Software Defined Enterprise: Bridging to the Cloud


Welcome 2014! I hope it is a glorious year in which we all realize our healthy doses of the tremendous change that has been bearing down on us for the last couple of years. What change? You know the line up:  cloud, big data, real-time computing, mobile, etc.  For 2014,with the change, we will also continue to see a fair dose of hype. The hype will go on and possibly increase in volume as vendor providers aggressively click their hockey sticks at the puck of progress.  For this blog, I’d like to get into one topic I feel is getting over-played at the moment; public clouds.

No haters please!  I am not saying public clouds in total are hype, but there is an expansiveness that reads to me as overly eager. Public clouds are a handful of years in the making and there are some great successes to point out “Salesforce”, “iCloud”, “Ariba” are just a few examples of successful business models that have proven the validity of public clouds. These examples have additionally demonstrated adequate stability for businesses in order for companies to consider leveraging this innovation. These are rudimentary steps toward an inevitable shift towards what I call the utilization of IT. Public clouds will continue to increase in importance. The ultimate spoiler was Nicholas Carr when he called out this trend years ago in his book “The Big Switch”.  I also agree this is not a question of “if” but “when” and in what manner. With all this said, I think we’re going too fast. I am seeing an over-rotation to what looks like a “2-minute drill” to drive public clouds into all aspects of IT for mid market and multi-national organizations, ASAP! However, I believe we’re still building the necessary groundwork to make this feasible and I worry about the risks.

One doesn’t have to watch the news for more than a couple of weeks to see a significant cloud outage, or massive breaches in corporate security. As a global industry that is building new cloud disciplines, we are less than a decade into a massive inter-connected world where everyone leaves their digital signature throughout their endless online activities.  Corporations open themselves up to constant attack from malicious opportunists in order to try to keep up with the growing opportunity within this global online economy. This alone is a MASSIVE step forward and we haven’t gotten it right yet. Like a fine wine, our processes and technology have to evolve/mature. We’ve become a society where the gas pedal must stay flat to the floor (and I’m the worst…), but we have trillions of dollars at stake in this evolution. If we have learned from our history (e.g. DotCom, Year 2000 bug) we will remember as IT escalates and speeds beyond our ability to consume the change, we find ourselves sub-optimized and less wealthy from our over-steps.  Ultimately in these scenarios we find ourselves led to a correction of some sort and back to the whiteboard for remediation work. It’s a significant hit to productivity and unnecessary.

Evolution, it takes time…

If we all agree it would be great to avoid another unproductive, over-zealous dive into the future, let me offer a governing function for your consideration. What I see trending in businesses is a smaller, more prudent step that creates less risk, but still delivers profound change that optimizes operations and builds a foundation for better decision-making.

I call it the Option E business model where the “E” stands for everything.  If given a clean choice, I believe corporations will not choose: “Public Clouds”, “Private Clouds”, “Appliances”, “Traditional Data Centers”, but option E… all of the above. Companies will choose to leverage all types of market offerings in order to address their specific needs and strike a balance between value and risk to match their profile. This approach can be aligned with the concept of the “Software Defined Enterprise” (SDE). SDE is the transformational change where functionality is abstracted away from its hardware limits through virtualization. We’ve all tested the waters of virtualization and reaped the benefits. However once you are 100% virtualized and you move into this realm of SDE, it’s like crossing over into OZ. Now things that were manual and slow, can become automated and agile. No longer do you have to wait on a FedEx truck to stand up a replacement server. You can provision automated/on the fly, and disaster recovery becomes a button click. This is all possible because now it is virtual: a software-based world.

What’s important here is SDE is integral in the delivery of all clouds, so you will be leveraging SDE regardless of your plan. The question is will you get the most from it? Are you reworking your processes to exploit it? Have you squeezed out the buffers and slack time that are prevalent in traditional IT processes? That “protective layer of fat” was there to reduce risk, but now it is not needed. Ultimately these efficiencies equate to real dollars and speed to the business.

