Tag: SaaS

PaaS, IaaS and SaaS Providers…Moving Up and Down the Cloud Stack | Gaining Altitude in the Cloud

As the market for cloud services expands, the providers at each level of the stack are realizing various opportunities beyond their core solutions. They are also realizing that scale is absolutely critical for the success of cloud services. As a result, they’re starting to enter each others’ domain. Let’s take a look.

Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) Providers

Large PaaS providers such as Microsoft and Google are moving down the stack to create Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) offerings. This may indicate not only that standalone PaaS is a difficult business to scale but also that IaaS is required to create a broader cloud footprint and higher degree of acceptance, as evidenced by Amazon’s runaway success with AWS. At the current stage of cloud adoption, PaaS may appear to be too futuristic, and many organizations may be unwilling to bet on it for the long term. Therefore, it makes sense for PaaS providers to offer IaaS solutions to their clients.

Most PaaS providers, and their respective platforms – think CloudBees, dotCloud, Salesforce.com’s Force.com and Heroku, Google Apps Engine, IBM SmartCloud Application Services, Iron Foundry Web Fabric, LongJump, Microsoft Windows Azure, Morphlabs, OutSystems, RedHat OpenShift, and VMware CloudFoundry – have preferred programming languages, e.g., .Net for Microsoft Windows Azure, Java for CloudBees, Python for Google Apps, and Ruby for EngineYards. These preferences bind clients to a specific platform offering, as they believe that a PaaS solution typically works best with its preferred or native language. However, to scale their business and appeal to a broader set of application developers, these providers are beginning to widely support multiple programming technologies.

Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) Providers

IaaS providers are desperately claiming agnosticism in running any application on their infrastructure. They believe as their offerings are pure infrastructure, developers are free to choose any programming mechanism and build applications. However, they also realize that the developer community finds value in a PaaS solution as it reduces their burden of handling various time consuming, nitty-gritty application development tasks. Therefore, many IaaS providers are moving up the stack and creating PaaS solutions on top of their infrastructure offerings, in partnership with leading cloud platform providers such as Iron Foundry or LongJump.

Indeed, many cloud infrastructure players are also partnering with cloud database companies and calling themselves PaaS providers. They are unable to decide whether they truly want to embrace the cloud or just rehash their existing offerings and cloud-wash them with marketing buzz. Regardless, their attempts are to at least make some noise around IaaS, SaaS, and PaaS and position themselves as “integrated” cloud providers.

Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) Providers

Large SaaS providers, such as Salesforce.com and NetSuite, have created their own versions of PaaS, and Workday partnered with Force.com to offer customers a platform on which to customize its solution. These moves not only allow extension of these companies’ basic offerings and integration with other applications; they are smart strategies to convert clients to their platforms. Therefore, these PaaS solutions end up being the “relationship builder” between a technology provider and the client.

Clearly, IaaS providers are realizing that cloud infrastructure is a low-profit, commoditized business and that they must move up the value chain. PaaS providers understand that they need to scale their offerings and that may require them to enter the IaaS market either organically or through partnerships. And SaaS players are already creating PaaS solutions to provide value added services.

The reality is…not all cloud service providers will be able to endure, and many will get consolidated or go belly up. The survivors, who aspire to be big, will be those that offer services across different cloud layers, either through in-house offerings or partnerships.

Enterprise Cloud: Is Corporate IT Finally Getting Serious? | Gaining Altitude in the Cloud

One of the better indicators that corporate IT groups are starting to get serious about cloud is their growing interest in solutions that help them aggregate and manage multiple cloud services. Some call these solutions cloud services brokerage and management, and others term them cloud orchestration. While the market hasn’t yet converged on a common set of capabilities or definition, the broad category typically includes the following:

  • Service catalogs – “App Store”- like models that provide users access to internal IaaS and PaaS services and in some cases third-party SaaS apps and infrastructure services as well
  • Service provisioning – capabilities that support end-user requests, provisioning, and deployment of cloud services
  • Service integration – data integration services across multiple cloud services, including “cloud-to-cloud” and “cloud-to-ground” models
  • Chargeback and billing – consumption-based metering and billing of cloud services to internal users, including private services and aggregation of public cloud services spend
  • Service management – monitoring and management across multiple cloud services, including performance, capacity planning, workload management, and identity management
  • Sourcing – contracting and sourcing of cloud services across multiple platforms and providers

These solutions are being offered by a wide variety of players, including not only traditional enterprise systems management vendors – which in some cases are just repackaging SOA offerings – but also global systems integrators (SIs) and focused startups.

What’s important about this phenomenon?

