Double trouble – why cloud is a question of balance |My New Blog on Cloud Pro

I have been invited to Blog on CloudPro – don’t worry I will keep posting here as well – but if you want to read my first posting see:

Double trouble – why cloud is a question of balance | Cloud Pro.

Forbes has four predictions for 2013… I challenge them all

Over on Forbes Antonio Piraino makes four predications for the year ahead:

Cloud Computing: Four Predictions For The Year Ahead – Forbes.

I want to discuss my opinion of each of them.

1) “The cloud wars are (still) rumbling and they’re getting louder”. 

I sort of agree with the sentiment of this; that companies will be looking for value-add from cloud providers rather than simple metrics (such as network, storage or service). However I completely disagree that a battle will unfold next year – I think this is a growing market and we are seeing clear differentiation between offerings. The giants in this space are, in my opinion, desperately trying to carve out a none-competitive space in the growing cloud market, rather than going head-to-head in the battle the author  describes. For that way lies only commodity offering and a drive to the bottom. I suspect that differentiation will be a more likely tactic than “war”.

2) “A titanic cloud outage will create a domino effect”. 

The article argues that “As more IT resources are moved to the cloud, the chance of a major outage for a corporate enterprise… becomes exponentially more likely to occur”. Really? How on earth can the increasing outsourcing of service lead to an exponential increase in risk? The risk is dependent upon a number of factors:

1) Capability of the cloud provider to manage the service (again not dependent on the number of services managed)

2) Capability of the cloud user to contract effectively for risk (again not dependent on the number of services outsourced).

3) Multiplexing of services on a single site – this is dependent on the number of cloud users, however it is an architectural issue as to whether the risk increases. It is certainly not exponential that five companies sharing one building are at greater individual risk than if they each have their own building. The analogy of airline accidents v.s. car accidents comes to mind.  When a plane fails it looks catastrophic, but more people die on the roads.

The article goes on to say that “If an unexpected cloud outage were to take place within the context of [ financial services trades] , the banks would stand to be heavily penalized for incompliance” – I absolutely agree – because if they weren’t adopting defensive approaches to moving to the cloud they would be incompetent. As a recent Dell think-tank I was part of discussed, banks are already moving to the cloud, and for mission critical activity, but they are working with cloud providers to ensure that they are getting the same level of protection and assurance as the would in-house. Like any outsourcing relationship it is incumbent on the purchaser to understand the risk, and manage it. Indeed banks should be evaluating the risk of all their ICT whether in-house or external – as the high-profile failures at Natwest recently demonstrated in-house IT can be  risky too!

3) A changing role for the CIO. 

Here I  agree with the article. Governments will get more involved in regulation relevant to cloud, and this will create new opportunities. Whether CIOs  will act as “international power-brokers, ambassadors even diplomats” as the article suggests depends on how they move to the cloud – many cloud providers intention is to create cloud offerings which do not demand an understanding of international law. I also doubt that the “human-responsibilities will shrink” – this only counts if organisations see cloud as outsourcing rather than opportunity  – many CIOs are probably realising that while they are loosing headcount in certain ways (e.g. those data-centre administrators) they need skills in new applications only possible with the availability of cloud. How many CIO’s imagined managing  data-analytics and social-networking specialists a few years ago?

4) Death of the desktop as we know it.

“The expectation is that an employee’s mobile device is now their workspace, and that they are accountable for contributing to work on a virtually full time basis…”  I am intrigued by the idea of what is going to happen to the desktop PC. I know I use my smartphone and ipad a lot, but usually for new things rather than the same activities I  use my laptop for. For example I annotate PDF’s on the train,  read meeting notes during meetings, even look at documents in the bath. These are in addition to the use of my desktop PC or laptop (which I use for writing and for the host of applications I require for my work and for which I require a keyboard and solid operating system). Yes I bring-my-own-device to work, but I either demand a “desktop” like environment to run on it (i.e. integrated applications and services) in which case the management of the virtual desktop applications is as complex as the physical assets (save the plugging in and purchasing). And the idea that I will use my own device on a “virtually full time basis” is clearly none-sense… health and safety would not allow a person using a screen all day to have a smart-phone or tablet as that screen.

I don’t deny that PC’s will change, and that the technological environment of many industries is changing. But my question is whether this will increase or decrease the amount of work for the CIO? My earlier post (Cloud Computing its so 1980s) pointed out that the demand for applications within industry has not remained static or decreased – we will only increase our demand for applications. The question is then whether managing them will become easier or more difficult. For me the jury is still out but if pushed, it is for this reason that I think Windows 8 could be successful in this space.

I believe many of us are waiting for a device which capitalises on the benefits of tablets and smartphones, but which will run the complex ERP and office applications our businesses have come to rely upon. Sure we could try to make do with an iPad or Android device, but Windows 8 promises the opportunity to use the full industry proof applications we already have in a new way. I anticipate seeing lots more of these Windows 8  devices in the next few years – though  with many of the applications becoming much lighter on the desktop. After all the iPad and smartphone demonstrated the importance of locally running Apps not of cloud services…  they were just smaller and easier to manage applications.

 

 

Steve Ballmer @ the LSE – Cloud talk!

I attended Steve Ballmer’s talk about Cloud Computing this morning at the LSE. While rather a vacuous affair – high on drama low on content – it was interesting (though perhaps unsurprising) to see him  focus on devices rather than software.

First he talked about the creation of “Clouds in a box” – that data-centres should be black-boxed – a kind of shipping container that you site in your car-park and only plug in the electricity, water (for cooling) and internet. This aligns well with Oracle’s vertical integration (through purchase of Sun) to provide a similar product which does everything in one rack.  Both are compelling if they can really remove the maintenance costs of data-centres (which are currently high) but allow corporates to keep “server hugging” rather than moving to outside cloud providers. Is this cloud? The debate continues to rage?

Secondly he talked about cloud access devices and the consumer  – arguing that these will remain smart and vital. This was a nod towards the XBox and Windows Mobile 7 and a refusal to mention Apple or Google.

To discount Windows as has-been on mobile or tablet is though to ignore the legacy Windows Mobile has in the corporate marketplace – tablets on shop-floors, delivery drivers, production lines are mostly Windows based devices. Sure Apple has stolen a lead – but Microsoft might be able to produce something which is closer to the corporate requirement (a big “might” here). This is a very competitive space (RIM/Apple/Google etc) so we will have to see when the new phone is launched in a couple of weeks.

More significant though was his pointer towards the XBox and Kinect. This is an innovative device which rids the games console of the controller and allows face and voice recognition and 3D motion capture. Demonstrated through games (unsurprisingly) it shows users jumping up and down or waving hands in the living room to control a car or boat – without holding any controller in their hands.

What is interesting for the cloud however is that XBox is currently the only networked device which is linked to a cloud-provider and which sits in the living room connected to a TV. Its competitors – Playstation isn’t very Cloud-enabled and Sony don’t seem to exploit its networking. Further it is generally sited in teenage  bedrooms – next to the laptop. Wii is in the living room for the whole family but is  just not powerful enough or networked enough to be a cloud access device.

This is therefore a potential key market for Microsoft’s Cloud Services going into the home -and accessed by XBox Kinetic. Expect a range of consumer cloud services marketed through this device soon aiming to squeeze Google out of the consumer space! I imagine we will soon be able to read HotMail by waving towards our tv screen.

For more on the talk see the following blog:

Steve Ballmer hits London | Tech Blog | FT.com.