When Too Much Control Is a Bad Thing

I know, more control is an axiom! But the above statement is more often true. When we're talking about configuration control in the public cloud it can be especially true, as control over the configuration of your application can put control in the hands of someone who knows less about the given platform and thus is more likely to get the configuration wrong. Have I fired you up yet? Then you're going to love (or loathe) my latest report, published today. 

Let's look at the facts. Your base configuration of an application deployed to the cloud is likely a single VM in a single availability zone without load balancing, redundancy, DR, or a performance guarantee. That's why you demand configuration control so you can address these shortcomings. But how well do you know the cloud platform you are using? Is it better to use their autoscaling service (if they have one) or to bring your own virtual load balancers? How many instances of your VM, in which zones, is best for availability? Would it be better to configure your own database cluster or use their database as a service solution? One answer probably isn't correct — mirroring the configuration of the application as deployed in your corporate virtualization environment. Starting to see my point?

Fact is, more configuration control may just be a bad thing.

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Rackspace Starts A Process Microsoft Just Finished

With Satya Nadella now warming the CEO seat at Microsoft, executive recruiters can shift their attention to another cloud leader — Rackspace — who bids adieu to its 14-year leader, Lanham Napier. While both companies are clearly cloud platform leaders chasing the same competitor, the similarities in the top job stop there. Rackspace's needs in a CEO center more around how it tells its story than concerns about its strategy. 

Where Microsoft is struggling to ensure its ongoing relevancy in a world that is shifting away from the desktop and the on-premise enterprise, Rackspace has strong cloud credibility. Its issues are more around the fact that it isn't a cloud pure play, isn't another managed services cloudwasher, isn't an incumbent enterprise IT supplier, and no longer runs OpenStack. So if you're looking for companies to compare it to in order to value its stock, there aren't good comparisons. And if you’re looking for metrics to use to judge its success, the ones being disclosed don't paint a rosy picture. If you want to understand Rackspace, you'll have to really understand the company and why it isn't what it isn't. So let's start there:

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Cloud Computing Predictions for 2014: Cloud Joins the Formal IT Portfolio

In 2013 enterprises got real about cloud computing. In 2014 we will integrate it into our existing IT portfolios - whether IT likes it or not. The moves by DevOps and line of business aren't going to stop and can't be ignored. So 2014 will be the year IT Ops relents, stops fighting and gets with the program formally by developing real strategies for embracing the cloud, managing cloud-based application deployments and empowering the business to keep being agile. As the Age of the Customer arrives, all the focus shifts to the Systems of Engagement and the agility in refining these critical customer tools. Cloud technologies and services represent the fastest way for the business to reach new buyers and breathe new life into aging applications. In 2014 cloud leverage will be both traditional and disruptive as the business and IT put cloud to work.

Below are the top ten cloud actions we predict will happen in enterprise IT environments in 2014. Recommendations for what Forrester clients should do about these changes can be found here. Our predictions are:

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Grading our 2013 Cloud Predictions

At this time 12 months ago, we released our predictions for what changes in the market would be brought about by the maturing of cloud computing. Looking back on the year, we can now see that, while the promise of a maturing market was strong, maturity was by no means uniform and thus our predictions proved to be a mixed bag.

1.     We’ll finally stop saying that everything is going cloud.
Grade: A. While the C-suite might still be preaching this as a long-term vision, we got real about what should and should not go to the cloud given its current maturity and capabilities. The guiding principles of architecture and economic model served as sufficient evidence that many traditional workloads have no business on the public cloud. And we started to see early signs of enterprises recognizing that the private cloud isn’t the new name for virtualization but is indeed a separate environment and not all apps in the data center are destined for this pool.

2.     Cloud and mobile will become one.

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CenturyLink May Finally Have Figured Out the Cloud

After a couple less-than-home-runs in the cloud game, it looks like CenturyLink might just have a real contender. The US midwestern telecommunications leader pulled the trigger on yet another acquisition this morning - Tier 3, a legitimate cloud platform provider. The real question is whether this is the latest in a long string of acquisitions that have failed to hit the mark, or a sign that they finally got it right.

CenturyLink is a Lego company built through a string of acquisitions all bolted together. It rolled up several telecom players to get to its current size and presence in that market. And it has bought now three cloud companies. 

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Cloud computing and highly secure data DO mix

Every client (especially every government client) who says I’ll never use cloud services with highly secure data needs to hear this story. In no more sensitive a place than law enforcement is just such a value proposition playing out.

Police departments in 18 states in the US, and soon Canada, are dramatically increasing the efficiency of commercial use of highways through a disruptive SaaS solution that costs a fraction of the incumbent service and mixes well with their permitting and inspection databases.