First, corporate IT’s interest in these capabilities is, in a way, an implicit acknowledgement that:

  • Cloud services will be adopted in scale across enterprises
  • Multiple large scale services will need to be orchestrated and managed
  • Orchestrating these services will be hard and will require external third party solutions

This is a far different conversation than corporate IT was having a year ago at this time, which was primarily around what pilot or proof of concept to launch.

Second, interest in cloud orchestration is being “pulled” by corporate IT, rather than “pushed” by the business. A premise we recently heard is that business’ role in driving adoption of cloud is no different than it was in the packaged software era. Packaged software required servers, storage, and networks, all of which required IT management and support. This provided IT with long-term job security and the opportunity to “empire build.” As a result, corporate IT aggressively supported packaged software rollouts and implementations.

The difference in the cloud era is corporate IT’s attitude. To date, it largely perceived the cloud as a threat. But now, IT is discovering it can potentially regain a measure of relevance and control by adopting a service provider mindset, and service catalogs / chargeback models combined with private and public cloud services.

Is corporate IT finally finding a path to building its empire in the cloud? Are you or your IT group considering, or embarking upon, a cloud orchestration initiative? What thoughts and experiences do you have to share with your peers?

Is Budget Leakage Sinking Corporate IT’s Boat? Enterprise Cloud Adoption Update | Gaining Altitude in the Cloud

A lot has changed in the short six months since our initial blog on on the emerging enterprise cloud adoption paths. Recent discussions with cloud infrastructure service providers clearly show that  CIOs and corporate IT seem to be interested in talking about cloud, and RFP flow is definitely increasing, but we’re not seeing conversion to contracts and revenue. One statement by a leading cloud service provider was particularly interesting:

“The cloud RFPs we’re seeing from enterprise IT are really strange, and poorly thought out. It’s like they’re just going through the process to get someone off their back…”

At the same time, there does appear to be an acceleration of enteprise spend on cloud, including SaaS, PaaS, and IaaS.

So what gives?

While there are a number of factors in play, we’re finding the biggest one is the role of the business user, and how cloud is eroding the monopoly corporate IT has traditonally had over information technology, services, and even infrastructure. People tend to forget that developer teams are frequently embedded in business units and deparments. They have budget approval limits, but typically high enough that they can spin up dev / test environments on Amazon AWS, for example, with no flags being raised. They no longer have to go to corporate IT to get a server provisioned, or a test environment setup. This is IT budget now flowing through the business, though through technical and not business resources.

As a result, IT is under significant pressure as it sees its budget dollars being threatened. It hasn’t fully figured out the implications of cloud for its IT organization, but can’t appear to be a roadblock to the business. What we see, although not in every enterprise IT organization, is a pretty substantial increase in tire-kicking, pilots and “RFPs” to give the illusion of  progress.

Based on an additional set of conversations, analyses, and insights from recent client work, we’ve updated our enterprise cloud adoption framework to more strongly reflect the business buying dynamic. This new framework is defined by two major dimensions:

  • Change Agent – is the primary driver of cloud adoption led by business or IT?
  • Adoption Approach – is the organization looking at how cloud and next generation platforms could fundamentally transform its business or IT environment? Or is it looking at more tactical, incremental opportunities being presented by cloud applications, platforms, or infrastructure?

Based on these factors, here’s our new framework and overview of the different ways we’re seeing enterprises migrating to the cloud:

Enterprise Cloud Adoption Paths

Enterprise Cloud Adoption Paths

A quick note on the different models:

Innovators

By far the most common enterprise adoption model we’re seeing is driven predominantly by business users implementing cloud solutions for new business capabilities, improved agility, flexibility, or reach. This adoption is coming in several flavors:

  • SaaS – in the majority of cases, business users are directly deploying SaaS business or collaboration apps at the individual, departmental, or business unit level.
  • PaaS / IaaS – for deploying new custom apps, or in some cases replatforming existing apps, developers with reporting lines into the business are deploying cloud with limited involvement from corporate IT.

Adoption is largely driven by individuals, departments, or functions around and outside of IT (even in the case of IaaS and PaaS). Business users want to innovate, recognize they can do it themselves, and feel empowered to do so.

Opportunists

The next most common model is corporate IT driving cloud adoption, albeit for specific, focused use cases. The goal is not broad transformation for “how IT does business,” but targeted adoption to prove the model, or to demonstrate improvements in efficiency and cost. Some of the most frequent use cases include:

  • Test / dev environments (under IT control)
  • Corporate and marketing websites
  • Backup and archival
  • Email and collaboration
  • Virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI)

The private cloud is still the preferred model for corporate enterprise IT, with most CIOs looking to play it safe with known enterprise vendors like IBM, VMware, or VCE. Note that the 20 percent in the Cloud Adoption Paths graphic above does not refer to the percentage of enterprise IT organizations that are pursuing cloud, but rather the number of companies in which cloud adoption is being driven predominantly by an “IT opportunist” model.

