A perspective from a week of Cloud learning

No doubt the IT industry is undergoing a significant transition. The sort that only comes along every 10-15 years or so. Broadly the idea is that companies will run less of their own IT over time, with specialist ‘Cloud’ service providers doing it for them instead. Not a new idea, but technology is finally making it possible. And innovative new services and applications are proving to be the catalyst.

Last week was a good one for me to assess where we on the journey towards Cloud Computing in Europe. I started the week with the annual NetApp Cloud Business Summit, a gathering in London of ~200 Service Providers from across EMEA plus several industry Analysts. On Wednesday I met with 5 CIO's on a panel for Meet the Boss TV. And finally I went to Cloud Expo Europe, along with 7000 other IT folk. No wonder I'm not getting any proper work done!


Where are we with the shift to Cloud?

Honest answer - most people don't really know. They know it's happening, and needs to happen, but are not sure how fast it will go. And those that tell you they do are almost certainly bluffing, or biased. Everything and every project now seems to be some sort of Cloud. And if you ask 10 people for a definition of what Cloud Computing really is, you get 11 answers.......


A more pragmatic view, what do we know?

Despite the confusion, Cloud is appealing to end users and IT providers alike. However IT services and applications delivered using shared Cloud services make up only a very small proportion of IT spend today – $10bn’s in a $3Trillion IT market. But consensus is that they are growing an order of magnitude or two faster than traditional IT, as users increasingly want to purchase services and infrastructure as they need it, rather than buying in big chunks of investment.


When it comes to Cloud, users want choice. The sensible ones see an infrastructure built up using many clouds - private, public and hyper-scale over time. What is becoming commonly known as a ‘hybrid’ model. Ideally connected together via a 'common data platform'. They don’t want to be locked-in to any one vendor. Nor do they want to be limited to any one location, although consistent data location is critical, especially in Europe. Trust and perception of risk are more important than technology when it comes to Cloud service adoption.


Of the hyper-scale players, AWS (Amazon Web Services) is the elephant in the room. Estimates are they account for $4bn per annum of Cloud service business today, admittedly with estimated costs of $6bn per annum! Google, Microsoft are the closest challengers with VMware the new kid on the block with their vCHS service – launched in Europe last week. These companies are also pitched against the OpenStack community, which seems to be gathering significant momentum.


Developers are becoming way more important, and their access to Cloud services is accelerating innovation. Hot topic last week - the ‘value’ created by WhatsApp, bought for $19bn recently by Facebook. 1 App, 55 people, 35 developers. $19 billion ! Allegedly all developed on the IBM Softlayer Cloud.


Finally, there is much debate on whether Private Cloud is really Cloud at all. I think they should be included, as long as they offer users self-service access to a catalogue of automated on-demand services. Not just a planned IT project re-named as a Cloud project to keep your bosses happy. Assuming you include it in the market sizing numbers, no doubt Private Clouds account for the vast majority of projects today. Although getting an accurate figure is near impossible given the vast number of definitions out there.


In summary, as you build your cloud approach, make sure you’re not falling for the hype - either way - no Cloud or a single Cloud for everything is definitely not a sensible, pragmatic or sustainable strategy for any IT department, or business.


Also see: 9 questions you should ask before putting your data in any Cloud