Monday, November 25, 2013

Forecast, Cloudy with a lot of public and a touch of private...

If you believe that the pundits tell you, then private cloud is all the rage for enterprise customers.  Certainly, if you look at what we've been doing here at EVT, there seems to be some evidence to suggest that's actually true.  Our Enterprise customers seem to all be either interested in, currently deploying, or running some kind of private cloud.

Forrester Research says that 31% of Enterprise  customers already have a private cloud in place and 17% plan to build one over the next year.  However, when you dig down a little further, what you'll find is that only 13% actually have something that fits the "true" definition of private cloud.  Most have some kind of virtualization in place with some added software to help manage that virtual infrastructure.  But, more often than not, those so called private clouds are missing some key elements of a "true" private cloud.

Part of the problem could be that IT has a very loosey-goosey definition of what private cloud really is - and therefore what it brings to the table for IT and for IT's customers.  The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) says that for Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) to be considered as a cloud it must have 5 attributes:

  1. On-demand self-service
  2. Broad network access
  3. Resource pooling
  4. Rapid elasticity
  5. Measured service
IT's definition of a cloud is often very different, and can vary from "We have a data center" to "we look just like Amazon Web Services".  But without the 5 essential characteristics above, IT will not be able to achieve the goals of going to "The Cloud" that most people are trying to achieve.  The scalability, elasticity, and cost savings that the public cloud promises to the business customers of IT are the real goals that IT should be looking to match with the private cloud.

So why is public cloud growing so rapidly?  AWS was a $2 billion business last year, and they are predicted to double that this year.  Yet, as you can see above, private cloud seems to be struggling to gain traction in the data center. Especially when you consider the number of data centers that have a private cloud in name only (PCINO).  I suspect that there are a number of reasons.

First, moving to a true private cloud is a very difficult cultural and organizational hurdle for most IT departments.  It really means a shake-up of IT at the most fundamental level all the way from the top to the bottom.  It means that IT will truly have to morph into that service organization that they have been trying to morph into for a long time, and many have yet to reach. That's the cultural change. They also need to change from an organizational perspective. They need to move away from vertically siloed departments within IT such as Server, Storage, network, etc. to horizontally organized departments is key to IT achieving the results that they desire and to be able to compete successfully with public cloud providers.

It should be noted here that IT often attempts to "cheat" the organizational change by "matrixing" people from existing IT departments into new "cloud" organizations. This often leads to failure since those "matrixed" people often bring with them old ideas about how things should be run as well as old processes and procedures.

This change also must go beyond just IT.  For example, the purchasing department must understand the new model for purchasing converged infrastructure. For example, they can't be allowed to "break up" the converged infrastructure and purchase the individual components through old, existing vendor relationships.  This continues on into IT as well, converged infrastructure means just that, converged. This often means that equipment that was traditional purchased directly from the manufacturer may now be part of the converged infrastructure stack and thus will be purchased as part of that solution. These old relationships with vendors and manufacturers often get in to way to achieving "true" cloud.

So, IT's inability to make the cultural and organizational changes to successfully compete with the public cloud is one reason I believe that private cloud adoption is where it is today.  A related reason is that in some cases IT recognizes the issues, and actually starts to utilize the public cloud to deliver services to their end users.  This is often an attempt to reel back into the fold "shadow IT" that has already deployed solutions in the public cloud. This if often followed quickly by a discussion on IT's part of hybrid cloud. In many cases that's because IT feels it just can't compete against the public cloud for all applications, and thus comes to the reluctant conclusion that rather than lose the entire pie, it's willing to give some part of the pie to the public cloud and build a private cloud for the rest. There's also an unspoken idea on the IT of IT that once they get their hybrid cloud up and running, they they will eventually prove to the business that they are better than public cloud and thus a majority of the application will move into that private cloud over time leaving only a small hand full of applications in the public cloud.

In the end, I think that unless IT can address the barriers to private cloud discussed above, that their dream of making the public cloud a temporary home is actually just a pipe dream. But in either case, IT's future is one in which they are a service provider and service director that helps the business find the best, most cost effective home for their applications.