Isn’t is fascinating how creative our industry is? There are so many definitions and interpretations of a single term that everybody can be anything nowadays. I picked the cloud broker term as an example.
Sure there are definitions out there, e.g. by NIST. But as with cloud computing definitions themselves companies tend to create there own definitions. Sometimes because they have a different view or sometimes to jump on a trend by using the same name. The result though is the same:
WE CREATE CONFUSION ON THE CUSTOMER SIDE
So what can a Cloud Broker be?
- It can be an Cloud Automation Tool, e.g. T-Systems Cloud Broker or Dell Cloud Manager
- It can be a Consultant that helps the customer to sort out cloud offers, e.g. Cloud Sherpas
- A local software that helps to manage clouds, quite undefined and I do lack a good example
Especially the latter category proves to be worng labeling rather than a helpful approach. The terminology we use creates expectations. And we should strive to fulfill these or at least clarify them right from the start.
One of the expectations that comes with the term Cloud Broker is a vendor agnostic approach, at least for me. A Broker must support different cloud providers and not favor one over the other but rather choose the best solution for any requirement. This brings us to the next critical area. Can a cloud broker be a reseller or should it be an independent platform? The opinions on this are a broadly distributed. I believe from a customer perspective a truly vendor agnostic approach means no reselling but I have also seen customer wanting both.
This brings me to a closure of today’s post. As a customer ask and ask until you are really sure what is in it beyond the label. As a provider try to be precise. I do know that sometimes even the established labels are kind of confusing, think iPaaS. Only communications can help.
One of the famous statements of Henry Ford is “If I’d asked customers what they wanted, they would have said ‘a faster horse’.” Why is this statement relevant for a cloud computing discussion? Quite simply this is because today cloud services for enterprises are sold as the faster horse rather than the creator of new opportunities.
Where the T-Model was not new in a sense that there have been cars before, the key invention is not mass production (that is an enabler) but the way to address new target customers and new scenarios. If it would just have been the transport of a single person from A to B horses and trains would probably have been sufficient. But The T-Model addressed new scenarios as well. Put a belt on the axle of a T-Model and you can operate machines which is a business benefit especially in the agricultural scene. Here the horse could just not compete.
So is cloud computing now a faster horse or a Model T? Actually it is a bid of both. Much like the T-Model improves cost and transportation load, cloud computing surely reduces cost and improves performance. But if you sell it just on that, you sell it short. Cloud Computing is so much more and the one who is able to identify and much more important tell this story to his customers will be successful. It is all about the business benefits.
Imagine that your story is not about making the price per mailbox cheaper but enabling scenarios of mobile collaboration, of event management with reduced effort of enabling a better parental break process and much more important a highly improved integration of mothers (and fathers) coming back to business after a break.
One of the effects is that the decision power moves – from IT to business departments – from IT to end users. You think that is overrated? I do not and my best prove is the widespread use of iPhones and iPads as supported IT devices. No and that is a 100% no. Still even enterprises that stick to Windows XP do have these devices in the range of supported IT equipment. Business departments will need flexible access to development platforms, sandbox system environments, etc. The challenge for IT is that they are not willing anymore to order these internally, wait for provisioning and so. The same happens in the collaboration space but let’s look at that specifically from another perspective.
Many, especially in Germany, perceive cloud computing as risky not to say too risky. But not to participate in cloud computing is a risk in itself as well. Imagine that you do not offer comparable services. What will happen if someone needs to share a file with a customer, colleague, partner but mail does not work due to the file size; a collaboration platform like e.g. SharePoint is not available or not accessible from outside of the company. The solution to the user is to utilize a consumer cloud service like Dropbox. You may forbid your users to do so but it will happen nonetheless. The business need is there. Another example is voice and video. Your internal system does not offer any UC or requires a separate telephone dial in for voice? Your user will jump to e.g. Google+ Hangouts. The crux with these systems is that they are completely outside of your control, contractual, security wise and from a content ownership perspective.
The answer is you need to find the right mix. This also opens a huge can of worms with regards to management and control of the multitude of services. To manage a more complex environment calls for new services which create a layer to ease up this management for customers. A look at these services will follow in one of the next blog posts. Stay tuned.