Modernizers

While they are the exception, a few enterprises’ CIOs are using next generation IT platforms to drive wide-scale modernization and transformation of their environments. These CIOs are viewing private, public, and hybrid cloud models as vehicles for fundamentally changing their infrastructure strategy, and are actively seeking to get their organizations out of the data center business. Although  rare, two of the more interesting examples we’ve recently seen include:

  • State Street – Chris Perretta, CIO at State Street, is seeking to drive $600 million in cost reduction by 2014 by leveraging private clouds to streamline application development. State Street historically has relied heavily on internally developed, custom software, with app dev representing 20-25 percent of the total IT budget. Through standardizing on common, private cloud developments platforms (based on x86-based public cloud models) and encouraging code sharing and reuse, State Street believes it can reduce test times by 30 percent, and the overall amount of code written by 30-40 percent. As with other examples we’re starting to see, standardization and simplification is being leveraged to drive significant improvements in process and cost efficiencies.
  • CP Rail – finding itself unable to keep pace with user demands, CP Rail launched a broad, multi-year infrastructure transformation initiative to dramatically reduce cycle times and costs, while still supporting increasing volumes. It has already developed a global hybrid cloud dev/test network across operations in Canada, India, and Singapore, which relies heavily on AWS. Interestingly, CP Rail places as much emphasis on process (agile development) and organizational transformation as it does on technology. For those interested in more of the details, a great presentation describing the initiative is available here.

Transformers

These are enterprises using cloud and other next generation IT platforms to create new disruptive business models, transformational improvement in growth and profitability, and strategic advantage. The starting point for their discussion is not around cloud technology, but how to use the agility, flexibility, reach, and cost effectiveness of cloud to enable new business strategies. Business executives are typically the emerging change agents. The best example in the public domain is:

  • Netflix – the classic example of a transformer is Netflix, which cannibalized its highly profitable DVD-by-mail model with an online subscription-based streaming model. After concluding it couldn’t build data centers and infrastructure quickly enough to meet user demand, the company famously leveraged AWS to scale its streaming and back-end operations. Netflix has not added data center capacity since 2008, and currently runs all streaming apps, infrastructure and back-end applications in the cloud. Those interested in learning more should check out a great recent presentation from Adrian Cockcroft, Netflix’s Cloud Architect.

While Transformers is the rarest adoption path today, we do believe it will become far more frequent as the market matures, and as cloud changes the competitive dynamic in some industries.

Note that there are still a small (and shrinking) number of enterprises that are still purely in “Observer” mode, and not actively deploying SaaS, Paas, IaaS, or private clouds anywhere across their organizations. We haven’t reflected them in our framework, and struggle to see any enteprises where at minimum there isn’t at least an individual or department using a cloud-based collaboration or productivity app.

Stay tuned, as we’ll soon be posting more here about implications for both enterprises and the cloud service provider community.

A Clear Sign of Maturation: A Third of All ADM Headcount Serving U.S. Companies Is Now in Offshore Locations | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

Just how mature is the offshore market today? Let’s look at overall headcount worldwide serving the Unites States’ ADM requirements as a gauge.

In 2007, approximately 2.2 million IT staff were delivering ADM services to U.S. companies from offshore locations. In 2008, the sub-prime crisis hit and the economy went into a downward spiral. Discretionary spending on fresh custom application development, consulting services, and large transformational IT projects came to a screeching halt. The mantra was one of survival, yet backed by a readiness to accelerate hard when the economy rebounded. While a full bounce-back is arguably yet to happen, 2010 and 2011 witnessed a partial uptick in corporate fortunes in America, and ADM spending picked up again. However, procurement executives were cautious in their approach, and were mandated to make sure no opportunities for further cost reduction were left untapped. Offshore providers’ margins came under attack, and innovative, client-friendly pricing models replaced old ones that buyers simply would have nothing to do with anymore. Since offshore locations offer lower billing rates courtesy of labor arbitrage, many fence sitters on the topic of offshoring quickly became adopters. Clients already offshoring increased their exposures to lower cost destinations like India. As a result, while the overall IT market had almost negligible growth since 2008, the offshore providers kept growing, albeit at a lower rate compared to pre-crisis days.

