we made a selection.
We decided on a city break in Istanbul and during this initial ‘discovery’ process we further refined our requirements and determined, broadly, that transport and desired level of accommodation would be both available and affordable and that the city offered us what we were seeking for this holiday. Based on target location, timeframes and convenience, flying was pretty much the only valid option.
While we always seek as painless a travel experience as possible, we typically allocate more budget to accommodations and activities than we do to travel: this typically makes Business Class or better a price barrier but we never adjust our basic requirements: local airports, competitive pricing and a track record that leads us to expect a safe runway landing rather than a splash down or a ride into the side of a mountain. Those needs met, we selected and booked the flight.
Then came the Fun, part 1: deciding where to stay and from there planning what we might get up to on arrival. Following pretty much the same requirements-defined approach as above, at a more granular level, we finalised our criteria relevant to the type of break we wanted (our mission and vision) ranging from the neighbourhood of our hotel to its proximity to sights and transport.
This was followed by the Fun, part 2: going there and doing it. Loosely illustrated our time allocation – and preferably also that of our budget (which is, sadly, usually a larger chunk by far than desired), looks a little bit like:
The same type of breakdown applies, loosely, to selling technology-based business solutions (although not always the same ratios): technology is meant to enable something, to solve something, to deliver something or to earn something, not just to be really cool tech with a better name and fancier tools.
Awareness is Good, Hype is Bad
Now, as written in Part 1 of this reality check,
Beware the Cloud-ists!
I’d like to say that I like cloud and have done since well before it was called cloud. And that today, with the processing power, capacity and bandwidth to deliver to the promise, not to mention the sliding commercial models and minimal-to-nil start-up barriers in terms of costs or time delays, we are now enabled to use smart, utility delivered, commodity computing in a way that it can really make a difference.
This is very promising in the view of both the business and technology camps: reduced risk, reduced cost, increased agility and overall reduced barriers across what has become a much-simplified business to consumer to business loop (particularly but not exclusively to the online or otherwise computing-centric space).
Cloud Computing has struck a chord with and captured the imagination of the public, businesses and Government in a way that other attempts at delivering utility model computing, ranging from On Demand to first generation SaaS and other such incarnations never did. Everywhere you look are managers, experts, analysts and “observers of a journalistic nature” writing, blogging and tweeting about it: a myriad of real-world experts (some of whom know about that of which they speak, others clearly who do not!) generating countless books, articles and whitepapers.
Cloud is Merely the Delivery Vehicle
… and cloud is also a great foot in the door. Controlled and applied realistically, the hype around cloud is raising awareness and increasing uptake and I suggest using the opportunity created by this hype. Leverage the interest and awareness to start new, broader conversations based on the business goals of your customer (and their customers) rather than the delivery needs of their IT department or your own short-term sales targets… I suggest that you stop selling cloud and instead start to sell and deliver the things that cloud will enable: their imaginations have been captured by all of those pundits and it is time to take advantage of that: the right way!
Raising interest in and creating an understanding of the cloud and its (actual) benefits is clearly good all round: assuming that you want to move from selling products and services to selling business solutions and long-term relationships, cloud is the perfect vehicle to enable that move (more a transformation, by the way, than a move).
Selling business solutions and long-term relationships indicates that it is the competitive edge (in terms of: agility; cost of sales and delivery; sustainability of service) delivered via these new commercial models and methods wrapped around enhanced, improved and new technologies that are cloud, rather than the tech itself. Sell the holiday: the hotel and the activities are that which captures the imagination, not the flight.
And that answer remains the same even if your customer is re-selling your cloud-based models and methods to their end-users: the only difference is that you need to work with them to move them to also think and sell the same way.
Cloud is about enabling innovation, driving speed, delivering business agility and reducing risks: You need a different conversation and a different proposition… my suggestion is to stop selling cloud, start having those different conversations and see where they take you: let cloud sell itself based on what it can do rather than what it is.
As the saying goes, every cloud has a silver-lining: your competitors who are selling that silver lining may make short term income but I would suggest that the real place to go mining would be in the doors opened and relationships built by the conversations around how this cloud stuff can transform their businesses, reduce their costs and get them to their goals better, stronger, quicker, cheaper. That is where lies the mother lode.
Oh… and don’t forget to beware of the Cloud-ists!
