Our Fifth Report is out – Management implications of the Cloud

The fifth report in our Cloud Computing series for Accenture has just been published. This report looks at the impact Cloud Computing will have on the management of the IT function, and thus the skills needed by all involved in the IT industry. The report begins by analysing the impact Cloud might have in comparison to existing outsourcing project. It considers the core-capabilities which must be retained in a “cloud future”, considering how these capabilities might be managed, and the role of systems integrators in managing the Cloud.

Please use the comments form to give us feedback!

Cloud and the future of Business 5 – Management .

Cloud and the Future of Business: From Costs to Innovation

I have not been updating this blog for a while as I have been busy writing commercial papers on Cloud Computing. The first of these, for Accenture, has just been published and is available here

http://www.outsourcingunit.org/publications/cloudPromise.pdf

The report outlines our” Cloud Desires Framework” in which we aim to explain the technological direction of Cloud in terms of four dimensions of the offerings – Equivalence, Abstraction, Automation and Tailoring.

Equivalence: The desire to provide services which are at least equivalent in quality to that experienced by a locally running service on a PCor server.

Abstraction: The desire to hide unnecessary complexity of the lower levels of the application stack.

Automation: The desire to automatically manage the running of a service.

Tailoring: The desire to tailor the provided service for specific enterprise needs.

(c) Willcocks,Venters,Whitley 2011.

By considering these dimensions to the different types of cloud service (SaaS, PaaS, IaaS and Hosted service (often ignored – but crucially Cloud-like)) it is possible to distinguish the different benefits of each away from the “value-add” differences. Crucially the framework allows simple comparison between services offered by different companies by focusing on the important desires and not the unimportant technical differences.

Take a look at the report – and let me know what you think!

Using rented computing to crack passwords.

Cloud computing is open to everyone – good or bad.  Here we see someone renting computing power for a couple of dollars to crack an SHA-1 password. Imagine the potential of a competitor  using a few thousand pounds worth of computing potential to crack your passwords… or a disgruntled employee launching an attack with some of their severance. See the following article from the Register for more information.

German hacker uses rented computing to crack hashing algorithm • The Register.

Structure 2010 – Mark Benioff – Cloud 2

The key focus of SalesForce.com CEO Mark Benioff talk was on identifying the difference between “Cloud 2” and none-cloud marketing efforts leveraging the cloud to sell boxes. He highlighted his three tests for Cloud Compting

1)      Efficiency – that any cloud offering should offer 1/10th the cost of existing solutions and thus enable new entrants into marketplaces. For example he highlighted that only 1500 Dell servers are used to service the 77000 useres of SalesForce.

2)      Economic – that solutions should be economically efficient

3)      Democratic – That they should allow SME business to enter the market.

Nothing particularly exciting here.

Fordism and the Cloud

In a recent Article Dustin Owens (2010) argues that elasticity defines the benefit of Cloud Computing.  He states “Elasticity could bring to the IT infrastructure what Henry Ford brought to the automotive industry with assembly lines and mass production: affordability and substantial improvements on time to market.” (p48). The article is useful and focuses primarily on security however it was the comparison with Henry Ford which got me thinking.

It is a bold statement and deserves further analysis. In particular it is unclear what Ford brought the motor industry – certainly increased penetration, increased usage, increased availability all of which are positive. Arguably though it also brought with it urban sprawl, oil-dependence, reduced wages and Tailorism. One can imagine similar problems with the cloud. Urban sprawl might be similar to flattening organisational sizes and increasing risk. For those companies whose data-centre provides competitive advantage will see an increased landscape of small competitors capitalising on the Cloud to compete – the sprawl. Our oil-dependence will similarly remain – Cloud computing hides the electricity and environmental impact of our actions in data-centres hidden from view. Purchases are unlikely to know what percentage of costs are electricity – and are unlikely to care. Finally reduced wages and Tailorism. Prior to Ford those involved in developing cars were highly skilled and worked across the line – Ford reduced this movement of skill, and Fredrick Tailor developed this into scientific management. One can see similarities in the cloud provider with increased specialism among staff  within these very large data-centres. With this comes risks – the generalist is better able to respond to radical architectural change and innovation. The generalist also has a more interesting job (a failure of Scientific Management). All this is speculation at the moment – I await my first Model T Cloud.

On another level however this comparison is interesting. because it is worth remembering that Ford was overtaken by General Motors for the simple reason that Henry Ford was against debt and demanded people pay in cash, whereas GE realised that borrowing to buy a GE car was beneficial. With the car you’re earning potential rose as you could travel for work and you were thus better able to afford the car.

