From one of the CIOs that I regularly speak with:
“About five years ago it was multi-core or performance that they spoke about when trying to sell you a server, then we moved to the green message, the performance per watt message, and now it’s cloud, multi nic, multi core and large memory support…”
A rather skeptical viewpoint, but one that remains valid and which raises some issues around not only how we approach the cloud and virtualization message but how we continue the dialogue with our end user community both in the business and technology communities. The focus should remain on end user empowerment, providing the right tools and technologies in order to deliver business benefits, providing insight and examples, concepts that could be used in order to deliver or form parts of a solution.
At the same time we need to see cloud as the opportunity that it is, absolve ourselves of comments around ‘it’s outsourcing online’ or ‘buying in service’ to thinking of it as a vehicle to not only provide infrastructure or services, but as a platform that can create opportunities for revenue generation, opening new markets and users to be the platform that joins the dots, just as the internet has proved to be through email, through community, rich media like youtube, would I have discovered Giles Peterson on Radio 1 if I hadn’t listened to him on the iPlayer if it meant staying up to 3am when his show is on?
Cloud is the next generation, the next concept and re-invention of IT services, products and solutions as IT re-invents itself every decade or less what represents the most significance to me though is the accessibility and the opportunities that we see presenting themselves. Virtualization brought us the possibility of having more servers but using less hardware, grid brought us real opportunities to achieve high performance and low latency compute farms using shared infrastructure and absolutely delivered more with less, the job that might take overnight on one pc might take minutes or hours on the grid. Cloud though is more exciting because it opens opportunities for the Small business, for the one man band, the manufacturer and the enterprise at different levels, and presents for the vendors ways of supplying products or services in a format and at a price that might not have previously been possible – online backup, email as a service, salesforce.com or googlemail, virtual infrastructure from Amazon for example. It’s these things that excite me, that the garage with twelve employees that might have previously had to pay thousands of pounds for the setup and on going maintenance of their IT might instead buy it as a service and level the playing fields between organizations, the social media, the email, the web services, backup and tools that the national dealer might be available to the stand alone dealer, creating both opportunities for the small businesses in agility and business to business services, whilst giving the enterprise the chance to realign their business and IT needs, focusing their time on making their inhouse systems work and buying in the services they need without the associated barriers to entry that exist in the traditional outsourced model.
The startup can now subscribe to an email service from google or using Exchange, have their own web servers virtually from Amazon, have their compute or dev farms and online storage and backup all provided down a wire reducing the start up costs, the barriers to entry real and perceived. We therefore need to be discussing cloud not only as a concept of how you as a vendor are supplying devices cloud ready, or how I as a customer need to get cloud ready, but how cloud works, how it can create opportunities for all, how it works for your business and how to leverage it and take it from an abstract concept, one which means many things to many people, to a concept that works for you and your business.
Last of all it’s important for vendors and service providers (as well as customers) to continue dipping their toes in both worlds, the virtual down-the-wire cloud space, and the legacy world. There are many companies both service providers, enterprises and consumers adopting cloud loving the agility and on demand presence that it gives them, but equally there remain enough of us legacy people with simple and complex problems which need addressed. We need to be adjusting the message, the support and the empowerment we provide to the target market, for that small business talking about their first server (which might just be an up scaled desktop) talking cloud is great, but they aren’t there yet, they might be given the right conditions, given the right set of need for services and solutions, but in the meantime is it a 1u a 2u or a Microserver you need, and do you need a guy to plug it in and set it up. Let us not forget it’s the small start up operating out the garage that could be your next cloud provider, your next Facebook or google, help them with their problems and their opportunities and the rest will follow, removing the barriers to entry, making it just that little bit easier can be the difference between a one of server sale and a partnership leading to years of commitment both in products, services and the cloud solutions you are working on for now and the future…