Composition of Worldwide ADM Resources Serving U.S. Enterprises 2011

In 2011, the headcount serving U.S. ADM scope stood at close to 2.6 million. Just under half (~1.25 million) account for in-house employees of U.S. corporations, and 10 percent of these are actually in offshore shared services centers. Approximately 1.3 million FTEs of third party service providers serve U.S. ADM scope. More than half of these are employed in offshore locations such as India and the Philippines. In 2007, about 45 percent of third party ADM resources were in offshore locations. So there has been a nine percentage point increase in offshoring penetration in third party ADM resources serving the U.S. since 2007. Approximately 850,000 of these FTEs supporting U.S. organizations were in offshore locations in 2011, resulting in an overall offshore penetration of ~33 percent of all headcount serving American companies for ADM scope. I expect offshoring penetration to keep increasing, at least for the time being.

With the advent of cloud computing, software-as-a-service (SaaS) has grown exponentially in prominence. Many argue that SaaS is likely to cannibalize custom application development and commercial off the shelf (COTS) software sales, thereby impacting third party providers’ revenues accruing from ADM services. While this may indeed turn out to be true in cases in which clients need very limited customization, for all other situations, custom development is still the only approach. With SaaS necessitating development of multi-tenant applications on emerging cloud platforms, and wrapping pay-per-use pricing and remote access layer around them, it certainly seems like scope for custom application development will increase, this time conducted in-house by software vendors. We may also end up witnessing a host of independent software vendors shipping their internal development work to offshore destinations.

Net-net, SaaS may be a threat to overall application outsourcing, but it is unlikely to erode offshore headcounts, namely programmers who sit and develop, debug and maintain programs in places like India. If anything, developments such as SaaS, cloud infrastructure, big data, analytics, RIMO and the uncertain economy spell opportunities for offshore destinations.

Note: ADM services in the context of this blog include application development, maintenance, the custom development portion of system integration projects, and testing, validation and assurance services.

Will Platform Wars Freeze the Enterprise IaaS Market? | Gaining Altitude in the Cloud

As we work with our clients to understand the implications of Next Generation IT technologies, it’s clear that large enterprise adoption of public cloud IaaS is progressing more slowly than other types of cloud services (e.g., SaaS, private cloud). When we ask ourselves “why,” we continue to come back to three critical issues:

  • Vision and reality gap – we continue to be impressed with the sophistication that many of our client IT executives have around how private, public and hybrid clouds can be used to fundamentally transform their IT infrastructures. They then talk to vendors and face the disappointing gap between the state of cloud technologies today and their expectations and requirements (legitimate or not).
  • Risk aversion – it’s one thing for a CIO to passively support their VP of Sales as they roll out Salesforce.com.  It’s quite another to own the decision to migrate critical IT workloads out of the data center to public cloud services. While early adopters are clearly out there experimenting with IaaS, don’t expect your typical Fortune 500 CIO to be eager to get on the diving board and jump in until they have to, or they feel it’s safe.
  • Market “noise” – just when CIOs think the drumbeat of vendor provider announcements around public, private and hybrid cloud offerings and standards can’t get any louder, someone dials it up a notch.  The noise (and uncertainty) is now being amplified even further by the emerging battle around enterprise cloud platforms / operating systems like vCloud and Open Stack (more on this later).

Certainly we’re finding that these issues are reflected in enterprise IaaS adoption patterns that are not quite what many in the enterprise CSP vendor community had hoped for at this point. Namely we’re seeing:

  • Enterprises growing cloud usage from the “inside out” – nearly all the activity we see in the enterprise market around cloud and infrastructure today is focused around private cloud pilots or full deployments (hosted or on-prem). Rather than experiment with cloud with public service providers, they’re opting to try the model internally first. Some call it “server-hugging,” others a reactive move to keep IT spend in house, and still others a rational response to the current state of technology and services.
  • Heavy reliance on proprietary enterprise IT vendors – despite their vision, promise and industry support, new open source platforms (and Eucalyptus) have seen limited adoption in enterprise private clouds. While OpenStack has had success with service providers, many CIOs don’t consider it ready for prime-time yet in their data centers. CloudStack has had more success, but enterprise deployments still likely number only in the double digits. Perhaps not surprisingly we see enterprise cloud deployments (private cloud) dominated by VMware and IBM.
  • Selective, incremental migration of targeted use cases – where we do see enterprise IT migrating to public cloud or hybrid infrastructure models is for very targeted or smaller scale, lower risk use cases. Examples include test / dev environments, backup and archival, websites and batch data analytics. IT is dipping their “toe in the water” with public cloud, and not feeling a compelling need to drive widescale transformation – yet.

So where are we headed?

