One of the most difficult things I am finding in this fractious time of cloud evolution is to define a plan (with any great authority) on absolutely anything strategic.
Today’s fast-moving combination of business demands, architectural thought processes, technology shifts, and the sheer number of options within the vendor ecosystem is changing at such a pace that it is becoming increasingly difficult to pin down and agree a comprehensive plan and I wonder (mainly to myself) whether this “option overload” will actually serve to slow down the rate of enterprise adoption of public cloud services and stoke the fire of accelerated private cloud deployments.
In a recent blog entry, I offered an analysis of the “cloud opportunity” that I believe is somewhat representative of today’s typical large enterprise’s application portfolio. To briefly summarize a key point :
Only a maximum of 7.23% of the total LoB spend for In-House Applications and 9.39% for Commercial Applications is available for the organization to use for re-working today’s portfolio. This is the organization’s “cloud opportunity”
Not only is the percentage staggeringly low in general (meaning that the wingspan available to re-platform for public cloud is very narrow) but when one adds the increasingly complex question of “in which of today’s technologies, services and vendors would I invest my limited available funds ?” then I think there is a huge problem brewing.
This problem, which I will call “not knowing which horse to bet on”, may be significant enough to cause enterprise decision makers to be so uncomfortable with levels of actual or perceived risk that they slowly retract their public facing periscopes and regroup inside the walls of their comfortable fiefdoms to seek out more acceptable (and evidently less confusing) opportunities within their own four metaphorical walls.
Enter the private cloud opportunity. But not as you think you know it.
I will tell you from personal experience that even though building a private cloud is time consuming and often times frustrating, it is far less intrusive and far less expensive at the application portfolio level than the alternative of a wholesale re-platforming exercise. If you build your private cloud correctly (and I am not suggesting I have the authoritative blueprint for such) you will keep “performance, user experience and availability” at the front of your mind. Performance, in this case, is largely attributed to the network you build to support your “internal” and “external” customers. Think like a carrier thinks. Do as a carrier does. Trust me, this will pay dividends.
Virtualizing application servers, hundreds, nay, thousands of them, isn’t massively difficult – it takes guts, yes, but it isn’t difficult. To get really dynamic, you’ll need to add in all the other components (and here goes the gross oversimplification) such as resource management, orchestration, security, automation, application workload management, monitoring, service catalog, etc.) but once you have that, you really have the nucleus of your private cloud, with the same apps but with new delivery options.
But you’re not done – here’s where you realize that you’ve created the basis for something far, far more exciting. Your private cloud provides the focal point from which to make your next move – becoming the real value add to your business by unlocking data and turning it into information.
Data are plain facts. When data are processed, organized, structured or presented in a given context so as to make them useful, they are called Information.
To explain this further, consider those “same old applications” (the ones with the limited scope for fundamentally changing) as “data”, but now that you have them “in one place” (logically, if not physically) and they are sitting proudly on top of your new dynamic delivery platform, wouldn’t you want to consider how to expose that data, irrespective of the monolithic nature of the stack, in a whole new way, so that different views into “information” can be readily delivered ?
You may not be Netflix, you may not be Twitter, but you don’t have to be a consumer service to realize the value of APIs. If you are an organization that is driven by, and dependent upon, getting timely information to stakeholders in your business to aid in decision making processes, then you are already sitting on the golden egg. You already have the data, you just need to plan on how to turn that data into information and well defined, well structured APIs are the key that unlocks the door.
Compared to re-platforming, it’s inexpensive. Hmm. Which CIO wouldn’t like that ?
Mashups, native mobile apps, cross browser mobile apps, rich web apps, lightweight apps and dashboards can all be consumers of APIs. Could you use some of those in your business today ?
So, initially at least, the real enterprise play may not be a physical in nature, from on premise to off premise, but rather one of mindset, from enterprise to consumer, lowering the levels of risk, controlling the cost of change and providing a significant amount of value, quickly and repeatably from within the managed assets of the business.
And yet, there are still people who don’t believe in private cloud. What more can we do ?