Cloud Buying Questions for Cloud Computing Service Providers, hosted by the good folk over at CompareTheCloud.net
Cloud Service Provider: You’ve made your pitch and you’re in the door, sitting across from some subset of senior management who are waiting to hear about how you and your cloud can change their world. Well done (especially these days!)… but there just might be a few questions before the deal closes: buying cloud from you is a leap of faith – not only in your business – but in their own business and its ability to capitalise on what you are offering.
The following questions, posed in no particular order, are the nature of which you might hear coming from the other buy-side of the table:
- Where are your Data Centres; how are they connected; who and how has the whole thing been designed and built? What is your current technology landscape and what are your plans?
- What happens if my applications / data / websites are unavailable (and /or remain unavailable for an inordinate amount of time? And, for that matter, what is the definition of an inordinate amount of time?) Tell me about service levels and service credits?
- How quickly can you restore lost data (including recovery from user error); what is the back-up regimen, frequency, retention policies? Where is the data backed up?
- Tell about your support model for my business users, technical users and developers. Will we have an account manager and, if yes, what does that mean?
- Show me how I am not locked in to you: what are the mechanisms to ensure a cost effective repatriation of applications and data (to either another provider or back into my own data centre); what are the costs and timings of such decommissioning?
- While at this point you foresee no problems in moving our (pick one: ERP; bespoke trading platform; SOA; etc.) to your cloud… what is your approach (from due diligence through to the actual porting exercise) and what happens if there are problems? Will there be any impact on my costs?
- You seem like a new and risky (or successful and growing business): what happens to my business if you should go under (or get acquired)?
- Where have you done any or all of the above / can I speak with a current customer bearing some relationship to mine in terms of industry sector and scale? Can I see your Customer case studies quoting business results?
Buying cloud from you is a leap of faith – not only in your business – but in their own business and its ability to capitalise on what you are offering.
When I started writing this, I had planned a list of a few questions only, intending to discuss each a little more including views as to how to answer: along the way it has become the start of a solid list of tough questions which might prove of value all along the supply chain (and I’d also suggest that, if a customer doesn’t ask such questions, that a larger opportunity just might exist to start a journey where you can start adding extra value from day one of the sale process by posing and answering those questions together… never a bad way to start a relationship!).
At this point I’d like to throw the floor open to you: what are the questions a service provider should be asked? And which are the questions a provider should be well prepared for? And what are the killer questions that might have caught you off-guard?!
"Events of this nature, with vendors, seminars and keynotes, help you to see what ‘could be’ prior to defining or designing what you want”
“Cloud to Clarity wasn’t quite delivered… but this is not a reflection on either the event or the exhibitors, though, rather on the state of a rapidly evolving industry… but it is getting better”
Guest post at ComparetheCloud.net (click on the title above or the logo below to check out a top Cloud Computing resource)
I’ve been attending IT industry shows and events the nature of this one since the ‘old days’ when business computing existed only on mainframes (which, by the way, are in many ways the predecessor architecture of cloud which is, effectively, computing re-centralised…) and I recall only a few where I have felt it worth attending for more than one day: Cloud Expo Europe 2013 was one of them.
As mentioned in a recent blog published elsewhere, I typically counsel any business to focus on requirements and targets before looking at the technology, but these times (and this show) are a little different.
Because you can do more than you could before – particularly without spending a large amount of money up front to get started doing it – thinking outside of the box effectively requires knowledge of what might be out there and I am now more likely to suggest that you see what ‘could be’ prior to defining or designing what you want.
Click here or on the Logo below to read the rest
My latest blog as posted at at ComparetheCloud.net: it is your data, not big data, that matters (but even that has limited relevance until you know what you want to do with it)
It is easy to drown in big data articles, let alone the numbers that they quote: companies counting customer transactions in the millions (or more) per day, websites with literally billions of photos and videos, not to mention 3000 tweets per second! We are inundated with broad brush information but, like the data being written about, the relevance to you and your business is not so clear… it is your data, not big data, that matters but even that has limited relevance until you know what you want to do with it.
Data is of course aggregating at an amazing rate but this is nothing new… it’s clearly been happening for quite some time. What has changed is that, as that data piles up, awareness of the potential value within it is increasing. Combined with advances in technology and the delivery of that technology, storage and access costs are drastically reduced which creates opportunities to derive information, intelligence and insights from that data (in many cases, an asset you already own!) .. Read the rest here
(subtitle: Should you be buying Managed Services or Cloud from these people?)
Clearly the playing field has and is still changing for the business technology sector from the point of view of both end user organisation and the traditional mix of vendors, integrators, resellers, outsourcers and other tech-space providers (choose your label, add freely to the list).