In general, enterprises are obviously not comfortable with the current risk / return profile associated with public IaaS and hybrid cloud models. We believe one of the few levers that would pull both components of this ratio would be a cloud management platform that would enable true workload portability / interoperability and policy enforcement across private, public and hybrid models. Not surprisingly, competing enterprise cloud vendor platforms, standards and ecosystems are emerging around VMware, Open Stack and Amazon (and to a limited extent Microsoft) to address this market gap. Several major announcements over the past several weeks that have served both to partially clarify and muddy this evolving landscape at the same time include:

  • The Amazon / Eucalyptus announcement around extended  API compatibility for hybrid clouds
  • The Citrix announcement that they will be breaking away from Open Stack and open sourcing CloudStack to the Apache Software Foundation
  • HP’s announcement of the Converged Cloud portfolio of public, private and hybrid cloud offerings based on a “hardened” version of OpenStack and KVM.

Most major enterprise IT vendors are still hedging their bets and publicly keeping feet in multiple camps. With the marketing engines in overdrive it’s difficult to understand what commitments vendors are really at the end of the day making to the different platforms. In fact it’s quite instructive to take a look at who’s putting their money where their mouths are when it comes to open source efforts like Open Stack, not just in terms of sponsorship fees but also developer contributions.

Historically IT platform markets end up with a dominant leader and one to two credible challengers that end up with 2/3 to 3/4 of the market, with the remainder shared among niche players. When we take a look at the enterprise cloud operating system or management platform market, we don’t see why it would be any different here, though we’re obviously still a long, long way from the end game.

The critical question in our mind is: Is a cloud platform market shakeout required for enterprise adoption of IaaS to accelerate and hit the tipping point? If so, we could be waiting a long time.

What are your thoughts?

Enterprise Cloud Goes Vertical | Gaining Altitude in the Cloud

Most enterprise cloud offering conversations to date have focused on the horizontal benefits…flexibility, scalability, auto scaling, cost savings, reliability, security, self provisioning, etc.

Advantageous as these are, CIOs are increasingly interested in learning more about cloud benefits that are specific to the industry in which their organizations operate. For example, latency requirements, failover mechanism and data encryption are important to a CIO in the financial industry. A healthcare industry IT executive will be interested in hearing more about mobility and data archiving. How the cloud can improve supply chain or logistics is important for a CIO in manufacturing industry. And a media industry IT executive, quite aware of the various platforms being used to access content, will want to hear more about Content Delivery Networks (CDN) supported by the cloud.

A growing number of enterprise cloud providers are beginning to understand this interest in vertical cloud benefits. While their focus has been on “SaaS-i-fying” their offerings to meet unique, industry-specific application requirements, the trend will continue towards “PaaS-i-fying” and even “IaaS-i-fying” their offerings.

Let’s take a quick look at some of today’s verticalized enterprise cloud offerings.

IBM’s Federal Community Cloud is dynamic and scalable to meet government organizations’ consolidation policies as mandated by the Obama administration’s CIO. It is in the process of obtaining FedRAMP certification to meet Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA) compliance standards, a requirement for government IT contractors, and will be operated and maintained in accordance with federal security guidelines.

Savvis provides customized IaaS solutions that cater to the financial industry. Growth in this vertical has been led by providing infrastructure services – such as proximity hosting and low latency networks – which support electronic trading. Savvis has added six new trading venues and an international market data provider. Its customers can now cross-connect, or have network access, to over 59 exchanges, Electronic Communication Networks (ECNs), and market data providers. For example, it hosts Barclays Capital’s dark liquidity crossing network, LX, which aggregates its global client bases’ market structure investments.

Infosys took advantage of Microsoft Azure PaaS platform and its SQL Data Services (SDS) to provide automotive dealers with cloud-based solutions to go from a point-to-point dealer connection for inventory management to a hub-based approach. In this solution, an inventory database for all dealers is hosted at a dedicated instance of SDSin the cloud. It provides middle tier code and business logic to integrate data between participating parties and a web-based interface for dealer employees wanting to check inventory at other dealerships.

Amazon Web Services (AWS) has cloud solutions that cater to the media industry’s needs for transcoding, analytics, rendering, and digital asset management. It developed a CDN, based on CloudFront™, which provides the streaming from edge nodes strategically located throughout the United States for a robust streaming experience.

AWS’ Gov Cloud™ provides a cloud computing platform that meets the federal security compliances FISMA, PCI, DCC and ISO 27001. The Department of State and its prime contractor, MetroStar Systems, built an online video contest platform to encourage discussion and participation around cultural topics, and to promote membership in its ExchangesConnect network. The contest drew participants from more than 160 countries and took advantage of AWS for scalability. AWS hosts websites for many federal agencies such as the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board (recovery.gov) and the U.S. Department of Treasury (treasury.gov). AWS provides multiple failover locations within the United States, a provision which meets the security requirement that only people physically located within the United States have access the data.

