I’ve participated in cloud events in four different countries over the past two weeks. Attendees were primarily senior and mid-level IT decision-makers seeking guidance and best practices for implementing private clouds within their organizations. Regardless of the country of origin, industry focus or level of cloud-related experience, one common theme stood out above all others during both formal and informal discussions – the importance of effective communication.
The key takeaway – don’t get dogmatic about terminology. In fact, when it comes to cloud-related initiatives, choose your words carefully and be prepared for the reaction you’re likely to get.
‘Cloud computing’ as a term remains over-hyped, over-used, and still often poorly understood – because of this, typical reactions to the term are likely to range from cynicism and doubt to defensiveness and derision and all the way to outright hostility. Ironically, the fact that it’s not a technical term actually creates more confusion in many instances since its meaning is so general as to apply to practically anything (or nothing, depending on your point of view or perhaps your level of cynicism).
At all four events over the past two weeks – and in fact in nearly all discussions of IT priorities I’ve had over the past six months – CIOs and other senior IT decision-makers have consistently made clear that ‘cloud computing’ as a general objective or direction isn’t a top priority per se. However, they are unanimous in their belief that data center transformation is essential to supporting business requirements and expectations.
Last year, my colleague, James Staten, and I published evaluations of the (internal) private cloud and public cloud markets — this year we’re going to fill in the remaining gap in the IaaS space, by publishing a Forrester Wave evaluation on Hosted Private Cloud Solutions. Vendors participating in this report will be evaluated on key criteria, a demo following a mandatory script, and customer references for validation of the solution. Throughout the research process I’ll be providing some updates and interesting findings before it goes live in early Q4 2012.
So, what is hosted private cloud? Like almost every product in the cloud space, there’s a lot of ambiguity about what you’ll be getting if you sign on to use a hosted private cloud solution. Today, NIST defines private cloud as:
The cloud infrastructure is provisioned for exclusive use by a single organization comprising multiple consumers (e.g., business units). It may be owned, managed, and operated by the organization, a third party, or some combination of them, and it may exist on or off premises.
Hosted private cloud refers to a variation of this where the solution lives off-premises in a hosted environment while still incorporating NIST's IaaS service definition, particularly where “[t]he consumer does not manage or control the underlying cloud infrastructure but has control over operating systems, storage, and deployed applications.” But there’s a great deal of variation in today’s hosted private cloud arena. Usually solutions differ in the following ways:
During a recent global analyst event in Paris, Capgemini presented its strategy to a panel of market and financial analysts. It hinges on two main objectives: improving the resilience of the organization in an uncertain economic environment — especially in Europe — and finding new levers for margin improvements.
From an operations point of view, Capgemini intends to continue leveraging the usual suspects: industrialization, cost cutting, and accelerating the development of its offshore talent pool. It also aiming to optimize its human resource pool via a pyramid management program aimed at, among other things, allocating the right experience level to the right type of work.
More interestingly, the company showcased some of the global offerings it has put together or refined over the past 12 months. Capgemini’s strategic intent is to develop offerings addressing three major client-relevant themes – customer experience, operational processes, and new business models. The offerings will be enabled by a combination of cloud, mobile, analytics, and social technologies. Among the set of offerings managed globally, I found the following of particular interest due to their emerging nature and Capgemini’s interesting approach to developing them:
Services budgets represent 10% of annual IT operating and capital budgets[i], but Forrester sees considerable evidence that the influence of these IT Services vendors is proportionally higher — and growing dramatically. While there are several reasons for the rising importance of your services partners, at the most fundamental level Forrester sees that:
Business professionals need immediate access to tech-enabled innovation. Most strategic business initiatives now have an underlying technology component. Service providers come to the table with the tech savvy, vertical market expertise, and best practices to make these initiatives work.
IT professionals can’t keep pace with business demand. The volume and complexity of technology demands from business professionals means that traditional IT organizations have difficulty keeping pace. They too need to work with the best mix of IT service providers to meet the demands of their business. Effective supplier management is quickly becoming the most essential skill in IT organizations.
On July 11, 2012, SingTel launched its PowerON Compute cloud service in Hong Kong. While certainly interesting on its own, I believe this announcement is particularly noteworthy as a harbinger of things to come.
Some key points to consider:
As a hybrid offering, PowerON Compute is a dynamic infrastructure services solution hosted in SingTel’s data centers in Singapore, Australia, and now Hong Kong. The computing resources (e.g., CPU, memory, storage) can be accessed either via a public Internet connection or a private secured network.
This announcement confirms the findings of my February 2012 report, “Sizing the Cloud Markets in Asia Pacific”: that market demand for cloud-based computing resources in Asia Pacific (AP) will rapidly shift from infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) to dynamic infrastructure services.
The poorly kept secret that is the Google Nexus 7 tablet was just announced amid much developer applause and excitement. The device is everything it was rumored to be and the specs — something that only developers care about, of course — were impressive, including the 12 core GPU that will make the Nexus 7 a gaming haven. True, it's just another in a long line of tablets, albeit a $199 one that competes directly with Amazon's Kindle Fire and undercuts the secondary market for the iPad.
But as a competitor to the iPad, Nexus 7 isn't worth the digital ink I'm consuming right now.
