Entries in Cloud Computing (6)


IBM v. AWS: Who 'wins' at the Cloud Game?

This morning, I encountered an article by Rob Enderle of CIO.com entitled: Why IBM Will Win the War with Amazon Web Services.

While I don't believe Enderle takes the time to play this out, there's reason for giving this notion some real, serious consideration.  The unstated, but important premise on which Enderle's story depends is: IBM has used the past three years to watch the cloud industry, sees where it's going, and has bought into the 'open technology' aspects of the cloud industry (in a way analogous to the way it embraced TCP/IP-oriented networking and the Linux operating system). 

Having recognized this, my key take-aways are:

  • Premise: IBM's offerings under the SmartCloud Enterprise umbrella have been placeholders and holding actions, which permits IBM to assess the winning technical directions and offerings, assess their maturity, throw significant resources into development and acqisitions, and emerge with a formidable, contemporary and commercially mature set of cloud offerings. 
  • First, IBM has and knows how to establish credibility with those parts of the organization that make technology purchasing decisions.  Few organizations have EVER out-marketed IBM. And, while we've become accustomed to paying the price for IBM's customization and customer-centric support, those aspects of their products DO impact the purchasing and operating decisions of Enterprise and even SMB IT.
  • Second, so long as IBM fields cloud infrastructure and platform that is performant, compliant and adheres to the standards on which the developer and operations communities rely, the battle's outcome is likely to depend most heavily on credibility, positioning, packaging and attendance to the 'customer facing' aspects.

The Unstated Premise.  Unlike CIO.com, I would have made the premise much more concrete and factual: IBM's initial push to respond to the rapid (... ok, the explosive) growth of cloud infrastructure services was a 'holding action.'  It has been, in great measure, a means by which a large (and entrenched) IT company responds to a market demand that AWS has both created and then served so well.  In this regard, I view IBM's recent activities in revising their cloud computing lineup with a perspective quite different from those who interpret these moves as commercial failure (like Nirvanix), customer abandonment (at worst) or perhaps bait-and-switch. Like Ben Kepes in his post on IBM, I note and am more heartily in alignment with Holger Mueller on the SCE announcements.

IBM is now selectively phasing out their initial offers (offered up under the SmartCloud Enterprise moniker), to be replaced by a 'composed' offering that relies on open cloud infrastructure (both CloudStack and OpenStack) delivered by Softlayer; storage solutions that are in lockstep with the maturity of OpenStack object storage as well as older forms more familiar to those with private SAN or NAS appliances; platform services built on Pivotal's Cloud Foundry and a stated reliance on BOSH as a general purpose utility for deployment of complex, composed applications; and… the list goes on.  

IBM's cloud thought leaders are incredibly active in their support of and contribution to open source cloud.  And, it's not just a marketing and sloganeering effort.  There is a real presence by the IBM cloud technology strategists like Angel Diaz at the Cloud Foundry Conference or Mac Devine's Keynote address recently the LinuxCon + CloudOpen conference. (Check here for the post-keynote panel discussion.)

Disparagement and Derision about Marketing and Packaging.  

As I started to read Enderle's article, I wondered at the likely reaction from the Clouderati who are now mostly engaged in word-wars about mindshare between AWS and OpenStack (with Open CloudStack making a guest appearance), the PaaS competitions which have emerged, and the various flavors of "software defined everything."  I tweeted the CIO.com link and predicted that the Cloud commentary would be generally negative, derisive reaction.

I'm now going to ask for Clouderati restraint.  (… and if any of you comment about the oxymoronic nature of that concept, bear with me.)  Before throwing brickbats at IBM or at one another, take a moment to consider:

  • If this article were about ANY other major systems or services provider, would you have made the same comments?
  • In the face of a company that has signed up to embrace open source cloud and enhance it with specific added value options for their EXISTING as well as new customers, would you not have lauded the transition as being true to the open source software credo?
  • When you consider companies that have dominated their sectors of the technology market in the recent past - including IBM, Microsoft, Oracle, BEA, Red Hat - to what degree HAS marketing, positioning and attendance to the purchasing customer and the end-user been a major pillar of their strategy and ultimate commercial success?

Now re-read the Enderle article, and drop me a line (or a tweet at @rhm2k).  