Game hosting companies are running their games in the cloud for faster delivery and scalability. And AWS’ S3 platform provides the storage capacities for gaming companies such as Zynga and Playfish.

GNAX’s healthcare cloud specifically caters to the healthcare industry and understands the nuances of HIPPA. It provides a private cloud solution to healthcare companies that scales up and down depending on patient volume.

Of course, there are both pros and cons to adopting vertical-specific cloud offerings.

Pros:

  • Customized solutions based on industry regulations
  • Immediate creation of competitive advantage

Cons:

  • Vendor lock-in
  • Proprietary workloads may not be migrated

These issues can be mitigated through a careful sourcing methodology, now being provided through cloud agents who negotiate the contracts with multiple vendors as per the needs of the client organization.

As illustrated above, there are significant benefits to be gained from industry-specific cloud solutions, and I predict we’ll see an increasing number of them emerging in the near-term.

Don’t Fret the Cloud “Name Game” | Gaining Altitude in the Cloud

There’s a lot of noise in the industry today about whether or not infrastructure appliances, engineered systems, datacenter-in-a-box, and other similar solutions can be labeled “cloud.”

The basis for this debate is rooted in assertions that the public cloud model, or more aptly Amazon’s, is the only cloud model. There’s no doubt that Amazon is the poster child for the cloud industry, and was around when the cloud buzz was making inroads; and therefore subsequent “definitions” of cloud have become inspired by Amazon’s delivery model. Moreover, the idealistic pursuit of converting IT into a pure utility, as well as addressing overarching pain points of enterprise IT, are also driving some of the arguments. But does doing so restrict the benefits an enterprise can derive from cloud principles?

Private cloud providers make their business case based on security, lower total cost of ownership (TCO), manageability, tight integration, and some other “public cloud-like” benefits. But while they do not always possess the scalability, payment options, and other aspects of public cloud services, is it fair to limit the cloud ecosystem to a particular definition, and term other solutions “cloud washing”? Similarly, various SaaS providers that believe they are the “true cloud application providers” have defined the criteria for a “true SaaS application”, in turn expecting other cloud applications to satisfy their self-anointed criteria to become a SaaS provider. Does this add value to cloud discussions?

Unfortunately, the public cloud provider-driven “definition debates” – that revolve around the pay-per-use aspect of public cloud vis-à-vis a minimum capacity commitment required in a private cloud, the virtually infinite capacity of infrastructure public cloud vis-à-vis requirements to buy “infrastructure boxes” that impact the scalability and flexibility in a private cloud, the minimum capex in public infrastructure cloud vis-à-vis expensive hardware procurement in a private cloud, etc., are doing more harm than good. In retaliation, private cloud providers have also started poking holes into public cloud providers’ security, financial stability, commitment, quality of service delivery, and other seemingly relevant aspects. These assertions are also futile.

The fact is, the name or definition assigned to a given cloud-type solution is moot. The real issue is whether the customer sees value in and gains benefit from a cloud offering. Does it improve IT management? Does it save money? Does it improve IT delivery? Does it help the business become more agile?

Failing to take this client-centric view and instead utilizing the prescriptive, self-created definitions of cloud services can significantly inhibit cloud uptake and the potential benefits from its usage. Just because a cloud solution does not satisfy an “industry definition” should not prevent an enterprise buyer from evaluating it, as long as it offers cloud-related benefits and serves the intended purpose.

Our discussions with a wide range of enterprises show a growing propensity to embrace the hybrid cloud model. And our recent research, in which we analyzed the cost of operations under various infrastructure set-ups such as legacy, virtualized, private cloud, and hybrid cloud), found that the hybrid cloud model is definitely more cost effective and flexible as compared to other cloud models.

But, a word of caution: buyers must differentiate between a silo collection of different private and public cloud solutions and a hybrid cloud. A true hybrid implies the coordinated orchestration of private and public cloud to manage workloads.

So, where should buyers begin? Move beyond the futile “name game” and evaluate serious private and public cloud offerings to create a hybrid cloud environment that can transform their IT organization.

Self-Service and the ATM | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

Many of today’s shared services organizations like the idea of moving to a self-service environment as it assists them in achieving cost savings and headcount reduction targets. However, when they begin mentioning the term self-service outside the shared services sanctum,  the business lines they support often puts up their hands and say, ”Oh, no you don’t! Don’t take away my generalists! We already have enough work to do; why are you pushing your work back on us?” So, how can shared services organizations overcome this resistance?

