Is “hybrid cloud” or “private cloud” simply ways of saying that a company isn’t ready to fully embrace the “real” cloud? Cloudscaling co-founder Randy Bias arguesthat cloud computing requires a fundamentally different approach to sourcing and managing infrastructure, a point echoed by Amazon, which questions the very possibility of private cloud computing. There are surely different ways to embrace the cloud, some more advanced than others.
But the real question is whether an organization is culturally ready to embrace the cloud. If so, the necessary infrastructure follows and, importantly, it’s not necessarily always going to look like Amazon. As Mark Thiele writes:
For a legacy IT organization to adopt cloud solutions without significant organizational realignment and improved business participation, the benefits would largely be wasted. It’s akin to thinking you can put a modern 500-horse power engine in a 1970’s economy car and get all the same performance and protection characteristics you would enjoy in a 2012 model year luxury sedan.
In fact, the introduction of cloud without organizational improvements would likely increase enterprise risk and potentially cost. The real opportunity of a cloud operating model comes from the alignment of technical solutions, people, and process.
In other words, cloud isn’t something for IT to hatch in seclusion from the business side of the enterprise. Cloud is, in an ideal world, truly a function of what the business needs.
We’re starting to see this play out in the rise of DevOps, but ultimately the integration of the enterprise across functions will go even deeper. Cloud computing should demolish the walls IT has put up to protect its turf (and sanity). IT will need to work hand-in-hand with the business to build out the right cloud tools for a particular job, whether public, private, or a hybrid of the two.
Andy Jassy, senior vice president of Amazon Web Services (AWS), dismisses the notion of private clouds altogether:
If you look deep into what [private cloud vendors] are offering, you will see that it’s basically an internal data center that is virtualized and has some management tools. Organizations that have private cloud systems will have missed out on all the advantages and benefits of going into the cloud.
But this is easily said by the vendor best-positioned to capitalize on public cloud computing. Amazon doesn’t need to worry about a potpourri of hardware and software choices, built up over years. Bias argues that this is one of the great strengths of AWS and, indeed, of all big web companies like Google and Facebook that have been able to build their clouds from the ground up.
Within the average enterprise, however, years or decades of legacy hardware and software choices must be balanced against the new imperative of the cloud. And so they consider the cloud for resource bursting or carve out a private cloud for new applications. Will they run as efficiently as Amazon? Almost certainly not. But that’s not really the goal, is it?
IT can play an essential role in helping the business to rationalize its existing assets and complement them with cloud resources. I suspect one area that can help bridge the gap between IT and the business is better tools to express what is happening in cloud systems, and what this means for the business.
At Nodeable, we’re trying to build monitoring tools that go beyond mere reporting of what’s happening to express why things are happening, and how these cloud systems impact the business. One of the key reasons for our Twitter-like interface is that we want the system to be approachable to non-technical users. Because, frankly, cloud systems shouldn’t be isolated to IT folks.
The cloud has the potential to democratize IT, and bring the business into the IT conversation. Part of this cultural shift can be complemented by the right tools, tools that don’t drown users in arcane minutiae but instead present insights into how things are working, and why. This is the recipe for cloud success, and it’s something we as an industry are just now starting to figure out.