While this is also true for those already with a managed service model, they do at least have clarity in response to the question posed in the title above: right or wrong, profitable and growing or not, they are already in that space.
Meanwhile, the other players in the sector are being bombarded by change: what customers are asking for (expecting, demanding); the underlying technology to deliver to those requirements; the necessary commercial and service models and processes in place. Over the past year I’ve read more than a few articles along the lines of “Cloud Kills the Traditional (insert term here)” and “Change or Die,” many of which deliver coherent arguments but most of them are partly correct and incorrect.
In my business I advise ‘traditional’ and ‘modern’ IT service providers business to adapt a solutions-focused, recurring revenue client model. But not all such businesses get the same advice… it is not always the case that the provider side should (or is ready, yet, to) provide such services (competently and profitably) nor that the end user is both ready and in need of the change (again, yet: we are talking industry wide disruption based on valued add, so they are likely to get there but hopefully after a little bit of planning to ensure that they have an idea of where they are actually going!)
Sticking with our “traditional” mix of vendors, integrators, resellers, outsourcers and other tech space providers, I would suggest any of the above execute a short review of the following questions to ‘test’ their readiness, willingness (and awareness) to do what it takes to do it right – not to mention to take a preliminary view of the levels of effort it might take to get there:
- What are your current: capabilities, skill sets, references and credibility?
- What are your current assets, in general and Data Centre(s) in particular
- Do you currently offer any managed services (network or device monitoring, eMail, printing, etc.)?
- What are the capabilities, assets and skill sets of your current customer base; Do they understand the value of managed services?
- Do your client-facing staff have relationships with your clients (to whom are they selling; do they have C-level relationships?)
These same questions, slightly adjusted and posed to potential service providers as well as inward-looking, also apply to pretty much all end user / customer business considering moving, changing or transitioning and, even more importantly, in my opinion, with whom they choose to make that move: managed service relationships do have a 'tied-in' nature, so tread and choose carefully.
These questions are the tip of the iceberg and would be covered in the first hours of one of my typical engagements… it is the questions which follow and the requisite investment in time and resources to create and implement change across sales, delivery, operations, business processes and, of course, the commercials to successfully adapt and grow as a Managed Service Provider).
“Growth” is the magic word, by the way… preparing for, selling correctly and then delivering what is essentially “more of the same” to a client base that is expanding as you do it better (faster, smarter, cheaper) will, from what I have seen across the sector these past fifteen years or so, drive growth and expansion batter than most strategies.
If you’d like to discuss further how you can assess and prepare for such a move – and to take a first run through that list of questions, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org for a complimentary introductory workshop (free-form but functional).
A good read: personally I think it isn’t as bad as cloud has been hyped but all along assumed that it would get there: according to @Data_Nerd, it already has (my 2013 update: could be the hype is even worse!)
A “buzz word”, that is what data has been reduced too. “Big Data” is now a common phrase used to describe numerous counts of different types of data, social media data, point of sale data, financial data, digital and visual data…. Arg, make it stop. But what is it “really” and what makes it useful versus noise?
Woz and I on the same page, as always!
Wozniak told an audience in Washington DC: "I really worry about everything going into the cloud. I think it's going to be horrendous. I think there are going to be a lot of horrible problems in the next five years."
Steve Wozniak, who co-founded Apple with Steve Jobs in 1976, was speaking after a performance of The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs, a monologue about working conditions at Apple's Chinese factories.
The play attracted controversy earlier this year when Mike Daisey, the performer, admitted that he had fabricated some of the stories in the piece. Daisey originally claimed that the stories in the monologue were taken from interviews he conducted with Chinese workers during a visit to the country in 2010.
Daisey, who has since re-worked his script, invited Wozniak to the penultimate performance of the show.
Answering questions from the audience, the 61-year-old Wozniak said: "With the cloud, you don't own anything. You already signed it away."
He added: "I want to feel that I own things. A lot of people feel, 'Oh, everything is really on my computer,' but I say the more we transfer everything onto the web, onto the cloud, the less we're going to have control over it."
Asked about Labour conditions in China, where Apple and virtually every other technology company, including Samsung, Microsoft and Sony, makes its products, Wozniak said: "We know we [customers] have a voice. We can speak but we can't act like, oh, Foxconn is bad or Apple is bad."
He said he believed conditions for Chinese workers would improve as the country grows richer.