Consider likening self-service to use of Automated Teller Machines (ATMs). When the ATM was first introduced, the banking die-hards would have none of it. Not go into the bank? Never! Drive or walk up to a machine to get cash? Bah! But when was the last time you drove to your bank, got out of your car, went into the branch, wrote out a check to ”Cash,” and gave it to the bank clerk? Last week? Last month? Last year? A decade ago? Never?

Now think about the convenience of the self-service aspect of an ATM. You can access it whenever and wherever you want to fit your needs. Yes, you have to swipe your card, enter your pin, select the type of transaction you want to perform, etc. But in the end, performing the transaction is simpler, more accurate, and more timely for you.

Self-service in a shared services environment is very similar. Take the HR function. As a manager, think about how much easier it would be to access a system and directly enter in employee performance information, compensation changes, performance ratings, and position changes. Rather than taking the time to type an email, send it to HR, have HR enter it, validate it in the system, and send a note back to HR to fix any errors, you enter the information once. This is much simpler, increases accuracy, and reduces your expended time.

The same goes for employees. How much nicer would it be if you could enter and maintain your personal information directly in the system, rather than manually filling out pages and pages of personal information and submitting it to HR, only to have it entered into the system incorrectly? And, think about the convenience of being able to access your health benefits information after hours if you’re unable to call a service center representative during the day?

So how can you ensure adoption of self-service solutions within your organization? First, consider Gen Y’s expectations, given the changes in workplace demographics. This younger generation of workers, having never lived in a world without the Internet simply expects organizations to be self-service-enabled. Their world of texting and e-mails makes self-service solutions very natural for them. They use social networking more and the phone less. They expect to be able to connect to the tools they need, anywhere and anytime. They expect to have the flexibility to work from home either part-time or full-time. They expect – and in some cases demand – full time 24/7 connectivity and self-service solutions. And in fact, not having this connectivity can actually hurt morale and reduce productivity.

That said, organizations typically have a broad cross-section of age and demographics, making change management critical when implementing these types of solutions. It’s very likely the older generation will need more change management than the younger, although they are becoming more comfortable with self-service solutions as the years wear on (just like the ATM). As an example of effective and innovative change management, one Fortune 500 organization instituted a program wherein younger employees were paired with older ones for training on and assistance with online and self-service solutions. This reduced the demand on HR training resources, decreased training costs, and sped up the change process.

Providing self-service tools and solutions can to create a win-win for an organization. For example, self-service solutions are typically SaaS solutions and can be far cheaper than staffing a call center around the clock, saving precious cash. If the solution is implemented thoughtfully and carefully, the online tools can enable employees to very effectively perform their duties from anywhere and at any time, allowing them to achiever a better work/life balance via increased flexibility, which easily translates into increased morale and productivity. And, if the change management is handled effectively, managers and employees will adopt the tools and never look back, just like we did with the ATM.

Cloud: The Network Itch | Gaining Altitude in the Cloud

During the past several weeks, Everest Group’s ITO team has had multiple debates about the various levers that govern the cloud services industry. The growing consensus has been that service orientations, *aaS (BPaaS, SaaS, PaaS and IaaS), are the strength levers with which the cloud service providers will play. So, for example, a Rackspace (IaaS) will host a Salesforce.com (SaaS) on a Microsoft Azure (PaaS) platform, completing the cloud landscape. Just one glance across the *aaS firmament and the stories appear similar. The cloud portrait seemed complete and nailed to the wall for posterity.

However, a statement by Steve Caniano, VP of AT&T Hosting and Cloud Services – “What is key for us is the ability to leverage the cloud as part of a network service experience – without a network you don’t have a cloud” – took our debates in another direction.

“Without a network you don’t have a cloud”

While the services side of the cloud has dazzled the industry, the infrastructure side – consisting of data centers and network – has seemed dreary. After all, network and storage are considered hygiene requirements for the cloud infrastructure. They also appear to have been relegated to commodities, as both the network and storage markets have experienced intense competitive and pricing pressures. Our feeling is that saying there cannot be a cloud without a network is akin to taunting a Ferrari owner that his or her sports wonder car is no good without Michelin tires. True, the owner may have a momentary nightmare of the beaming red Ferrari’s chassis lying flat on the ground. But it isn’t a real worry, as Bridgestone, Goodyear, and other tire brands are also options. So, can I pat myself on my back and say I nailed this “cloud without a network” debate with this repartee and sign off on this blog?

A growing tribe of telecom firms thinks otherwise. Verizon, CenturyLink and AT&T have all recently made big investments in cloud – acquisitions of Terremark and Savvis are still fresh, and AT&T has put up a US$1 billion corpus fund for its cloud initiative. Additionally, the cloud-focused consolidation happening in the telecom industry has coincided with the growing activity in the cloud services industry. The next generation of networks (4G and 5G) have enticed many new cloud initiatives. Apple’s iCloud is an example.