I woke up soaked in sweat due to a scream. It has been an unpleasant hot and humid night here in London. The scream itself was no surprise as my apartment not only did not have any air conditioning but also was in a part of the city where family violence was not uncommon. I often wondered whether living in the belt with some green around me and a more pleasant neighborhood would be worth the daily commute into London. But I despised the idea to sit in a metal tube with hundreds of other sweating commuters especially on a hot summer day. So I lived in London and used either cabs or my bike for transport.
Being half awake after a night with bad sleep on a morning that gives no fresh air or cold breeze is a feeling I hate. Rather that turning on the light I stood up in the dark and walked to my bathroom to the sound of creaking floorboards. Entering the bathroom was a relief as it was the only halfway cool room. Honestly, I would have slept there if possible. Only the size of exactly a toilet and a small shower stopped me.
After a hot and cold shower due to the water supply system not because I chose so, I stood in the small kitchen and drank some water from the fridge. I had no clue what was on the agenda today but that is the reason I do spend my money on technology rather than better accommodation. I started my jTab, the newest and latest tablet and fully cloud integrated. I am relying heavily on cloud based devices which is another advantage of living in the city. There is always a connection, WiFi, LTE or 4G. No need for local storage or computing power. I have really welcomed the cloud when it appeared on the sky as much as I would welcome any cloud on today’s sky that would shed some shadow or even bring some cooling rain. But to my surprise I was not able to get any connection this morning. I even tried my Smartphone, no wireless network available. Hmm, never mind, it probably is some local glitch. So I start my calendar app and checked my meetings for the day. The day starts with a meeting at the airport. Actually it is at the old airport, the one called Heathrow, which is only used by privately owned jets nowadays. Back in the beginning of the century it once was one of the biggest airports in the world but also a constant nuisance. Luckily, they kept the old Heathrow Express system in place so I only need to get down to Paddington Station get a ticket and jump on the train. Usually I would have booked the ticket online but hey, I am flexible.
Grabbing my bag I left my apartment and made my way down the old stairway to the street. I was hoping to grab a cab and thought my chances were quite good this early in the morning on a hot day. Surprisingly there were plenty of people in the street and only very few cabs. While I made my way in the direction of the inner city on foot, I was able to grab bits and pieces of communications. There was an elderly lady on the way to the doctor but couldn’t get a cab as they refused to transport any passengers not paying in cash. Then there was the mother close to panic, not being able to pull cash from an ATM. I later figured out that no ATM worked anymore in all of London. I had some 200 Euro in cash. Even so the UK moved to the Euro in 2020, I am still not used to it. Finally after having walked two blocks I was able to hail a cab and made my way to the station.
But there was a big surprise waiting for me there. Rather than the usual 35 Euros the cabbie asked for 120 Euros. With some discussion we finally settled for 75 Euros mainly due to me threatening him to stay in the cab all day preventing him from ripping off other customers. He raced off and I was standing at curbside wondering what really had just happened. Slowly I made my way into the station and stepped to one of the ticket machines. It was no surprise that there were no queues, everybody got their tickets online these days. The reason today though was that all ticket machines were down with an out-of-order message on the screen. So what now? I pulled my smartphone from the bag and tried to open the railway app. But even though I was deep in the city center by now, I still had no connection at all. From the postures and faces of the people in the station I figured that it was not a problem I had exclusively.
When they moved the ticket sales more or less completely online, they also got rid of the ticket booths manned by real humans, save for one. In front of this one booth there was queue now that came close to one hundred folks trying to get tickets for all kinds of public transport, not only the Heathrow Express. In fact only a minority would be going my direction. So what could I do now? Without any way to get to Heathrow, it would be a save bet that a trip by cab would cost more than what I had in cash; I took a look at the next item on my agenda. There were no meetings that really required my presence and so I decided to call it a day in hope of the return of the cloud on the next day.