Wozniak, who now works for memory company Fusion IO, invented the Apple I and the Apple II. He left full-time employment with the company in 1987 though he remains on the payroll.
Gardener as a Service (GaaS)
Robert shows on Tuesday mornings, backing his little van into my driveway, throws open the back door and pulls out his kit: a mower some weeks, a blower others, always a rake and a trimmer… He unlocks the gate and goes about his work and within an hour or so he is gone. All that I need to do is have handy the garden waste bin. Oh, and an espresso: I have him hooked on this once-a-week caffeine rush.
That is, in essence, all that most people need to know to start to understand the cloud: cloud is a commercial model wherein you pay for a service, done as you need it to be done when you want it done without requirement for upfront investment or set-up fees: no purchases required! “Cloud computing” is a generic term for pretty much anything that involves delivering infrastructure or programs over a network. Essentially a figure-of-speech, cloud is hosted IT systems, or managed and hosted services, or managed applications or IT outsourcing… any of the above, or others.
While all true, Cloud delivery has three distinct characteristics which help to identify and to define itself:
1. It is typically sold in an ‘on demand’ model, typically by the minute, the hour or by capacity
2. it is elastic, meaning you can have as much or as little as you want or need at any given time and
3. it can be private or public (shared or not shared)
All of which still means it is basically a billing model… and now, back to Robert:
1. In the spring and autumn, Robert scales up to spend extra time preparing the garden for summer growth or for winter rest
2. Robert is also available on demand and can be scheduled for plantings and transplants, tree removal, or to pop ’round and feed the cat when we go away for a weekend
3. A “shared cloud”, Robert has 15 to 20 customers (whereas before he moved into semi-retirement he was a “private cloud” and took exclusive care of a family estate consisting of three adjacent properties.
Robert also has the knowledge to help me with what to plant, and where, for best results; what to buy and where to buy it; how to solve problems from pests to blight and, most importantly, picks up the approximately six million leaves that fall in my back garden each autumn.
I hope that Robert, my trusty gardener, has simplified this ‘cloud stuff’: the landscape is changing – as it always does – for technology professionals, users, buyers and their executives. There is, as always, an easy three step plan to get it right:
1. Start by documenting your requirements and the desired outcome, not to mention time and budget constraints
2. Collaborate with your vendors and overall supply chain to exploit their knowledge and expertise
3. Plan, plan some more, communicate and apply some rigour and governance to support success (especially since doing otherwise supports failure)
Oh, and, by the way: my cleaners are also in the cloud!
note: I've scaled down in size and in depth of detail to what is, now, I hope, a simple enough analogy that my 83 year old German Father in Law can understand, easily… your comments as always are welcome (the original, slightly more detailed blog entry)
Let's start by saying that I like cloud and have done since well before it was called cloud. Clouds have featured in pretty much every solution I’ve designed in the last decade. These days, however, we have the processing power, capacity and bandwidth to enable smart, utility delivery of the commodity aspects of computing which is, in fact, very cool.
This utility delivery of computing resources – again, also known as cloud – is in many ways the stuff of which dreams
are have the potential to be made… reduced risk, reduced cost and reduced barriers across what has become a much-simplified business to consumer to business loop.
Ultimately cloud enables a new layer of commerce by delivering increased service levels at overall (over time) reduced costs for computing and communications. Cloud also takes a more than half-decent step towards closing the "digital divide" by increasing availability and minimising or eliminating other barriers to entry.
All of which is of course a good thing, few would disagree. And all of which means that everybody: Businesses, Governments, Consumers, should drop everything and embrace the cloud as quickly as possible!
That last bit was sarcasm, by the way, and brings me to my point: beware the Cloud-ists for whom the answer to any question of technology is cloud. Cloud now, at all costs, to replace everything else. It seems that, for some, cloud is so important that truth and reality and risk analysis no longer are!
Awareness is Good, Hype is Bad
Cloud Computing has struck a chord and captured the imagination of the public, business and Government in a way that other attempts at delivering utility model computing, ranging from On Demand to first generation SaaS and other such incarnations never did.
Everywhere you look are analysts blogging and tweeting about it: an unbelievable myriad of real-world experts (some of whom know about that of which they speak, others clearly who do not!) and shed loads of books with Cloud in the title have already been published with hundreds more to come.
And this is good, but it is also bad. An interest in and an understanding of technology is good all round and enough hype and excitement will encourage a few more students to lean in this direction. New business (those that have primarily online presences) can start and scale for tiny investments. As mentioned, barriers are being reduced and eliminated.