If you drive toll roads or bridges you know the value of Drivewyze. In rush hour, you can wait 10-25 minutes to pay your toll with cash or you can sign up for an electronic toll system that lets you breeze past. Drivewyze does the same for commercial trucks and fleets but not at toll booths but weigh stations, that take much longer to get through. And in the trucking business every minute lost at a weigh station can cost thousands of dollars in lost delivery time.  For law enforcement the value is even higher as any time lost inspecting a safe truck is time not spent stopping an unsafe one.

The system works by helping known-good drivers and trucks register with the weigh station wirelessly as they approach it on the highway, get an all-clear, then drive right by. Trucks send their credentials to the weigh stations using any mobile device they happen to have – iPhone, Android, Blackberry. Anything with a cellular connection will do the trick. At the weigh station, they receive the information about the driver over whatever equipment they have – aging PCs and laptops are most common. The system checks each driver and truck against long-standing databases of safety records, expired licenses, past weigh station checks and other information that would indicate an unsafe driving circumstance.

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Are cloud platforms saying goodbye to the hypervisor?

OpenStack, CloudStack, Dell, IBM SoftLayerand othersare pushing a new agenda in cloud computing, one that eschews the hypervisor. Is this the future of cloud platforms or just another feature?

So far the latter seems to be the prevailing trend as the majority of public cloud platforms and private cloud software solutions start with the foundation of server virtualization. The bare metal options are being positioned more for two purposes:

  • Auto-provisioning new nodes ofthe cloud - bare metal installation of the cloud solution and the hypervisor

  • New compute resource types inthe cloud - using new automation capabilities to add a complete physical server to a customer’s cloud tenancy, as if it were just another virtual machine.

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AT&T Turns Its Data Into an Adaptive Intelligence Business

There’s no doubt that, to consumer marketing professionals, data about the users of mobile network are highly valuable. But AT&T is finding that enterprise application designers, corporate security & risk professionals, corporate trainers and CFOs are very interested in this data as well - so much so that the US-based network operator is turning access to and collaboration on its data into a new business service.

Under the guidance of Laura Merling, VP of Ecosystem Development & Platform Services (and formerly of Mashery), AT&T Business Solutions is embarking on an ambitious plan for sharing its data in a secure programmatic fashion leveraging RESTful APIs.  It had previously shared it data in a more informal fashion with selected partners and customers but found this approach difficult to standardize and repeat on a larger scale. It also has participated in data collaboration efforts such as the well-known hackathon with American Airlines at South by Southwest earlier this year.

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Adobe proves that the cloud is good for IT Ops

Adobe Systems is a pioneer and fast mover in the public cloud and in so doing is showing that there is nothing for infrastructure & operations professionals (IT Ops) to fear about this move. Instead, as they put it, the cloud gives their systems administrators (sysadmins) super powers ala RoboCop.

RoboCop 2014This insight was provided by Fergus Hammond, a senior manager in Adobe Cloud Services, in an analyst webinar conducted by Amazon Web Services (AWS) last month.  Hammond (no relation to Forrester VP and principal analyst Jeffrey Hammond) said that Adobe was live on AWS in October 2011, just 8 months after its formal internal decision to use the public cloud platform for its Adobe Creative Cloud. Prior to this there were pockets of AWS experience across various product teams but no coordinated, formal effort as large or strategic as this.

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Where BI Falls Short: Taking A Singular Point Of View

There is a reason the phrase, “beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” has held significance and power in our society for so many generations. And in that phrase is a lesson for all of us about business analysis. The power of different points of view examining a given set of inputs is key to truly understanding what lies before us and seeing the new possibilities and different threats looming.

Sit silently in a museum listening to the patrons take in just a single painting and within a day you will hear a hundred different insights, many of which you didn’t see before. Insights that show you things in that artwork you never would have seen, such as the way greens and reds are mixed to create hues that don’t invoke their origins, the style of brushstrokes used that convey depth and how a pattern viewed up close can be very different than the whole. So much insight doesn’t stem from the painting but from the varied experiences, backgrounds, cultures and histories the observers bring with them. The same is true in data analysis. It’s through different points of view that something can be fully analyzed. Each person brings their varied experiences (their data) to the analysis.

As businesses we tend not to sit silently and take in what others see about ourselves and our data. We tend not to expose our data at all to our partners, trusted third parties or potential collaborators (like our customers) and by not doing so, they cannot combine their data with ours and uncover things we cannot see. As a result, we cannot see the broader picture. And this leads to bad business decisions based on a myopic point of view.

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