In the debate that ensued within my team on this topic, a colleague reminded that the whole concept of cloud comes from telecommunications, and that public telephony was the first cloud ever. With this legacy in mind, can we assume that control over network and bandwidths will help telecom companies define the rules of the cloud?

Taking this debate external, is network:

  • Just a part of the cloud (and the real money lies with systems integration and advisory)?
  • An enabler of the cloud?
  • The cloud itself?

We’d love to hear your thoughts on this.

If Governments Can, Why Can’t You? | Gaining Altitude in the Cloud

All around the world, governments are increasingly stepping up to the Cloud.

Early last week, the U.S. government’s General Services Administration (GSA) issued a solicitation for cloud-based email, office automation, and records services, in a contract estimated to be worth up to US$2.5 billion over five years. The GSA expects savings of nearly 45 percent from this move.

By the end of this year, the government CIO’s commitment to a “Cloud First” policy is expected to result in closures of up to 137 data centers across the United States. While this is only about 6 percent of the government’s 2,000+ data centers, it’s a great start given the extent of change required.

Across the Atlantic, there are plans to consolidate the U.K. government’s 8,000 data centers into a dozen centers on an internal G-Cloud. The government also recently released an alpha version of a consolidated government portal (alpha.gov.uk) hosted on Amazon’s cloud platform, that aims to centralize access to all government services.

In China, there are plans to build a cloud computing center the “size of a city” within the Heibei province, to primarily serve government departments.

These moves by governments around the globe represent, for perhaps the first time in recent memory, path-breaking leadership in technology transformation. Change is never an easy subject, especially within the public sphere. Yet the extent of potential benefits from a move to the Cloud is making governments take notice and make the plunge.

Private enterprises stand to learn a variety of lessons from these public sector Cloud moves:

a. They set the lead for large private enterprises

The Cloud is already at the forefront of CIO priorities for 2011. However, many enterprises hesitate to take large technological plunges given the extent of change required from legacy environments. Questions often emerge as to whether Cloud strategies are better suited for small-to-medium environments, and for new next generation initiatives. Enterprises also question how the change can be managed across so many different business units with disparate platforms. 

The scale of attempted governmental transformation should put such questions to rest. If an entity with over a thousand departments and an US$80 billion IT budget (a.k.a. the US government) can make the shift, why can’t you?

b. They indicate greater tolerance towards risk and security challenges

As recent discussions on this blog indicate, security and compliance concerns constitute two of the biggest impediments to transition to the Cloud. Yet, with risk sensitive departments such as Defense, Homeland Security and the NSA making the move, it’s clear the public sector’s concerns on these risks have been largely alleviated.

As the head of the U.S. Cyber Command General Keith Alexander recently testified in a House sub-committee hearing“…moving the programs and the data that users need away from the thousands of desktops we now use —each of which has to be individually secured… to a centralized configuration that will give us wider availability of applications and data combined with tighter control over accesses and vulnerabilities and more timely mitigation of the latter…Indeed, no system that human beings use can be made immune to abuse — but we are convinced the controls and tools that will be built into the cloud will ensure that people cannot see any data beyond what they need for their jobs and will be swiftly identified if they make unauthorized attempts…”

c. They herald greater maturity in the supplier ecosystem

Google and Microsoft have sparred publicly over the last few months over the (alleged) respective lack of FISMA certification on Cloud services offered to U.S. government agencies. As the war for public sector Cloud prospects heats up, so will functionality and service provider maturity. For example, Google Apps for Government now includes specialized security functionality: data location and segregation of government data, necessary to ensure greater security and compliance.

In addition, as The Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program  (FedRAMP) mechanisms are established later this year to enable government-wide certifications and authorization, more Cloud vendors will step up to meet the bar.

d. They indicate need for concerted CIO-level leadership

Since 2009, when Cloud computing was identified as a Federal IT priority, the U.S. government’s CIO has unveiled a wide range of initiatives: establishing standard definitions;  defining Cloud value propositions; launching Cloud store fronts; establishing the “Cloud First” strategy as a keystone of IT strategy; setting clear decision frameworks and timelines; and establishing new Cloud standards. Clearly, Federal Cloud initiatives are leading change across a diverse government organization, much of which has been driven by the CIO’s determined efforts to push through change, despite naysayers and challenges.

Governments’ migration to the Cloud represents a monumental effort in technology change in a large and complex organization. As private enterprises navigate to the Cloud, they have much to learn from the public sector’s lead.

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