The Cloud-ists maintain that private clouds have been a path for vendors to sell more hardware and software but the operational realities of how, physically and why, from a business requirements point of view, that the private cloud is actually delivered need consideration. Sometimes it needs to be separate hardware and sometimes logical separation is sufficient: the differences are subtle but significant. The solution will be based on insights derived from and the commercial realities that are calculated on the actual requirement: does it save money; does it make money; does it solve a problem; does it prevent a problem.
A similar and related misunderstanding that consistently confuses the business / technical relationship (creating more CIO v CTO arguments than could be imagined) is that of virtualisation. From the business view: it is a single blade running multiple instances of a machine so we should pay for a single computer.
The operational and technical reality is that yes, it is a single blade running multiple instances of a machine but each of those virtual machines requires software licenses, needs to be monitored and managed as though it were a separate machine. It may cost less physically but not from a process perspective or other resources involved, including not-inexpensive people.
Safe and Secure… or Not
The answer is again yes, both, but then again, maybe not… unlike the unequivocally positive (and in my opinion mis-informed view of Neelie Kroes, European Commissioner for Digital Agenda) who claims, without qualification, that the cloud “is safe, is secure… like a locker that only you have the key and can put anything you want… and that it will always be there!” It can be safe, if safe is part of what you are paying for or if generally you are lucky. But equipment fails and if you are not paying specifically for a disaster recovery capability you can be pretty certain that you won't be getting a disaster recovery capability. And who is to say that you won’t run across Dirty Disk syndrome (where you can recover data from the sessions of the previous user or, worse yet, they can recover yours?) or other possible issues: we do know that the people who try to hack into systems seem rather clever…
As covered in this CIO Journal discussion, compared with real world, industrial strength managed service hosting solutions, cloud providers don’t negotiate service levels with you: you fill out a form; they don’t provide service managers with 24 hour service desk contact… more often than not the help desk is a web-form or maybe live-chat during core business hours (if you don’t mind waiting until their one-man support department is available).
That this star of the European Union goes on to say that “We are not pleading for a European Cloud, that would be old fashioned" is amazingly misguided, at best. Truth is, from someone who seems otherwise, well, okay, this is poor form.
And why would she bother? Forgetting the fact that government involvement in cloud computing is not a State issue – or at least not beyond data protection and other State-level policies or regulations – how is it that the 'vapour' of a new idea is suddenly so cross-popularised that Government officials have decided to usurp it for themselves. (And if the Government needs to get involved every time there is a significant shift in tech, where then is the Department for the App Store or the Bureau de iPhone?)
Thanks to AWS for Proving my Point
The best summary I can muster will be to thank Amazon for their recent outages (note the use of the plural) to show what can happen with commodity cloud offerings.
But I also say cheers regarding major issues on delivery of an ‘upgrade’ at Royal Bank of Scotland / NatWest (a major UK bank) which also clearly illustrates that problems are possible, whether with “discount services” or with what were, at least until now, considered Industrial-strength systems.
Oh… and beware the Cloud-ists!
Congratulations on a great year, Phil and Team!
"… good reason why the internal IT department cannot ‘knock-out’ application as fast as a nimble start-up"
The rise of the Steath Cloud
One element of the debate was the rise of business initiated cloud computing, which the CIO may never hear about. Something I'm calling the Stealth Cloud
Cloud Computing seems to have struck a chord in a way that ASP, OnDemand, SaaS and all the previous incarnations never have. Every analyst is blogging and tweeting about it, there are a slew of conferences, and a surprising number of books have already been published.
And there is now more than one sort of Cloud. There are Public Clouds and Private Clouds. I propose “Stealth Cloud” should be added to the lexicon. As the name suggests is does its job – quietly, unseen, unnoticed.
So business people are embracing the ideas of Cloud Computing. Why? Because they can see immediate value from the applications and services being offered. And with technology becoming easier to develop there seems to be no limit to what is being provided in the Cloud, all packaged in a very compelling, fun user experience.
Consumers are business people too
So when the individual is provided with these elegant services as a consumer it is inevitable that they bring them to work. With services such as on-line backup, project management, CRM, collaboration and social networking all available through a browser, is it any surprise business users are signing up and ignoring the staid and boring applications provided by the IT department.
Hence the rise of the Stealth Cloud. Services being consumed by business users without the knowledge, permission or support of the CIO and the IT department.