Giving the fact that I was in the city already I decided to stay there and grab some lunch. I had not realized that the whole trip and the confusion had taken more time than expected and so I actually was hungry and the clock turned to midday. I had a small favorite restaurant called Levantine around the corner from Paddington Station but that had closed years ago. So I started to wander around on the lookout for a nice place to eat. The change in the city was obvious. Where usually there is a constant stream of locals as well as tourists and there were huge crowds in the morning, the city now appeared to be empty. It felt as if someone had pulled the plug and all the people just disappeared. It seemed that the combination of the humid summer heat and the lack of cloud, making it impossible to work, to commute and to communicate drove the people inwards. This combined with the immanent issue that only cash worked as a payment method obviously resulted in people staying at home.
It was also impossible to get any consistent news since TV and radio networks were transferred to cloud based delivery forms some years ago as well. Only the military and some freaks still had and operated radios. Maybe these freaks were just prepared? On a second thought about being prepared I directed my steps to a place where I knew a supermarket would be. I was wondering whether people already started to fill up their stock of water and food. But nobody was to be seen. When I came closer to the supermarket I was able to read the sign: “Closed until the internet connection could be restored”. Thinking about it, while I walked into a park looking for some trees to give shadow, I realized that in the past years most systems were designed to be connected directly to the cloud and more or less dependent on it. While in the beginning of century there were many systems that would work on their own, nowadays, no connection means no functionality. Also I do remember the old days when I was working for a global software company in one of their German offices. When the office was disconnected due to some technical glitch, me and my colleagues just went home and worked from there. At that time we were the lucky ones and ahead of the curve. By now home office work, virtual workplaces and full flexibility are the norm. But this norm just went away, at least for London. I have no idea whether this issue is geographically restricted or actually is happening country-wide.
I still needed some lunch, giving the fact that my fridge at home hold more cold air than anything substantial to eat. Grabbing some canned food on the way would also be a nice thing. So I started to walk into the direction of my home. By now only very few cabs were still on the street. Probably the majority of them ran out of gas when the tank stations closed or the drivers ran out of cash. I neglected the idea to stop one and ask for a ride home. I had no illusion that the little cash left would not suffice. So I continued walking. On leaving the inner city and getting into the suburbs one thing was evident. In the communities with a majority of citizens with a foreign heritage the impact was less visible than in the city itself. Life to some degree went on. I sat down in a Turkish restaurant and got some, very nice, food. While enjoying the food and not to forget my cold drink, I watched what happened around me. One of my first observations was that it seemed that much more cash was available and changing hands here. Secondly people seemed to help each other. What a difference to the area I lived in. You could be lucky if the neighbor called the ambulance when you were dying on her doorstep. I started to wonder whether we all had become too technology dependent. What would a Face+ friend help once all of the cloud disappeared? I started to envy the strong community in this neighborhood. Before that feeling got to strong I paid, a price that seemed to be the same as the day before, and started walking again. At a small shop an Indian sold me some bottles of water and some canned ravioli.
I kept on walking and was soaked through the second time this day. It was getting closer to dawn now and the more I got closer to my place the more the streets were deserted. I was still believing that this was due to the heat and that I lived in a save neighborhood until I heard the first car window shatter. A group of teenagers was working its way from car to car, breaking windows and taking out any valuables. I was wondering why they operated in such a calm manner until I realized that the chances of someone alarming the police were quite low. Nobody had any landlines any more, not that these have been any good in London anyhow. And the police probably ran out of gas like anybody else. I doubt that the police had a cash reserve for days like today as part of an emergency program. Staying in the shadows and trying not to be seen I slowly made further progress towards home. By now I was sweating not due to the heat but to a growing feeling of fear.
Only two blocks to go and this was the moment when I remembered what happened in 2011 when there were riots in the streets of London. Breaking into the cars is just the beginning and with shock I registered that in the block I lived in there were a bank and a supermarket. What if people started to attack these with Molotov cocktails and the resulting fire is spreading to my home. Not a pleasant thought but I got me back on focus and I was pressing on towards home. The closer I got the more audible became the siren from the supermarket. There were already about 20-30 people looting the supermarket. Unnoticed I slipped into the hallway and started to make my way up the stairs.