Is Hybrid Cloud a Coping Strategy for 20th Century Vendors

Interesting analysis from the FT subsequent to the release of Gartner's latest Cloud Magic Quadrant:

Companies such as VMware and IBM, having initially turned their noses up at the idea that they needed to build public clouds of their own, are racing to add this as an option. They cling to the hope that “hybrid clouds” are a halfway house that play to their strengths, as customers look to move their IT workloads seamlessly between their own systems and “overflow” networks operated by others.

Much of the money to be made in this new world comes from the software needed to manage the more complex infrastructure. Yet the high ground of cloud management software only has room for a handful of players. Meanwhile, the profit margins in technology markets – in server, networking and storage hardware, and in the software on which these machines depend – face remorseless compression.


Cloud Developers - Different, but not necessarily IT's enemy

The idea that 'cloud developers' are taking their direction primarily from the business unit, and, in so doing, circumventing IT, seems a bit too facile.   That said, Forrester makes a pretty good case for this typification.

My question now is what indicators … what persistent signals … will allow us to identity those organizations, or those business units within the organizations, that most readily adopt cloud computing?   What indicators will allow us to track IT organizations in their varied reactions to cloud computing -- critical evaluation, embrace & adoption, or resistance and dismissal?

Are Cloud Developers Really That Different? Yes. | Forrester Blogs:

To an IT leader a cloud developer can easily look like the enemy. They don't do what you say, they cause havoc by circumventing your IT rules and building new services and capabilities on public cloud platforms and seem to take orders not from you but from the business unit. Are these perceptions reality? Well, according to the 2013 Forrester ForrSights Developer Survey, yes. But they are also some of your most productive, happy and loyal developers too.
The survey shows that less than a quarter of all enterprise developers are using cloud platforms today. Examining the first movers, as self-identified in this survey, we found significant differences in the behavior, attitude and reporting structure of these members of your IT team. Cloud developers are risk takers who are empowered, more comfortable with open source technologies, building the new systems of engagement and tend to be happier in their work. They aren't just experimenting either; they are putting applications into production on the public cloud platforms and are doing so with traditional programming languages via agile, modern application designs. …



Issues Guiding the Cloud in 3 Years Time

David Linthicum writes a bit of 'future history of cloud', identifying three key issues that hold sway in three years.  I buy into two of them.  

I completely agree with his first point: Governance and management, particularly the governance and management of cloud-resident data, will be a driving force, and what cloud promises is the possibility of 'continuous compliance', for at least 80% of the compliance 'debt'.

I agree, for the most part with his third point: Tiered data will be a major focus, though we might think of data and data management to be more about tiered distribution and the optimal placement of authoritative reference data as close to the locus of processing as possible… or the cost-effective use of derivative (meta-data) at the optimal point of processing.  "Tiers" give way to latency zones and the costs (time and money) of reconstituting 'archived' data from object storage built on technologies like erasure encoding.  'It's data tiering, Jim. But not as we know it.'

Where I find it more difficult to agree is with his second point: "Security will be better and more baked in."  David notes in his first sentence that Security will continue to be a concern, despite significant strides. (Check.) Large cloud provides will provide their own features (check.), but third-party security providers will be the 'best' (check.)  Then he states: "Centralized trust" will be the new buzz phrase, and hopefully the standards will be in place to allow for interoperability."  Centralized trust as opposed to distributed and federated trust? Nope.  If I understand his point correctly -- and I'm not positive that I DO -- I would have to go with a different model of trust, individual user or organizational control of access and entitlements to data, and one that relies heavily on an ecosystem of trusted third parties ... identity brokers, security brokers and entitlement brokerages. 


What the cloud will look like in 3 years | Cloud Computing - InfoWorld:

If you could jump forward three years, I believe the changes would be more obvious. Here are the key issues a time traveler from today would notice that those who live through it might not see as clearly.
1. Governance and management will be major focuses
The use of the cloud creates the need to manage hundreds, perhaps thousands of services and APIs. …
2. Security will be better and more baked in
Security will continue to be a concern three years from now, even though there will be significant strides made to improve cloud security. Large cloud providers will provide security features right in their cloud, although in many cases third-party providers will offer the best solution, including those dealing with distributed and federated identity management. "Centralized trust" will be the new buzz phrase, and hopefully the standards will be in place to allow for interoperability.
3. Tiered data will be a major focus
In the tiered-data approach, some data will be on premise, such as those where performance or legal concerns require it be local. …