Ok, so why not just jump to public cloud and wash your hands of it all? Aren’t public clouds the future? Maybe, but there are some good reasons to gauge your plans. I already mentioned there are more risks associated with public clouds than your traditional IT operations. I want to add a few other reasons to consider. A big reason you should pace yourself is cost. Today you are evaluating the “cost” and “speed” of public clouds against your traditional operations. This is an unfair fight. You have potentially $10-$50-$100 million or more of optimization opportunity within your business that can be easily attained.  One of the best examples of this is EMC’s transformation to SAP and ITaaS. The project was called Propel (http://bit.ly/LBARIA), please give it a read.cropped-crayons2.jpg

There are many examples of companies insourcing workloads that previously sat on public clouds, and as a result saved millions in operational costs. Publicly offered clouds are first and foremost convenient, although they rarely stack up against a hybrid SDE model on protection, cost and flexibility.

Finally, some of the public cloud offerings today are a bit like Hotel California: “You can check out anytime you like, but you can never leave….” Today, It can be difficult to divest from a public cloud decision. Companies who have spent little to no time building disciplines and processes around SDE ( service brokering, automation, classification, portability, migration, security, etc) are taking undue risks with their customers’ data and with their corporate viability itself.  We must remember that, although as a global commercial/industrial complex, we are working to reduce the cost and complexity of Information Technology, we have never been more DEPENDENT UPON IT!

In summary, its time to evolve, plan your steps wisely. Look to convert IT from an operations function, to a broker of services leveraging all that is available to you to meet and exceed your constituents’ expectations.  This means developing news skills and new processes. Also it is important, to keep your C’s & V’s from signing quick checks that rob the company of opportunity and take away the CIO’s ability to effect positive change. Build a story about your approach to evolving the business. Taking control of that corporate perspective of clouds is your prime objective. It’s not really about clouds, it’s about providing a service. Don’t let your company give away your competitive advantage in an effort to evolve.  Good luck, and ping me if you want to brainstorm about your company’s plans.

Advertisements

Already Tired of the Cloud?


Mentally I have a multi-tenancy problem. On one shoulder I have a hippie wannabe creative type that bangs on musical instruments, writes, paints, and focuses on the creative process. On the other side, I have a little suit-wearing business analyst. This duality is sometimes maddening. The artist in me wants to poke a stick in my temple when I hear “the cloud” on yet another TV commercial, and the other part of me is excited to be part of the next phase of this technology cycle. Now that I have everyone questioning my mental state… let me provide a diversion and state that duality, diversity, alternating needs are part of what is driving the Cloud movement. So let’s talk about what’s really happening and why everyone is forced to watch those crazy commercials.

“Value of the Cloud Today”
As I describe the value of “Cloud” to companies today, I don’t want to claim authorship on my categorizations. Many have provided inspiration. In an effort to recognize all, I’ll point out Dave Vellante’s iterative work on “Stack Wars” as a good example. He makes many good points about the race to technical dominance among the big vendors today. With that said, I’ll continue on like it’s all my idea. For my discussion purposes, I’ll overly simplify and say we have 4 operative categories of computing today:

1 )Traditional Tech: For this discussion, I am referring to everything from 2009 back, Client Server, Mainframe, etc. Over the years since we first used Hollerith’s Desk to tally the census data around the turn of the 20th century, we have worked to optimize individually owned computing environments and we have spent trillions of dollars on our data centers in primarily a self ownership model. For more info on cost, this blog has some of the details on IT spending ( Information Technology Spending By Country, etherfire, brighthub.com, Published Jul 31, 2010). Because of its dominance, we will not see traditional tech become extinct any time soon, but I do see notable changes in the following 3 categories.

2) Vertical Integration: Henry Ford was a master at Vertical Integration. He owned the rubber tree farm to make his tires, machined his own parts, etc. This is a very traditional model for the beginning of a technology curve (aka automobiles in early 1900’s). Interesting enough some companies are deploying this strategy today in the later, more mature phases in which we are currently. A good example is Oracle’s exa-N product lines. It’s an “all in one box”, single vendor strategy. The focus is specialization and is aimed to increase performance for data analytics and potentially reduce costs from server reduction. There are other examples of “IT appliances” in the market. The company where I work has similar purpose-built appliances. These purpose-built “plug in and go” appliances will continue to gain ground because they are easy to consume, but they need to balance their specialization with their cloud integration capabilities. Why should you care if they connect to the cloud? Because, history proves specialized/isolated assets are more expensive than communal assets. Appliances will likely be “cloud compliant” or they will find themselves as a tangent away from a cloud strategy and obscured from the primary plans of the business.