In cloud computing the same might also be true. The argument behind Cloud Computing has always been that start-up ventures do not need to purchase the expensive IT equipment they can focus on  Opex not CapEx. Similarly SaaS offers reduced CapEx costs. But one might also imagine a growth of financial services industries around the cloud. For example providing short-term loans to allow small companies to ramp up websites in response to incredible demand (and perhaps insuring against this). Or allowing small media enterprises to rent cycles for rendering films as a percentage of future profits. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, if computing is a commodity we are likely to see spot-markets and commodity markets spawn. Can we imagine CDOs developing based not on sub-prime mortgages but on poorly used processor cycles within the cloud… or imagine insuring against a Denial of Service Attack such that when one occurs you can ramp up website services to respond, but not have to pay for the processor cycles! I can see many small companies taking out such insurance for their websites (if anyone profits from this – then donations received with thanks 🙂 ).

——

Owens, D (2010) “Securing Elasticity in the Cloud”, Communications of the ACM 53(6) 48-51 doi:http://doi.acm.org/10.1145/1743546.1743565

An Over Simplistic Utility Model

Brynjolfsson, E., P. Hofmann, et al. (2010). “Economic and Business Dimensions Cloud Computing and Electricity:Beyond the Utility Model.” Communications of the ACM 53(5): 32-34.

—-

This paper argues that technical issues associated with innovation, scale, and geography will confront those attempting to capitalise on utility computing. They take the utility model of computing (i.e. that cloud computing is analogous to the electricity market) and identify key challenges.

In particular they identify the following technical challenges:

1)    The pace of innovation of IT – managing this pace of change requires creative expertise and innovation (unlike utilities such as electricity which, they argue, are stable).

2)    The limits of scale – Parallelisable problems are only a subset of problems. Scalability of databases has limits within architectures. APIs e.g. using SQL are difficult for high-volume transaction systems. Further large companies can benefit from Private Clouds with little advantages, and greater risks, if they go to the public cloud.

3)    Latency: The speed of light limits communication. Latency remains a problem. For many applications performance, convenience and security considerations will demand local. [While not mentioned in the article it is interesting to note that this problem is being attacked by http://www.akamai.com/ who specialise in reducing the problems of network latency through their specialist network]

They also identify the following business challenges:

1)    Complementarities and Co-Invention: “Computing is still in the midst of an explosion of innovation and co-invention First that simply replace corporate resources with cloud computing, while changing nothing else, are doomed to miss the full benefits of the new technology” (p34). It is the reinvention of new services which are key to the success of cloud. IT enabled businesses reshape industries – e.g. Apple quadrupled revenue by moving from perpetual licence to pay-per-use in iTunes, but this demanded tight integration of EPR and Billing which would have been difficult within the cloud given their volumes.

2)    Lock-in and Interoperability: Regulation controlled energy monopolies, and electrons are fungible. Yet for computing to operate like electricity will require “radically different management of data than what is on anyone’s technology roadmap”. Information is not electrons – cloud offerings will not be interchangeable. “Business processes supported by enterprise computing are not motors or light-bulbs”.

3) Security – We are not concerned about electrons as we are with information. Regulators, laws or audit is not needed. New security issues will need to be faced (see  (Owens 2010) for interesting debate on security).

—-

Owens, D (2010) “Securing Elasticity in the Cloud”, Communications of the ACM 53(6) 48-51 doi: http://doi.acm.org/10.1145/1743546.1743565

How Cloud Computing Changes IT Outsourcing — Outsourcing — InformationWeek

via How Cloud Computing Changes IT Outsourcing — Outsourcing — InformationWeek.

This article provides a useful look at the outsourcing relationship and compares this with the Cloud contracts. In particular (quote) “Cloud computing blurs the lines between what had been conventional outsourcing and internal operations, and it will test IT’s management and control policies”.  The article points out that companies are not ready for the challenges of Cloud growth, with their survey suggesting only “17% say they directly monitor the performance and uptime of all of their cloud and SaaS applications”. with a “shocking 59% relying on their vendors to monitor themselves”.

This is indeed shocking. As companies contemplate moving their operations to the Cloud they are perhaps being led into a strong sense of security by the vendors promises. But as demand grows these vendors facilities will be stretched and less certain.

On contracts the article points out that a cloud computing contract is a hybrid of outsourcing, software and leasing and are major contractual commitments.

Finally the more obvious points about business strategy are made – pointing out that a cloud provider may be less interested in driving innovation and major technological change as they are not as aligned to a businesses core capabilities and objectives.