New kinds of service providers with the cloud

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The cloud changes everything. Unfortunately, some of the things a shift to cloud computing that aren’t obvious can add significant cost and pain to a cloud strategy if you’re not careful.

The cloud (just to take one example) isn’t just a way to move large relatively monolithic systems from in-house platforms to an out-of-house platform. That doesn’t really make good use of what the cloud can offer.

No, applications need to be rethought. That means the professionals hired in to advise, to design, to do systems integration around cloud initiatives must understand what a cloud target architecture should look like — and integrate or build appropriately to deliver what works best in that kind of world.

Does your service provider, for instance, understand the idea of the cloud as a power source — meaning message passing to indicate work to do, and a growing/shrinking number of instances to service that workload in a highly virtualized environment is the “right” architecture to leverage the cloud’s potential?

This will mean that many packages now in the market will prove unsuitable as the foundation for cloud-based solutions. That consulting firm or systems integration firm will need to understand the internal architecture of your existing portfolio, and what can be purchased that fits the cloud model for a transition. (Major portfolio transitions are once in a decade at best — they should always be used to leap forward into an expected future, and not merely replicate the past.)

Fighting against this, in the typical large firm, is the fact that they have made significant amounts of money implementing the prior generation of software, and are staffed and equipped to continue down that path. That’s not to say that one of the giants who made their fortune in the 1990s and 2000s can’t handle superior cloud approaches in the 2010s, but vetting the individuals involved, and managing the assignment with them to get the results you want, will be a challenge.

(This is as much a governance and architecture problem within IT organizations and enterprises as it is a challenge for vendors. Everyone has a lot to learn — and unlearn.)

It may, therefore, make sense to widen your scope of “acceptable vendors”, to bring in ones whose business is grounded in the cloud.

The cloud is also an excellent time to seriously rethink operational practices.

What should security be? (How do you verify the parts of an ecosystem of virtual components are secure to each other as they come into being and get shut down again with workloads? — that’s not a problem solved by userids and passwords.)

What forms should backup, disaster recovery, business continuity take? How can the business meld private and public cloud resources together (a hybrid solution) to effectively balance control, demand and continuous operation?

Can you get to the same sort of world Facebook is in, where the service runs 24/7/365 and yet is constantly having software changes made to it in real time, rather than needing shutdowns to implement change?

If you are buying cloud infrastructure, does that firm “get” the cloud, or is it just an add-on to a business still fundamentally being run as a traditional outsourcer, a co-location facility or a managed service provider? (Hint: if your service is in any way tied to their hardware, software or staffing requirements such that you can’t withdraw load or add it without taking their depreciation cycles or human resources costs into direct effect, then they don’t get “cloud” services: go elsewhere.)

The essence of the cloud is “pay for what you use”. Licences will change to paying for “when active”. Hardware will be owned but only paid for “when used”. That’s a world the entire IT services community, and the software, hardware and network vendors, will have to make serious business practice adjustments to meet.

And, just like you, they’ll have a whole complement of staff to jump over the hurdles, too.

Oh, and for the rest of the enterprise, here’s a tip. Any “-as-a-service” (or cloud) solution loses its value if it’s riddled with mods. So like it or not, the cloud also means the idea of buying a package and bastardizing it because the business won’t learn to live with it as it comes is also ending.

Given that service providers make the bulk of their profit today servicing that modification cycle, you can see how things are headed.

Time to start getting ready, by figuring out who best can serve your needs in the world that’s racing toward you.

Bruce Stewart Bruce Stewart (112 Posts)

Bruce Stewart is a 39 year veteran of IT management and above. He is an executive advisor serving CIOs and senior executives in areas of governance, strategy, complex architectural transitions, portfolio yield and value generation.


  • DonSheppard

    More very good comments on the transition to cloud-based systems.

    They should be teaching cloud approaches in the schools in order to get the cultural changes moving.

    Almost reminds me of the introduction of ITIL a number of years ago……it takes a long time to make a new technology be “business as usual”.