3) Virtual Integration: This technique leverages the features of Virtualization to blur the lines of proprietary systems into an abstracted layer of logic technology components. With a virtually integrated environment come optimizations for utilization, improved flexibility, notable savings from consolidation and other benefits. Every virtualized environment is not necessarily a “cloud”, but it provides a medium to begin developing systems with cloud attributes. This still requires the individual companies to retain ownership or to bundle managed services as part of their efforts.
4) Hosted Service Levels and/or Functionality: Hosted environments provide a utility type computing environment where the user can consume IT units without a great deal of day-to-day knowledge about what is happening “behind the curtain”. Hosted environments are not the sole domain of the Cloud, but they provide a scaled platform and a financial transactional model to monetize or apply the cloud to IT. In the last decade hosted systems have grown tremendously, albeit not without many customers returning to in-sourced or on-premise systems. These reversals are a mix of growing pains in scaled execution and changing customer requirements. Though I’ll point out change is a function of clouds. Clouds should allow for IT units to “float” between providers.

Within some of these categories you can begin to see optimizations achieved by the abstraction of the physical equipment from the logical functionality and the utilization of service that abstracts the consumer from the technical expertise. Both approaches are optimizing through a function of consolidation. These changes mirror the evolution of electricity production (expertly outlined in “The Big Switch” by Nicholas Carr, a book and topic I plan to cover in a later blog.) These building blocks provide the technical stage for a new business model we call the cloud. Today we have 2 cloud formats “Public Cloud” and “Private Cloud”. A Public Cloud is where a consumer buys the service and uses it paying per use, a monthly or an annual fee. Public Clouds generally imply multi-tenancy. Meaning my stuff is next to your stuff and there is some basic security to protect us from each other.
A Private Cloud provides cloud-like functionality, but is housed in a single instance either owned by the consumer or specifically hosted for that consumer by a 3rd party. Whether a consumer leverages a cloud publicly or in private, there are some basic benefits they are able to leverage:

Utilization – Because your servers for say Exchange 2010 are now virtual, you don’t have to purchase all of them as physical assets, they will co-exist on a large physical server, and this inherently increases utilization as an example.
On-Demand Capabilities

o Performance – Yes VMs do add a bit of overhead, but once again you’re combining strength. Imagine 100 cars on the highway and every car going downhill gives their horsepower to the cars going uphill. This will increase the ratio “performance/dollars spent”.

o Capacity – Similarly, capacity needs fluctuate and virtualization can help level set to an overall optimization of available assets.

Virtual Management– Today Cloud technologies take the fundamentals of virtualization and add management capabilities which are critical to enable the switch to the cloud.

o Separation of duties – ability to define delineation between users and functions. Strong permissions controls, performance controls of the virtual machines, etc.

o Simplification – Example, if you had a box crash 100 miles away, you would have to requisition a new server, wait for it to ship, plug it in, and load it with new software. If that box was a VM, you could send the server configuration like an email to the remote server and enable it with a couple of button clicks. Cloud simplifies, cloud tools provide templates and wizards to increase the utility of the administrator.

Owner to Consumer Switch – With all this new flexibility and simplification, companies can evaluate and execute a more fluid ownership model. Do they own this asset or do they ship it to a partner? Do they allow an integrator to host a developing system and move it back when it’s ready for production, do they own the primary system, but bolt on clouds from 3rd parties? These are options that were non-existent or at least much more difficult to execute just a couple of years ago.

“What’s next?”
Going forward the Cloud will provide greater utilization and flexibility in how we consume IT units. In my discussion, some would say I missed a Cloud category when I mentioned only public and private clouds. That would be “Hybrid Clouds”. I did this because to me this is how the cloud will be applied. “Hybrid” is a mash-up based on the customers financial and risk requirements. For me, the application of cloud will be like a Cloud shopping mall where you have a diverse series of store fronts offering a variety of ownership models and service levels. Figuratively, you may choose to buy a pre-made suit for one need, and the thread and cloth for another. I must assume this will be good for the customer and our collective GDP. My Business Analyst personality likes the options for business going forward, and my hippie side likes the fluffy clouds painted on everyone’s logos these days.