The white space between hand-crafted and automated approaches to the cloud
The journey to the cloud will be faster for some than others. For startups, the decision is easy, they are “cloud first”. They have low overheads and can test products and services in new markets with ease. This model is one of the main reasons that the likes of Uber and Airbnb have succeeded where the dot-com companies of the late 90s failed (that, and consumer Internet access and the rise of smartphones).
For CIOs of larger organisations, it’s a different picture. They need to move from a complex, heterogeneous IT infrastructure into the highly automated – and, ultimately, highly scalable – distributed platform.
On the journey to homogeneous cloud, where the entire software stack is provided by one vendor, the provision of managed services remains essential. And to ensure a smooth and successful journey, enterprises need a service provider that can bridge the gap between the heterogeneous and homogeneous. In specific terms that means a bridge between: the network and the data centre; the IT infrastructure library (ITIL) and DevOps; infrastructure and professional services; and finally, local and global services.
This transformation in IT services is being driven by a need to match IT capabilities to an increasingly demanding business. CEOs are beginning to see the connection between digital investments and business objectives. According to a recent PwC survey, 86% of CEOs say a clear vision of how digital technologies can help achieve competitive advantage is key to the success of digital investments.
Businesses demand a lot from technology. They expect 100 per cent connectivity and application uptime. Their customers likewise expect availability of services around the clock – and flock to social media to let the world know if they can’t get them. Businesses expect IT to support the mobile revolution, to help employees become more productive and to ultimately help the company become more profitable. It’s a big ask.
At the same time, there’s increasing pressure on the technology function. Cost containment, shorter implementation cycles and (the dreaded) regulatory compliance are all issues for the CIO to contend with ‒ not to mention finding motivated, skilled and loyal staff to help them with these challenges or the myriad of other problems that go with their day-to-day jobs.
It’s easy to see the attraction of moving infrastructure and applications to the cloud; flexibility and choice. Those two attributes deliver the business agility that’s every bit as important as potential cost savings. This contrasts with the traditional service value proposition where complex processes are managed by a third party.
This 20-year-old traditional service model can be compared to a restaurant where the chef cooks the meal in front of the guests. There’s a time where you do want to go to the restaurant and watch them cook right in front of you because you want to watch the preparation process step by step. It might be important to you from an architecture or a compliance perspective, or just an awareness standpoint, to know every single step of the way.
There’s nothing wrong with this model in principle but it has been superseded, in many instances, by the modern era of cloud and software as a service (SaaS). These are models that deliver data at the press of a button. Even when you take the hand-crafted approach at one end and the highly automated cloud and SaaS model on the other, there’s a lot of white space in between.
This white space is where many companies are today. The situation is like an 80s robot serving drinks: if it feels like an antiquated robot and looks like an antiquated robot, the chances are that you have a dud robot on your hands. You’re not really getting the true automated user experience you expected. You may be able to glean that there is some virtualisation and automation in the core of the service, but you’re missing out on good user experience, or getting something that’s bolted together.
Modernising these old service approaches requires a lot of thinking, but at the end of the day, automation always wins over headcount. Autonomic management systems can also ensure that there is full integration between the workflow and platform as a service (PaaS) framework with security/attack detection, application scheduler and dynamic resource provisioning algorithms.
Eventually that automated user experience will be able to take those edge cases that we typically reserve for human instruction and deliver something much more sophisticated. Some of the features of autonomic cloud computing are available today for organisations that have completed – or at least partly completed – their journey to the cloud.
The cloud era has been with us for a while but the momentum is gathering pace. IT managers now trust and understand the benefits. With more and more demand on digitisation and the monetisation of IT services, companies need – and now expect – an agile IT service that can finally match the demands it faces.
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