The Cloud-Powered Business
April 11, 2011 - 9:00 A.M.
Laying down my principles: The 2 commandments of cloud religion
Five years ago, it was unclear to many that what was then known as "on-demand" -- subsequently "software as a service" and eventually "cloud computing" -- would turn out to be as revolutionary a trend in big-company IT as client-server was 15 years earlier.
I made a career bet that "on-demand" would take off, and it was a good one. Today, I talk a lot about delivering business value, innovation, expertise and all that good stuff. But business strategy and success are based on a handful of simple principles I sometimes call "religion." And in this cloud religion, all business decisions, investments and customer advice stem from two simple foundational principles -- two commandments, if you will:
1. You gotta be hosted. Companies today have no reason to be deepening their investments in hardware. Sure, it's a good idea to maximize usage of your existing data centers and servers through aggressive adoption of virtualization and even perhaps so-called "private clouds." But smart CIOs like U.S. CIO Vivek Kundra who think "cloud first" have already stopped throwing good money after bad.
We still see some vendors encourage customers to "upgrade" to on-premise appliances, but this sales approach will soon fade into distant memory. And while a "private cloud" might be a good idea to squeeze the remaining life from your on-premise servers, it should be viewed as an on-ramp to the public cloud, not an end unto itself.
2. You gotta be multi-tenant. I thought we'd all learned by 1999 that the "application service provider" (ASP) model -- throw the same-old-software on a hosted server -- doesn't scale. Amazingly, we still see vendors pushing this single-tenant model, likely because they're too invested in their current software licensing and architecture to start over and build multi-tenant from the ground up.
Those who argue "the customer doesn't care" miss the deeper point: that multi-tenant is a dominant economic model that will, inevitably, win in the end. Nick Carr's The Big Switch had it right. Is society really more productive overall with hundreds of thousands of similar Microsoft Exchange servers and administrators, when all of this repetitive effort could be served centrally at far lesser overall expense? It doesn't matter if you've delegated responsibility for your single-tenant instance to the hosting vendor. They still won't be able to keep up the same innovation pace, or provide massive scalability to each instance, or be compelled to share solutions across all instances.
I think most folks "get" why hosted matters. On the other hand, we could argue all day about whether multi-tenancy matters (IBM thinks it does, as do thousands of companies and pundits -- just Google "why multi-tenancy matters"). But my point here is simply to establish a couple core principles.
In future posts, I'll share my observations about how big companies are (or aren't!) adopting the public cloud. I'll also tell you about my adventures and lessons learned building up my own company's IT infrastructure to support a diverse, global, increasingly complex business while adhering fully to these two principles. Looking forward to the dialogue and debate.
Glenn Weinstein is the CTO and co-founder of Appirio, where he oversees the CloudWorks and Cloud Management Center product lines as well as internal IT.
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