Today, Gartner issued a press release outlining “Five Cloud Computing Trends That Will Affect Cloud Strategy Through 2015.” Sometimes analyst firms seem to watch the world through a rear-view mirror, but this time Gartner stepped up to the plate and delivered some aggressive, forward-looking advice that every organization needs to listen to and take action on. In this post, I’d like to add my $0.02 to Gartner’s five trends.
Gartner Trend #1: Formal Decision Frameworks Facilitate Cloud Investment Optimization
The key takeaway here is to get organized with the analysis and decision making process surrounding your cloud strategy. I have said it before and I’ll say it again: cloud computing is a big macro trend in the computing industry, as big or bigger than the adoption of the Internet 15 years ago. You need to start factoring cloud computing into your organizational thinking process as soon as possible and doing it in a more formal way. Many organizations are playing with clouds at the departmental level right now, but are failing to give them the strategic focus that such an important macro-trend deserves. It’s time to turn these informal experiments into full-fledged, strategic projects.
Gartner Trend #2: Hybrid Cloud Computing is an Imperative
If you think your organization is going to live either entirely within internal private clouds or external public clouds, you’re fooling yourself. In spite of volatile rhetoric coming from the public cloud proponents that private clouds are somehow illegitimate, every enterprise we are working with is contemplating a future where applications and workloads live both inside and outside, in private and public clouds. Each cloud model provides specific benefits and it will be rare where a company can walk away from one of the models entirely. The dirty little secret for the public cloud industry is that every enterprise ServiceMesh is working with is currently starting with a private cloud strategy for production workloads. This is frequently done to mitigate the perceived risk associated with public clouds. Over time, every organization anticipates shifting appropriate workloads into public clouds as they gain experience and comfort with a cloud operating model and public clouds, realizing that some workloads will never be appropriate for public clouds and thus will remain in-house forever. That may or may not describe your organization. If you’re more comfortable starting with public clouds, that’s fine. Just factor into your strategy planning that hybrid clouds are going to be the norm.
Gartner Trend #3: Cloud Brokerage Will Facilitate Cloud Consumption
Over the past couple of years, Gartner has been pushing the Cloud Service Brokerage (CSB) concept. In the past, I think they mispositioned it, focusing on external service providers as CSBs. That was always a disconnect with me because, to be honest, I just don’t see service providers stepping up to the plate. While it may happen over time, most service providers appear to be positioning their own cloud services with customers and seem to have little interest in being true CSBs (there is one notable exception to that, but unfortunately, I’m under NDA and can’t discuss it further).
But in today’s announcement, Gartner says,
“…Gartner believes that IT departments should explore how they can position themselves as CSBs to the enterprise by establishing a purchasing process that accommodates cloud adoption and encourages business units to come to the IT organization for advice and support. The enterprise CSB approach can be implemented by modifying existing processes and tools such as internal portals and service catalogs.”
Gartner nails the problem, but over simplifies the solution, IMO. In the new world of cloud computing, the IT organization necessarily shifts from building and running infrastructure toward facilitating the consumption of cloud services. IT becomes the broker that has thus far remained elusive in the market, building and organizing a complete set of cloud services, and offering those to the rest of the enterprise through a self-service consumption portal. The problem is that existing internal portals and service catalogs aren’t well positioned to be the self-service portal of which Gartner speaks. We need something that is far more dynamic and capable of interacting with cloud services directly. Most existing portals that IT might have deployed are little more than basic service catalogs, suitable for only the simplest of usage scenarios. A much better fit to the problem are the Agility Platform and Agility CenterPoint store, both of which were architected from the ground up to support this functionality and which can provide a cornerstone for this strategy.
Gartner Trend #4: Cloud-Centric Design Becomes a Necessity
While Gartner recognizes the value of migrating existing workloads to the cloud, they advise that enterprises need to start looking to design cloud-centric (what some are calling “cloud-native”) applications. I agree with this. When companies are first starting out with cloud projects, many will focus on the rapid on-boarding of existing applications to deliver an immediate payback that helps justify the cloud project itself. By going after a “quick win,” the cloud project demonstrates immediate, quantifiable business benefit and a success that the organization can point toward to justify further project growth.
But Gartner is right. What then? The cloud offers features like elasticity and workload mobility that simply weren’t possible with pre-cloud models. You can’t take advantage of these features in any reasonably automatic fashion with an application that was simply “lifted and shifted” from a traditional or virtualized environment into the cloud. Instead, we need to shift our thinking that applications run on “machines,” which are now implemented as virtual machines, to one that says applications run on clouds. That mental shift will help drive us forward with cloud-native application design and operations.
Gartner Trend #5: Cloud Computing Influences Future Data Center and Operational Models
In trend #5, Gartner is simply saying that if hybrid clouds are the norm, IT departments will still have to think about building and running their own data centers. Insofar as it is possible, the operating model for that infrastructure should be a cloud operating model. ServiceMesh has been preaching this message for years now, and we agree wholeheartedly with Gartner’s conclusion. Cloud computing is not about simply buying VMs by the hour from an external provider. It’s really about adopting a cloud operating model, a new way of life for the enterprise that recognizes that IT resources will be available in a self-service fashion, billed on demand. You need to optimize your internal operations around this model, and that includes running your data centers as if you are a cloud provider, because you are.
Overall, I was happy to see Gartner’s report. I agree with all the trends they highlighted and I thought they did a good job of delivering prescriptive advice to enterprises. I was very happy to see the message that internal IT departments should start performing the role of cloud service brokers, as that’s the way the early market seems to be shaping up from where I sit.
If you’re an enterprise struggling with these and other pieces of strategic cloud advice, I suggest you reach out andcontact ServiceMesh. We are constantly working with enterprises on these issues and we can help lead your cloud initiative to a successful conclusion.
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