When I was close before reaching my level there was a loud thunder from below that shook the house and I started to fall down the stairs …
… I woke up soaked in sweat due to a thunder. It has been an unpleasant hot and humid night here in London. Luckily there was the beginning of a nice rain out there, that would hopefully cool down the city. I kept lying for a few minutes and thought about the strange dream I just had. It felt so real that I started to shiver. I forced myself not to jump up and check the smartphone. I just kept thinking about what would really happen without the cloud. I am highly convinced we would manage somehow. At least we would cope with it much better as if there would be no energy anymore. With this thought I turned around to put on the light on my nightstand. Due to the thunderstorm outside the only visibility I had, was when lightning stroke. I flicked the switch on the lamp and nothing happened, there seemed to be no energy anymore …
A lot of discussion has been going on about the announcements on data protection by Viviane Redding (data protection reform proposal and “EU-US COOPERATION ON DATA PROTECTION: TOWARDS A NEW GOLD STANDARD”) and the announcement of Neelie Kroes on the so-called “European Cloud Partnership”.
I have seen comments in blogs and media articles covering a broad range from protecting European service providers to imposing fines on companies to get some money in. Very few comments have been in favor of the suggested changes. This might be no surprise but there seems to be one common denominator. Changes are needed. The current setup lacks clarity and creates FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt). The one thing that created a lot of confusion was the call for the European Cloud Partnership.
The message received (wrongly, I might add)
I had a lot of discussions with cloud experts as well as legal experts over the course of the past months. One thing that seemed quite dominant in all the discussions that the idea to create a European Cloud in an own context “from Europeans for Europeans” does not make much sense. It sounded like the commission did not really get what a global business means and requires. Especially in a world where growth is the only measurement that counts a European only business would mean a significant loss of target market. A company would not be able to have a subsidiary outside of the EU and especially in the U.S.A. Such a provider would not be able to support customers that act outside of the EU themselves. So overall it sounded like a strange idea. But the question is whether the message received matches the message sent?
The message sent
I can only recommend taking the time to listen to Neelie Kroes’ video and to read her announcement.
Mrs. Kroes explicitly states that there is no interest in creating a protective practice through this Partnership program. It is about a completely different topic. It is focused on public sector and the creation of a set of service definitions and procurement rules that enable the public sector in the EU member states to take a step into the cloud. It even mentions the idea that this could be driving factor for harmonization and standardization across member states, which would be a great result if you ask me.
While this effort is very focused it shows that there is willingness to include the industry. Rather than defining standards on their own the commission is inviting the industry to take part and even sponsors the EU cloud partnership program.
What does that mean bottom line?
Most of the reports in the media mix up the announcements. While the several announcements do indeed cover cloud computing either at their core or in the results, it is clear that they need to weighted separately. I do believe actually that the EU has understood that cloud computing cannot be stopped anymore and on the contrary to some data protection officer in Germany they take action to enable participation. While some of e.g. Germany’s data protection officer call all cloud services and especially everything that involves the U.S.A. evil the EU seems to have understood that enabling European businesses and making them stronger includes enabling them to participate.
Already some players prove to be on the right track by complying with not only the Safe Harbor Act but e.g. also the so-called EU Model Clauses. Microsoft as an example fully supports these standard contractual clauses for their Office 365 offering.
The Cloud Computing discussion is transforming. It is going from a technical discussion towards use case and the application of the possibilities enabled by it. I do favor this direction but do want to take a look one level deeper into how cloud computing changes behind the scenes. If you are a regular reader of this blog you do know that I do believe in segmentation as a right and first step towards the cloud. I have even called it the “silver bullet to cloud computing”. But the world is moving on and while segmentation and the usage of hybrid scenarios are absolutely valid the future of the cloud lies beyond that.
The future of the cloud is Mesh Ups
What is a Mesh Up in a cloud context you might ask? Here is my take on it. Where hybrid is separating clearly defined worlds, mesh ups combine different worlds. Where hybrid needs an upfront decision or a turn of a switch to move workloads, mesh ups do this dynamically and without human interaction.
It is about systems environments that combine on premise and cloud computing in an integrated way.
