It's remarkable how the tone at Cloud Connect in Silicon Valley has changed over the years. The conference has turned from cheerleading to nuts and bolts. This means it's less fun, but it's also more grounded in the day-to-day realities of implementing change instead of envisioning utopia. Many presentations focus on real-world use cases and concrete action steps, with a strong focus on hybrid cloud computing.
Stories by Bernard Golden
One of the most heated topics in cloud computing today is the Service Level Agreement (SLA). From the highly charged discussion on the subject, you might expect that the primary factor affecting application availability is the willingness (or unwillingness) of a cloud service provider (CSP) to sign up to a rigorous SLA.
In fact, the application itself is biggest factor affecting application availability. That's what all the furor about cloud SLAs is really about-how available are my applications, because that's what's important to me, and an SLA is a somewhat correlated means to that end. More application outages are caused by what's going on in the application than are ever caused by infrastructure failure-and this is becoming even more true because of the increasingly complex nature of applications.
Gartner made a big splash late last year with its prediction that by 2017 the CMO will spend more on IT than the CIO. Likewise, IDC predicts that what it terms "line of business executives" will control 40 percent of IT spending by 2016.
This generated a lot of discussion, as in this example from Gigaom. Most of the discussion focused on predictable topics: The relationship between CIOs and CMO (not very good), what type of apps CMOs focus on (very interesting, and something I'll address below) and how vendors need to change the way they go to market when selling to a CMO (everyone thinks it will be different, but nobody's sure exactly how).
An endless stream of tweets and blog posts have noted, described andbewailed last week's Amazon Web Services outage. Some people characterised the outage as an indictment of public cloud computing in general. Others, some of whom work at other cloud providers, characterized it as indicative of AWS-specific shortcomings. Still others used the event as an opportunity to outline how users have to be sure to hammer home SLA penalty clauses during contract negotiations, just to ensure protection from outages.
Most of these responses are reflective of bias or the commenter's own agenda and fail to draw the proper lessons from this outage. More crucially, they fail to offer really useful advice or recommendations, preferring to proffer outmoded or alternative solutions that do not provide appropriate risk mitigation strategies appropriate for the new world of IT.
The Uptime Institute, a well-known and -respected organization that focuses on data center best practices and economics, recently released its 2012 Data Center Survey (registration required).
I have seen pieces asserting that future heads of IT will be from disciplines such as marketing or finance, since technology really isn't that important anymore. I've even seen analyses that say that CIOs no longer need to manage technically capable organizations because infrastructure is being offloaded to outsourcers and on-premise applications are being displaced by SaaS applications.
Over the past year, I've noticed a significant shift in my conversations about cloud with senior IT managers.
As I've noted a number of times, cloud computing promises both greater IT agility and reduced costs. No one disputes the agility issue. Compared to traditional resource deployment that can drag on for weeks or months, cloud computing offers the enormous improvement of a timetable measured in minutes.
I was interested in this week's ZDNet piece, Cloud computing's real creative destruction may be the IT workforce. The piece discusses a presentation at last week's Gartner Symposium that posited cloud computing will be a net destructor of IT jobs.
This week I was invited to attend a gathering at Collabworks, an organisation focused on the virtual enterprise. Collabworks believes that the kinds of savings and efficiencies that virtualisation has brought to IT can be brought to entire companies by reorganising workplaces along the lines of what has happened in IT (virtualisation to remove dependencies, focus on service outputs rather than processes, and use of specialized external resources rather than internal employees). As IT only accounts for around three percent of total corporate costs, if Collabworks' theory is right, there's clearly great opportunity for enterprises.
It's no secret that I believe that one aspect of cloud computing is a dramatic drop in the cost of computing. While many discuss cloud computing's cost advantage in terms of better utilization via resource pooling and rapid elasticity, we believe that there is a more fundamental shift going on as data centers are redesigned to focus on scale, efficiency, and a shift to commodity components.
Cloud computing discussions invariably begin with the "IPS" taxonomy: Infrastructure as a Service, Platform as a Service and Software as a Service. This taxonomy has the virtue of being comprehensible and neatly partitioning assessment requirements:
The latest trend (or over-hyped term, if you like) is "consumerisation of IT". As with cloud computing, the term is somewhat ambiguous and is applied to a number of things that are recognizably related, but which differ in details.
Survey after survey note that security is the biggest concern potential users have with respect to public cloud computing. Here, for example, is a survey from April 2010, indicating that 45 percent of respondents felt the risks of cloud computing outweigh its benefits. CA and the Ponemon Institute conducted a survey and found similar concerns. But they also found that deployment had occurred despite these worries. And similar surveys and results continue to be published, indicating the mistrust about security persists.
In his book "Predictably Irrational," Dan Ariely cites a study conducted at an upscale Menlo Park grocery store (speaking of which, how irrational is it that the Kindle version of this book costs $9.99, while the paperback version costs only $9.29 ... but I digress). The two professors published a paper based on the outcome of the study. Its title: Choice is Demotivating.