One of the most interesting stories, the late, Steve Jobs told was about how computers are the equivalent to a bicycle for the mind. The story starts by describing an article he read, as a student, which charted the locomotion efficiency of the various species on earth; essentially measuring the energy consumed to move one kilometer. At the top of the list was the Condor, with Humans coming in a 3rd way down the list. However, someone had the insight to measure the efficiency of a Human on a bicycle, which placed human locomotion efficiency at the top and well above the Condor. The conclusion Steve made was that Humans are a species of tools and the computer is the most remarkable tool invented and is equivalent to a bicycle for our minds.
The computer today, also known as compute, has changed from being static and local towards virtual, distributed and shared. Some compute happens locally on a client system, such as a laptop, tablet or smart phone, while other compute happens on either a dedicated server or shared compute in the cloud. Often it’s not clear to the user where it’s happening and does not bare any relevance to the task on hand, as long as it gets done.
The retail consumer compute experience has evolved much faster in comparison to traditional Enterprise IT. This experience shift poses a big challenge to Enterprise IT organizations around the globe. People are becoming successful CIO’s of their own lives; self-procuring on-demand video, file/photo sharing and social collaboration services which span the globe while maintaining a distinct secure manor in how they consume and share their information. These services are ubiquitous and universally available and seemingly free for the masses. This is not a reflection on the trailing performance of Enterprise IT but rather an illustration of the additional challenges and burdens they face yet need to provide services on parity to what’s openly available to the general public.
Whether you are a CIO, IT Manager, Value Added Reseller, System Integrator or Service Provider (essentially IT delivery) your role towards your customer or users has shifted in two profound ways. The realization or expectation of the business value IT can and should deliver has grown while at the same time the availability of IT/compute services has grown exponentially in an environment where you were once the sole provider of such services. Do you leverage the abundance of choice and availability or do you protect your single supplier status..?
The answer to this question is more difficult and complex than it first appears. It is the type of question which mainline businesses are asking themselves each day; do I protect my core product, leaving an opportunity to my competitors to innovate and possibly win or do I embrace and innovate around change and ultimately cannibalizing my core product hoping for a greater result.
The essence of these choices comes down to how you deliver value to your customers. Protecting your core product is a way of establishing or maintaining your competitive advantage but results in false, short-lived value for your customer. This is the inherent risk in focusing on competitive advantage in lieu of overall customer value. The open, collaborative, non-protectionist approach invariably wins. We’ve witnessed this, countless times, at the IT infrastructure vendor level and now how IT services are being delivered and consumed.
When talking with people in the IT delivery space, the challenge seems less around whether to embrace external compute services through the cloud or other means but how to do this and in a way which best serves their respective customers or organization.
Organizations have varying appetites for IT availability, performance, security, compliance and governance. These same factors influence an IT organization’s ability to adopt compute services such as external cloud services. Not only are these factors different for each organization but also will change as the organization matures and grows or the business climate changes.
The ideal solution to all of this is to allow the seamless consumption of Cloud Services irrespective of where or who is delivering that service. The single critical and unique factor to any organization is its data. To use a personal example, if I switch from one type of smart phone to another, my overall smart phone experience is not altered provided that my data (Contacts, Mail, Calendar, Web links) remain intact. In other words, everything around the operating system, processor, telecom provider is static however my data is dynamic and essential to the phones efficacy. The data payloads and the scale of an organizations IT environment is infinitely larger than a consumer smart phone.
Given that data is the single critical factor and rest is static, how does one adopt a multi sourced Cloud IT model while insuring stewardship around unique IT success factors such as availability, performance, security, compliance and governance? Adding to this the ability to adopt or change cloud models which requires the movement of data. All this needs to be done without IT getting in the way of business or increasing operational costs. Data is growing at quicker pace than ever, as data payloads get larger the complexities and time it takes to move grow.
With computers being the bicycle for the mind, we are now we are finding ourselves in an environment where there is an impressive array of bicycle options, in the form of Cloud Compute Services. Using these various bicycles, in an efficient, seamless, cost effective manor will gleam the most value from IT services today and in the future.