Introduction – Dodgeball
The cloud is certainly a moving target.
I previously took shots at David Linthicum for an InfoWorld article in which he argued against the value of cloud definitions. Essentially, I thought he was overlooking the issue of compatibility and the credibility that standards can bring when providers are able to present certifications. In other words, I thought his view was shortsighted, failing to recognize how standards allow for objective understandings in an environment that is otherwise characterized excessively by marketing explanations.
There were a couple salient points made in Linthicum’s report, though, relating to the fact that virtualization technology and strategies are evolving so rapidly that any description has to, by necessity, be a little amorphous and broad. He notes that in a climate “for which vendors have invested more than $15 billion to market their ‘cloud’ technology,” part of the difficulty is major stakeholders positioning how this form of computing is perceived (agreeing essentially with my “marketing explanations” comment).
The other element, though – critical to this blog post – is that the industry is growing so quickly that it’s almost impossible to accurately pinpoint and describe. It’s just like dodgeball. We may want to pick up a rubber ball during gym class and throw it at the cloud as hard as we can, but it jumps away as soon as we release. Luckily, it’s almost impossible to fail gym class.
Let’s look at how the cloud is evolving, which represents part of the escalation of the “3rd Platform” described by IDC in a vertical forecast it published in December 2013.
Humble Beginnings – The Challenges
Whenever a new technology is introduced, many organizations might be interested in testing it but are hesitant to adopt it until they understand what it is and allow the market to work out any kinks it might have. It’s similar to the attitude many took toward the initial release of Windows 8, which I would describe as offensively glitchy when installed on a PC. Understandably, though, innovative computing solutions need time to adapt. Here were the basic three issues with the first cloud systems, per Lizetta Staplefoote via PCWorld’s BrandPost on October 30:
- Reliability – The cloud was initially wracked with failures because commodity hardware (affordable, easily obtainable equipment) was often used for its construction. Because the parts used to create these environments were often of low quality, the cloud was working overtime to pool enough resources so that users wouldn’t suffer when any failures occurred.
- Expertise – Companies had to hire computing professionals who specialized in cloud to modify the resource allotments, take care of all system alerts and monitoring needs, and perform general management of the environments.
- Disorganization – In order to have the services necessary to support operations, enhance security, and otherwise bolster the virtual machines, companies contracted with more than one cloud service, leading to difficulties with billing, proprietary lock-in, and a nightmare for eventual integration – the reason many companies are maintaining a multi-cloud architecture.
Maturity – The Solutions
Staplefoote quotes a Gartner report that relates to how the market has changed: “‘Cloud-enabled managed hosting brings cloudlike consumption and provisioning attributes to the traditional managed hosting market.’” Companies realized they needed third-party management and automation expertise – as expressed by the following three elements – in order to get the most out of distributed virtualization:
- Experienced consultation so that they could manage and develop their systems in meaningful ways directly related to business goals
- Monitoring and administration of the entire stack that underpins their virtual machines and serves sophisticated purposes – including those of databases, email, sales tools, and sometimes mission-critical software.
- Streamlining of development cycles by using on-demand performance in tandem with automation techniques from the field of DevOps.
Future – 3rd Platform
IDC’s outlook for the ICT (information and communications technology) sector for 2014 used the 3rd Platform – an area of computing that encompasses social media, big data, cloud hosting, and mobile access – as its central point of focus. In the opinion of IDC, which has certainly proven true, this year would be one in which enterprises injected substantial cash into expanding their power within the 3rd Platform. It would also be one in which the demand for the most competent and creative developers would skyrocket as businesses began to recognize the far-reaching value of their expertise.
The IDC report also noted how the impact of the transition to the 3rd Platform would “play a leading role in the disruption… of almost every other industry on the planet.”
The IDC report went into 10 specific elements that are part of the adaptation to a 3rd Platform model and other general 2014 trends, which we will discuss in another article.
The Times Are A-Changing
Some things are true to the field of medicine as they are to the field of computing. You want your providers to be knowledgeable of all innovations and experienced at problem-solving as needed. According to our client Andrew Walmsley, “The proactive support and good communication make Superb top-notch.”
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By Kent Roberts