I have been writing 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 broke down my experiences into 4 simple categories:
• Been there, done that
• I want to eat dessert before dinner, and,
• Where do I start first?
In the last installment, I talked about the confused and bewildered executive; in this installment, let me talk about the experiences I’ve had with the “Been There, Done That” executive…or, as I like to call them, the “Yes I do, um, I mean no I don’t” kind of executive.
Often when my colleagues or I are talking to customers, it is to those who have already invested significantly in virtualization technology (it’s what we do, after all) of some sort and our purpose is to help them understand what it means to take it to the next level, to raise the bar…to transition to a cloud infrastructure. Many times when we get into these types of conversations and ask if they are thinking of moving to a cloud infrastructure, we are met with knowing smiles and, after a brief pause, this typical answer; “We already do cloud…we’re almost 70% (or 75% or 80% etc.) virtualized.”
The conversation then goes in one of two possible directions: it either ends right there (because the customer has convinced themselves that they have wrung all the value possible out of their systems) and we move to a different topic, or, the customer adds this to the end of their previous answer; “but we’re still not as agile or flexible as we think we should be…” In the first instance, obviously we look to help the customer in any additional ways we can but, in the second, we breathe a sigh of relief and pull up our chairs in anticipation of an interesting conversation.
As I have said before, there is a lot of “cloud” information ricocheting around out there and in many cases it is being pushed around by people who are trying to make money on the hype. Many vendors will use cloud as a way to get in the door, yet their products or services will only faintly resemble anything that could be considered a valid part of a cloud infrastructure. In order to project value, however, they market the products as “value add” to a customer’s existing virtual environment (i.e. WAN acceleration, Firewalls, etc.) which they call “cloud” in order to make the customer feel better and, of course, to make the sale. The bottom line though is that if enough people (who should know) tell you that you have a cloud, well, pretty soon that’s exactly what you think you have.
…a cloud infrastructure is not virtualization…although it is almost impossible to have a cloud infrastructure without virtualization…and the exact same thing can be said for automation, orchestration, management and monitoring as well as resource metering. The fact of the matter is that a cloud infrastructure is not really a “thing” at all but a way of holistically managing an integrated collection of “things” (i.e. virtualization, automation, orchestration, etc.) in the most efficient and effective manner possible. It is the decoupling of the business benefit of the compute asset from the operation of that asset so that each can be optimized individually…and an infrastructure management methodology designed to optimize the entire IT organization. When explained this way it’s very often we see the light bulb go on up above the customer’s head as they get it…as they see what they have been missing. What they thought was a cloud (and vendors supported via their sales efforts) was likely a collection of the component pieces of a cloud but were not integrated nor were any operational processes considered and mitigated so that actual cloud services could be delivered.
I sometimes joke that like a bowl of flour, some salt, sugar, a couple of eggs and water sitting apart on the kitchen counter IS NOT a cake, a bunch of things like virtualization, automation, orchestration, etc. sitting by themselves in a data center IS NOT a cloud…
…unfortunately, many vendors today don’t quite make that distinction.
Next Installment: I want to eat dessert before dinner!
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