My name is Trevor Williamson, and I am a new Director (Solution Architecture) at GreenPages. I have been asked to write a little about what I have been doing over the last year or so. The reason why I was asked to write, other than my obvious technological brilliance, grammatical eloquence and innate humility, is that while technically I am a new employee, I actually worked for GreenPages a little over a year ago, and I have just now returned to a more senior role in the company. Back then I was a Solution Architect based in New York City working with large enterprise customers on virtualization and datacenter optimization projects. I was the guy who helped the client figure out the best solution (technology, tools and professional services) that helped them to best solve their business issues.
Over the last year or so (I was working for CA Technologies as a Services Architect) I spent a lot of time A) getting to understand the management, monitoring, automation and orchestration aspect of the dynamic datacenter/cloud infrastructure world, and B) talking to a fair number of CIOs, CTOs and their Directors about the cloud and how they saw it, what they understood it to be and how they thought it would help them (or hurt them in some cases).
In this post I’m not going to go into the technologies at CA that I worked with (fantastic as they were) nor the specific services that were offered (again, great stuff) but, instead, will talk a little about my experiences talking to senior management at some of the largest financial, insurance and banking companies about cloud infrastructures and what they thought about the whole space. I can break down my experiences into 4 simple categories:
- Been there, done that
- I want dessert before dinner, and,
- Where do I start first?
I will describe these categories here briefly then, over the next few blog posts, describe each in more detail and the strategies that I found were best for helping those organizations.
In many cases when I started talking about cloud technologies and infrastructures (I won’t go into any long explanation of what I mean by cloud here, suffice it to look up the common definition at http://www.nist.gov/itl/cloud/) I was met with glazed over eyes and deer-in-the-headlights stares. Not because they hadn’t heard of it before, but because they heard too much of it…too many definitions, too many buzz words...so it was all just white noise. This is the problem when vendors see a new “paradigm” in which to hitch their sales wagons to; they all jump on the bandwagon and start singing the praises of something they know little about (hey, we all got to sell something, right?).
Been There, Done That
In other cases, I was met with steely stares of exasperation because what I was talking about was what the client imagined they were already doing. They had large virtual environments, and they used sophisticated management and monitoring toolsets to help them understand what was going on inside their datacenters. The problem was, from where I sat, none of these tools or environments were integrated or used for optimization of the datacenter holistically. They were doing parts of cloud computing but often it was in different places and at different times. There was rarely a unified view across the environment and even more rarely was there sufficient automation/orchestration in place to make any discernible productivity difference.
I Want to Eat Dessert Before Dinner
The executives I talked to that were the most interesting, by far, were the ones that wanted the result of having a well architected cloud infrastructure…but wanted it now…and had little patience waiting for all the hard, down and dirty work required to get there. They were great at the vision but were kind of light on the execution and were likely the ones who jumped right in and bought loads of technology without ever really thinking about what, exactly, they needed. Vendors love these guys (I imagine their contact info trades like illicit drugs on the “sales lead” black market).
Where Do I Start?
The organizations that understood the benefits…and the costs…of transitioning from a traditional datacenter model to a cloud infrastructure model, no matter how small at first, were the ones that I like working with best. While I didn’t have to spend much time upfront explaining “the cloud” per se, I did spend a lot of time going through the many steps (and sub-steps) necessary for an organization to be able to efficiently and effectively manage and consume cloud computing services. These were the executives whose vision was upheld by a robust strategy geared toward execution but flexible enough when that execution ran into difficulties. These were the guys who understood that transitioning to a cloud infrastructure is indeed a journey and that there are many paths that can be taken…but only a few that will lead to the destination.
Let’s talk about those deer in the headlights…