For the past few weeks, I have focused on describing Converged Cloud, HP’s point of view on cloud computing. I’d like to add one aspect to the description I have done. And that has to do with where we are in the evolution of cloud computing as a whole.
We are all familiar with the technology waves that come and go. The first time I saw them was when Joel Birnbaum, then head of HP Labs, explained the move to client/server in 1982. I actually managed to find one of his slides, dated from the early-to-mind 90’s back on the Internet. He talked about computer appliances and computer utilities. Change the name to cloud and his timing is close.
We all know we go through those waves, and start the next wave with a little less functionality than the previous one, but then take it much further thanks to the innovation the new technology brings with it. Innovation becomes a driver and attracts more and more users to the new technology until it plateaus. At that moment, it's no longer innovation, but optimization that gives us the last benefits of the technology. And the next wave comes.
Recently I was in a conference where one of the speakers discussed these wave diagrams and described the innovation and optimization periods. But he added something in the middle that made me think. He said half way through the wave, there is a period of business transformation. At first I was taken aback by what he said, but then started thinking. Yes, during each of the waves I lived through, something fundamental changed. We started with mini and micro computers using terminals, but after a while our world changed as PCs became available, actually leading to the next wave, client/servers. And I could go on like this.
Cloud computing wave
The current adoption of cloud is the result of a lot of innovation in the spaces of virtualization, automation and self-provisioning. New business models have been created around service provisioning. New approaches have come up with IaaS, PaaS and SaaS.
But something has been changing over the last six months. Most of the debate up until then had been around infrastructure (with IaaS being at the center of the debate) and the choice of a cloud model.
Suddenly people started to talk about services they want to consume. NIST is working on the definition of the “cloud broker” concept. In a nutshell the debate is changing, moving away from a technology and infrastructure discussion to one about services and how they can be consumed. The user is back in the middle of the discussion. It’s no longer about choosing between a private and a public cloud, but using both, with each service delivered by the most appropriate cloud, taking into account service and data sensitivity, security aspects, compliance, etc.
This is changing the debate all together as private and multiple public clouds suddenly need to co-exist. So security aspects, how data gets accessed, where an appropriate workload is actually executed, how it can be moved from one cloud to another, etc. are at the center of the debate. This is where converged cloud actually appears. It addresses those issues by proposing an open framework on how clouds can be integrated in a single environment.
Converged cloud services
Indeed, the business user does not want to have to care where a particular workload is being executed. So he does not want to have to log-on in a specific cloud. What the end-user wants is one entry point regardless of the complexity that sits behind it. He wants to choose all the services he can access from one service catalog, using one provisioning procedure. And he is expecting compliance, security, integration, etc. to be handled by the environment.
Converged Cloud proposes the use a consistent execution environment, built on open standards, the exposure of clearly defined and standard API’s and the leveraging of an integrated information gateway (addressing both structured and unstructured data) as the basic functionality for private, managed and public clouds.
Looking at things this way changes the role of the CIO and of the whole IT department. It’s no longer about developing applications and setting-up/maintaining infrastructure environments. Core is now the understanding of the services requested by the business (governance) and the sourcing of the appropriate services from the appropriate location.
This includes the traditional environment and the private cloud, where application development and infrastructure set-up/maintenance is still present, but it complements it with a solid sourcing from external providers.
This is where the business change is located. IT is confronted with sourcing, with the management of a supply chain and with the integration of services provided by multiple environments.
To achieve this, IT requires a couple key elements to be in place:
- A clearly defined governance model with the business to define the services required
- A well-articulated architecture serving as the blueprint for defining how services interact
- A set of well-established data policies identifying the way information can be accessed and data can be integrated between services
- A well-documented service lifecycle identifying how new services are taken on board and what is taking place to sunset end-of-life services
A number of those elements are already in place in most IT departments, but they often address what happens within the department, not taking into account the outside world. With the sourcing of services this needs to change. The private, managed and public clouds need to be included as well as the interactions with the traditional environment. Once more, converged cloud addresses those aspects by facilitating the integration, securing and managing of the different cloud and traditional components.
So, is a business transformation on the way? Yes, absolutely. The IT department needs to fundamentally change its way of operations. As many IT resources reach retirement age (see the papyboom), now may be a moment to transform and create a new dynamic in the IT department. Are you ready for that?
If you’re interested in understanding more about Converged Cloud, you may want to follow Cloud Source, HP’s Enterprise Business Channel on YouTube and join us in one of our twitter chats at from 1PM to 2PM on Thursdays, hashtag #convcloud.