It is about applications that are created to work across these delivery boundaries rather than either or.
It is about enhancing the local capacity with cloud resources in a seamless way when it is needed.
Is this really new? It is not that nobody has yet thought in this direction but the barriers to these integrated and flexible environments have been high so far. You cannot take your on premise application and easily extend it to the cloud. This starts with the languages used through the APIs allowed and ends with questions of portability of applications between these two worlds. As a result the major direction today is hybrid, where applications either run in the cloud or on premise but not in a combined way.
So it will probably a new generation of applications running as mesh ups while only very few old applications will be modified to run as a mesh up. It needs additional efforts on both sides, the cloud computing service provider as well as the application developer. But it will deliver real value. Do you remember one of the most famous cloud computing arguments that you do not need to run a system for 100% of the performance if you use only 60% of for 90% of the time? This was brought forward to explain on demand and why the cloud is adding value. This is even truer in a mesh up environment. Rather than moving all of it to the cloud and losing the investment in the local data center / HW / operations, you can extend this local environment in a seamless way.
Software companies are stepping up to become cloud computing service providers. That is a huge step for most of them. The very next step is now two-fold.
1. Empower developers to build mesh ups by using non-proprietary made programming languages and interfaces.
2. Create new versions of the own software that are mesh up ready out of the box.
Especially the latter point will be interesting to watch. Even if a software vendor does not offer cloud services itself they need to be prepared to answer this challenge.
As always in the IT (and in the world) we will see a great mix of solutions. Mesh Ups will not replace hybrid environments in the same way cloud computing has not replaced on premise computing completely. But be assured that Mesh Ups will get a lot of visibility and will be one of the next hype topics in the cloud computing space.
I do know what readers expect when they read the headline for the first time – another post on either Microsoft or Google claiming to have been the first in the cloud. But let’s face it they have not been the first ones offering or using cloud services by at least 500 years. Yes, the Amerindians (I will stick to Indians from now on) have been there long before. You wonder how? I do believe this picture explains it at a glance:
picture by Frederic Remington
We all do know this from the old Wild West movies. The smoke signals were a communication method giving the Indians a major advantage in the hunt for animals but also later on in the fight against the invaders from the European continent. As we all know this advantage was made trifling for other reasons. Let us look at it from a cloud service perspective.
The smoke signal is a self-service set up without any doubt. Any individual could just start a fire with the wood provided by nature. The cloud device needed on top is a cover to control the flow of smoke. This could either be a sheet, a part of the clothing or with sticks and leafs even something that could be created.
Does it scale? Yes, of course it does. As the density of population was sparse enough so that the nature could provide all of them with means under no risk to burn down whole region it can easily be called a highly scalable service.
It also uses an on demand payment model if you would call the effort needed to set it up a payment. You neither had to carry the wood around with you nor did you need to book it in advance. You invested your time into wood gathering and fire making when you needed it. That is on demand not only in payment (effort) but also in planning (no need to register).
The other component which makes it a cloud service is the level of standardization. The basic setup is highly standardized across tribes. A layer of security is added through, let’s call it encryption. The meaning of smoke signals could only be understood if you were trained in the code being used.
So it is without doubt that this was the very first cloud communication service as it was also real-time.
What did become of this? The importance of communication across distances has not wavered but grown. While the landline telephony still showed some of the cloud characteristics, some were lost. Only in the last few years with VOIP, UC and mobile devices did the cloud approach of the Native American tribes become more apparent again. The freedom to roam without being bound by a cable as well as the integrated self-service approach (if not by individuals then at least by groups of them called enterprises) create a modern-day communications cloud service. Phone usage even in the old landline days has been mainly paid on demand so that is something that had been preserved through all means of communication. When you look at consumer cloud services voice communications still is and will be the backbone even in the future. While the discussions about the new world of work and all the cloud services have pushed UC slightly out of focus it is important to not forget it.
I do know that it seems unsexy in a cloud context sometimes as voice is a highly regulated industry and other areas are easy to target. I do know that things like “legal intercept” might complicate things but just make sure that you integrate voice. Without it, it would just not be complete.