The widening business IT divide
Too much has been talked about the Business IT divide. But unfortunately the Stealth Cloud has driven an even greater rift between business and IT. It is exposing, as far as the business are concerned the lack of flexibility, agility and responsiveness of IT. From IT’s perspective who can see the risks (operational, compliance and integration) of using some of these Cloud services, is simply underlines how cavalier and naïve the business users are.
Corporate systems are costly to build and maintain. They are mission critical and need to support the entire operation. So there is a good reason why the internal IT department cannot ‘knock-out’ application as fast as a nimble start-up. The IT department is spending 80% of its time and effort ‘keeping the lights on’ and the remaining 20% on providing new solutions that are robust, scalable, secure and integrated into the core applications. How many of the ‘new’ Cloud providers are truly enterprise ready?
This article – citing Gartner information, of course – blames privacy, policy and the Euro… I reckon there is a lot more to it and that these issues are not entirely to blame: we have a more pragmatic, ‘look before you leap’ attitude in UK and EU business (I have spent plenty of time embedded in both and have experienced both sides of leading edge)
The reality is that a great deal of ‘leading edge’ enterprise computing lags 1 – 2 years behind the American market (similar but slightly shorter lag exists between the USA and Canada, by the way: 1-2 years behind the US adoption curve).
This is not wrong (or maybe it is, but that is a different argument). More importantly, this IS NOT NEW so why are these ‘pundits’ acting as though they’ve uncovered a hidden truth? If you have access do a quick search within the Gartner info base and chances are high you will find essentially the same article, but perhaps written about SOA or something of that nature which Canada, the UK and the EU all, typically, adopted and adapted after our American counterparts.
I was interviewed on the same subject on TelecomsTV, which can be viewed on my website.
I would have thought it 100% the other way ’round, David: the public cloud is oversold and often the wrong choice
But that it doesn’t have to be that way 😉
As for your statement that “private clouds have indeed been a path for vendors to sell more hardware and software” the operational realities of how physically the private cloud is delivered (yes, physical: it is all on the ground somewhere… nothing is really just off in the ether) belies your statement.
See, it is not always separate hardware. Separation can occur logically… there is a subtle but significant difference and it is all based on, defined from and the commercial realites calculated on the actual requirement.
A similar and related misunderstanding that consistently confuses the business / technical relationship (creating more CIO v CTO arguments than could be imagined) is that of virtualisation…
Business view: it is a single blade running multiple instances of a machine so we should pay for a single computer
Tech reality: yes, it is a single blade running multiple instances of a machine but each of those virtual machines requires software licenses, needs to be monitored and managed as though it were a separate machine. It costs less physically but not from a process perspective
My comment in response to a
This guy speaks at conferences! I would ask for my money back (unless the ticket warned: “Zealots within”)
Simple things that for some reason otherwise-intelligent people seem to constantly forget while preaching cloud:
– legacy system issues include already purchased hardware, systems, licenses, architecture and design, talent, process, etc etc.
— without following through on the original business models the forecast benefits and RoI will never be realised – which if allowed to happen requires calculation into any Cloud cost / savings projections
– as per Dov, existing processes (across both the private and public sectors) require adjustment
– as per my entire 32 year career in solutions architecture and technology planning
— *nothing* ever has been, nor is likely to be, a panacea
— almost everything related to people and change takes longer and delivers less return than was projected
Don’t misunderstand me: he is / they are NOT wrong… but in my opinion based on 32 years in the industry, you are not as correct as you think you are and like many others need to stop the generalisations and pontifications and get on with actual delivery .. which requires listening to needs and situations, making observations and determining requirements rather than picking up a paintbrush and a bucket of beige paint.
Couldn’t help adding this after reading some of other comments on the article:
I forgot one other necessary specific:
Kofi, you can’t really think that all public clouds are magically dispersed, diverse, backed up and accessible within the required SLA and OLA levels for that business to earn as planned.. for dirt cheap prices?
And that the expensive private cloud doesn’t provide any of that luxury and in fact makes that which you have designed..
to meet your needs..
and which is under your control
– you contend that this is more susceptible to what, now?
Are you aware that cloud is a new term for old stuff… and that public v. private is simply a commercial model for the same stuff running on the same tin over the same pipes – – and often even in the same data centres?
If so you might benefit from a simple little blog I wrote called ‘My Gardener is in the Cloud’ and all of the other real world pragmatic discussions I have either written or re-blogged here on this page