Back in 1997, Jack Nicholson won the academy award for portraying misanthropic novelist Melvin Udall in the film As Good As It Gets. In it, Melvin suffers from all sorts of elaborate obsessive-compulsive behaviors like avoiding stepping on sidewalk cracks, eating breakfast at the exact same table in the exact same cafe every day, and bringing his own plastic ware to restaurants to avoid germs. As the movie progresses, he is ultimately forced to build relationships, first with a dog, then with his neighbor, and finally with a waitress named Carol with whom he ultimately falls in love (played by Helen Hunt, who also won an academy award that year for her performance). The film culminates with Melvin escorting Carol into a new pastry shop for breakfast and realizing that he had just stepped on a crack in the sidewalk and everything was still fine.
For most businesses I encounter, the allure of "the Cloud" brings with it visions of effortless execution and the promise of never again wasting resources or paying for things you don't need. And while these romantic images are perfectly fine when considering a cloud-related initiative, much like adolescent infatuation, these feelings quickly subside when the "real work" of the relationship begins.
While every "cloud daydreamer" desires the benefits that Cloud supposedly provides, the only organizations that are truly successful in actually REALIZING these benefits are ones that are looking to grow and change their operational and consumption models. The technologies within Cloud serve as inspiration and encouragement to business decision makers in creating new lines of revenue and new ways to go to market. Companies need to approach the cloud like Melvin approached Carol when he quipped, "You make me want to be a better man." At the end of the day, the value gained by Cloud Transformation, Cloud Enablement, Cloud Strategy, or whatever you want to call it is obtained when a business changes the way it OPERATES, not simply how it CONSUMES infrastructure.
Once we properly start from the mindset of enabling a new business process, the next important thing to do is identify which characteristics cloud will truly support a particular initiative. The idea is to maximize usage when there is a real alignment. Will cloud's financial transparency allow you to offer a more competitive pricing structure to your customers? Will the automation and orchestration of the business process dramatically improve time to market for new offerings? Will creative members of your team be able to test and accept/reject ideas at a faster rate to drive innovation? Will you be able to provide differentiated, high quality "follow the sun" service and user experience with geo-distributed applications?
When we identify a process that is ready to be supercharged with cloud, the next step is to identify the cloud provider or providers that best supply the necessary characteristics. It is at this point that many people hyper-focus on the differences each provider (including internal IT) offers. People are looking for the differentiators and trying to decide which gives the best option. But that is not the key to cloud success. The real focus should be on how to provide an experience that is identical no matter where the resources come from.
Think of it this way. "Cloud" can be generalized as being made up of of two parts connected via a layer of APIs, with each part containing 3 elements:
All cloud providers (including internal IT) start with the option to consume this whole stack and these encourages people who are comparing clouds to look at things this way. Which stack is most aligned with my business?
What is important to note, however, is that everything in the top part of the stack is unique to a particular business, whereas everything in the bottom part is completely generic. The business logic that my company runs is different than what yours runs, but a CPU cycle is a CPU cycle is a CPU cycle, and a gigabyte is a gigabyte is a gigabyte. So if you think about it, the ideal situation is where the top part of the cloud stack is always the same, and should be completely aligned to my business no matter where the resources come from. And in a similar fashion, I should be able to consume Compute, Network, and Storage directly from any cloud provider (including internal IT) as my business initiatives, financial models, and workloads dictate. This is how we can really utilize cloud to drive our businesses. We don't have to force every individual business initiative to first select a cloud provider and then change the way they operate in order to reap the benefits that provider gives. Instead, we want to design, own, and control the top part of the stack so that it ALWAYS runs the way our business needs and it makes use of the various providers for the generalized resources it needs. A nice side benefit of this model is that if we become disenchanted with an existing provider for any reason, it is very easy to switch over to one that is more appealing by simply pointing our API layer somewhere else. We can also pull resources from multiple providers at the same time as well as add new providers as we see fit. By decoupling the "business specific" part of the stack from the "generic resources" we can truly realize the benefits that cloud can provide.
Now I work for Dell Technologies, so I certainly have an opinion as to how this top part of the stack is best created (SPOILER ALERT: there's a healthy dose of the VMware vRealize Suite working with software defined compute, network, and storage). But even if you have a different opinion as to the technology to use, the idea remains the same - design, own, and control what needs to be unique for your business and look to consume the generic stuff.
For workloads that will remain on premises, we need to look to move beyond the IT equivalent of Melvin’s “skipping the sidewalk cracks” or “bringing his own plastic ware”. When there are overly elaborate processes in place to handle things that do not provide direct business value, we are holding our businesses back, just like Melvin’s life was held back before his transformation. Converged and hyperconverged technologies allow organizations to avoid a lot of overly complex processes that are NECESSARY but not IMPORTANT by having the vendor perform these task as part of the platform. These are activities like interoperability testing, software and firmware management, performance engineering, etc. These things need to be done, but they are best handled by people whose jobs it is to think about them. At first, this may feel very uncomfortable or even impossible. These complicated processes bring us comfort, especially since we have done them forever. But just like Melvin worked hard to learn that skipping cracks was actually PREVENTING him from living the life he wanted instead of HELPING him, so too can businesses move on from things that “feel good” to things that “do good”.
The more your teams can spend time on top part of the cloud stack (i.e. actual business focused work) the larger the direct impact they will have in bringing the benefits of cloud to your business. And that truly is as good as it gets.
To wrap up... If you are participating in the IPDS Virtual Treasure Hunt - great! We're happy to have you and you're on your way to winning a secret prize valued around $500! If not, then you should be! Read how it works here. On to the riddles...
WEEK 10 RIDDLE:
Reaching stiffly for the sky, I bare my fingers when it's cold. In warmth I wear an emerald glove, and in between I dress in gold.
WEEK 11 RIDDLE:
What has a head, a tail, is brown, and has no legs?
Be sure to keep track of all your riddle answers so you can spell out the name of the prize valued at ~$500 at the end! You can also check with Michelle (firstname.lastname@example.org) to see if you're on the right track.
Missed the first riddle? You can play catch up and find it here.
Missed the second one too? You’re really slacking… but here it is.
Missed all 3? No comment... but here you go.
4 and 5 too? *eye roll*
AND 6 and 7? Come on!
8 and 9? No comment.
Chris Ghiorzi will be presenting at our upcoming IPDS Tech Summit on Thursday, August 17th. If you'd like to attend, click the button below to fill out the Interest Form.
The IPDS Tech Summit is FREE to qualified registrants.
We will be having a silent auction at the IPDS Tech Summit in memory of Allen Thomas, a former IPDS employee who lost his battle with esophageal cancer on April 22nd, 2016.