For customers and service providers alike the cloud is a challenge. As a customer you are faced with questions whether you should and where and how to use cloud computing. The customer’s core issue is to find out where to get real help. As a provider you need to ensure that you differentiate yourself from the competition and play your best cards. Bottom line the story is different though, if you have a real service mindset, you ask yourself how to create the biggest value for your customers. And as a matter of fact value usually is not the cheapest price. If you only could get that message across, you would succeed.
It might sound strange now if I proclaim that Consultancy and Systems Integrations are the solution. Isn’t that old IT business while the cloud is all about apps and online orders? True in the consumer world we have seen a change but in the enterprise world other mechanics of doing business do apply.
Let’s have a look at what happens if you as a customer reach out with an inquiry about the cloud.
- Classic Consultancy firm
You get one of two answers. The first one is really that they do not see cloud as a strategic element yet and rather discuss outsourcing strategies, etc. The other answer might be that they create a project for you doing the analysis of the cloud vendors and your needs but, surprise surprise, leave you alone once you need to implement it.
- Cloud Vendor
If you go to Google, guess what the answer is. It is Google Apps. The same applies for SalesForce.com and other cloud vendors. Microsoft has a slight advantage here as they can give you two options (cloud an on premise) rather than one.
But bottom line is, they will try to sell you their products and services. The same by the way applies to software and hardware vendors.
- Classic system integrators
These companies are usually a partner of one of the cloud vendors and that creates a similar behavior. Another flavor is the range of partners that are more or less openly against cloud computing as it takes away their core system integration business.
The biggest downside though is that they cannot deliver the Run portion of Plan-Build-Run whether you go for the cloud or not. So their limitation in the area of delivery, limits the directions their advice might go.
So does this mean you ran out of options? No actually not, there is one category left that could address this business on all levels. The Full Service Providers that combine consulting business with system integration do offer hosting, outsourcing and cloud computing and can really look into what you need to succeed in business.
Someone who is able to walk with you through the whole process from planning to operations is what you need. Offering an advice independent of the delivery choice you take as they can deliver all flavors. Someone, who can not only translate the benefits of the target solution to your business but also can show you a viable way to get there, will finally help you to make the right decision on your way into the cloud.
Are the full service providers there yet to drive this approach? No, they are not. Many do struggle to include public cloud services into the bigger picture and create an offering landscape that includes all options. But the constant nagging by customers, as well as additional efforts by the likes of Microsoft or Google do create a cultural change. The challenge will be to create the consultancy and system integration offerings in a way that they include all options.
The basic question then is to the customer in which way they aim to address the cloud topic.
- Workload specific strategy
Cloud computing being an option in the decisions to be taken workload by workload with the ultimate aim to create a delivery mix that addresses the business needs best.
- Cloud strategy
Trying to introduce cloud computing by combing through all of IT to identify areas that would benefit from the cloud is another approach. This very IT centric approach appears to be only a starting point but not a sustainable approach in the long term. See here for some thoughts about this:
Whichever way you choose the challenge for the provider is the same. You would start with a Cloud Readiness Analysis of your existing environment. This assessment will include an infrastructure assessment as well as some deeper understanding of your IT strategy and plans for the immediate and long term future. Once this has been done you should have a clear understanding about opportunities as well as potential roadblocks. The combined approach of a technical and a consultancy (maybe even business consultancy) view makes clear where the challenges are for potential providers and why classic consultancies and system integrators are not best suited. Only the provider that could create a team that is cross functional and combines the needed skills will be able to meet the customer expectations.
It could be that some might argue that this sounds quite over the top for the workload specific approach but that is only true for a part of the process. A CIO needs to put in the rails which create the boundaries of business department driven cloud computing. As this again calls for a combined knowledge of software development, cloud technologies, business process and organizational “know how”, the approach is the identical.
So where would you turn and which are the few but precious providers that cloud deliver a full scale approach? I will not put forward any names here but my best bet is that they already work for you one way or the other. If not just take a look at the ways the companies address cloud computing. And maybe you want to hire a freelancing consultant who has great market knowledge and can guide you through the process.