But Google isn't just selling a device. Instead, the company wants to create a content platform strategy that ties together all of its ragtag content and app experiences into a single customer relationship. Because the power of the platform is the only power that will matter (see my recent post for more information on platform power). It's unfortunate that consumers barely know what Google Play is because it was originally called Android Market, but the shift to the Google Play name a few months back and the debut of a device that is, according to its designers, "made for Google Play," show that Google understands what will matter in the future. Not connections, not devices. But experiences. The newly announced Nexus 7, as a device, is from its inception subservient to the experiences — some of them truly awesome — that Google's Play platform can provide through it.
Earlier this week Dell joined arch-competitor HP in endorsing ARM as a potential platform for scale-out workloads by announcing “Copper,” an ARM-based version of its PowerEdge-C dense server product line. Dell’s announcement and positioning, while a little less high-profile than HP’s February announcement, is intended to serve the same purpose — to enable an ARM ecosystem by providing a platform for exploring ARM workloads and to gain a visible presence in the event that it begins to take off.
Dell’s platform is based on a four-core Marvell ARM V7 SOC implementation, which it claims is somewhat higher performance than the Calxeda part, although drawing more power, at 15W per node (including RAM and local disk). The server uses the PowerEdge-C form factor of 12 vertically mounted server modules in a 3U enclosure, each with four server nodes on them for a total of 48 servers/192 cores in a 3U enclosure. In a departure from other PowerEdge-C products, the Copper server has integrated L2 network connectivity spanning all servers, so that the unit will be able to serve as a low-cost test bed for clustered applications without external switches.
Dell is offering this server to selected customers, not as a GA product, along with open source versions of the LAMP stack, Crowbar, and Hadoop. Currently Cannonical is supplying Ubuntu for ARM servers, and Dell is actively working with other partners. Dell expects to see OpenStack available for demos in May, and there is an active Fedora project underway as well.
Just three months after SAP acquired SuccessFactors, a cloud leader for human capital management solutions, for $3.4 billion, it has now announced the acquisition of Ariba, a cloud leader for eProcurement solutions, for another $4.3 billion. Now, $7.7 billion is a lot of money to spend in a short amount of time on two companies that hardly make any profit. But it’s all for the cloud, which means it’s for the future business opportunity in cloud computing services. So far, so good; SAP has invested and acquired quite a number of cloud companies over the past years: Frictionless, Clear Standards, Crossgate, etc. The difference in this most recent acquisition is the big overlap with existing solutions and internal R&D.
Following the first wave of cloud acquisitions, SAP was sitting amid a zoo of cloud solutions, all based on different platforms: ePurchasing, CRM-OnDemand, BI-OnDemand, Carbon Impact, ByDesign, Streamwork . . . They all used very different technology, resulting in big integration and scale challenges behind the scenes. The market welcomed with open arms SAP’s announcement 1.5 years ago that it would consolidate its cloud strategy on the new NetWeaver platform for both ABAP- and Java-based cloud solutions.
Through a combination of analyst briefings and customer events, Cisco has ramped up outbound communication and marketing of its collaboration strategy in Asia Pacific over the past several months. The foundation remains video (TelePresence), webconferencing (WebEx), and IP telephony, areas where Cisco is a leader. But Cisco understands that to drive growth and expand its customer footprint within enterprise accounts, it must move further up the stack and increasingly compete with both traditional collaboration vendors like Microsoft and IBM and cloud-based alternatives like Google and salesforce.com.
While the strategy still plays to the company’s core networking strength, I question whether Cisco can position itself as a “go-to” vendor in the traditional collaboration space. As our research shows, senior IT and business decision-makers in Asia Pacific don’t currently equate Cisco with collaboration.
To address this challenge, Cisco is pursuing multiple initiatives/approaches:
Leveraging its core strengths. Cisco is focused on expanding from existing unified communications (UC) initiatives within customer accounts by leveraging the combination of networking and video to drive value. Cisco is pushing “control” via intelligent networking capabilities (e.g., security, identity management, authentication, access), all delivered through Cisco networking hardware. Simultaneously, Cisco is pushing “flexibility” via device- and platform-independent collaboration capabilities like content, video, instant messaging, and social computing.
Sound familiar? Executives across the globe feel peer and competitive pressure to “get to yes” on private cloud. This burden falls on IT to provide a cloud solution — oh, and by the way, we need it by the end of the year. With this clock ticking, it’s hard to think about private cloud strategically. In fact, why not to just cloudwash your virtual environment and buy your team time? Many enterprises (yes, even those presenting at events) have gone down this road. And some vendors will suggest this as a short-term fix. DON’T DO IT.
You’re cutting yourself short on what you could achieve with this environment while losing credibility with the business and your peers. Sound overdramatic? The consumerization of IT is forcing IT to connect with the business or risk circumvention. For many, the existing relationship isn't great. And each future interaction could either improve or worsen that relationship. Promising the business a cloud delivered within your own data center, and then failing to provide basic functionality of a cloud will just make future initiatives and interactions even harder. In the meantime, the business will continue to circumvent your department. If you're going to invest the resources/time to build this environment and rope in rogue cloud users — make sure you get to cloud.