Gospel of Cloud – Beware False Profits


So this week I’m really busy recording and releasing podcasts on iTunes which are replacing the directly hosted podcasts that you’ve been able to grab from here over the last four months or so. I’m also attending a few cloud things, most noticeably the EMEA OpenStack Conference at The Mermaid on Wednesday. I’m going to be taking some mobile recording gear with me and am recording a couple of podcasts with some people for release in short order.

So in preparation for this and also for some recording I’m doing today I was doing my reading this morning and making my notes, my handwriting at the best of times looks like your doctors. Except a doctor on opiates I’d guess. I’ve always found that Aspergers is a blessing in most aspects of life as a techie but in hand to eye co-ordination for note taking or any form of short hand trust me it’s an utter pain. There are often times when I look back at meeting notes and wonder who wrote my notes me or a spider who has evolved a new ability to master using a ballpen.

So today I was looking at the revenue figures and estimates alike from both the Cloud gliterrati and the analysts with their “proven finger in the wind” methodologies of telling us how much one aspect of Cloud or one particular type of Cloud technology is going to contribute towards global IT spend. Makes mental note to Google where they get their crystal balls from as I am coming up stumps what to get my wife for Christmas this year.

There’s one article you don’t see appearing from the IT journalist community,  one byline that doesn’t leave the MacBook Pro of the analyst hunched over his latest prophecy. I live in hope of one day reading it. Knowing this column does get read by journalists and others in positions of stature in the print and online media maybe this can serve as a clarion call – a call to arms if you will.

In this halcyon lucid article an analyst will pick over the realities of how the adoption of locked in building bricks of a Cloud technology platform reduces the ability of the service provider tier to make real attainable revenue. He or she will “in an almost Moses Moment” realise that the last time we were at this point in the creation of the building bricks of the internet the behemoths of the traditional computing world were trying to enforce Lotus Notes and Microsoft Exchange as the way to communicate. That to get to the baseline we had to sign a “licencing agreement” for every client we attached to a service. We all know where that ended up. Had the internet been entirely built on Windows rather Linux where would we be with regards to technology adoption, creativity and the services we consume and the underlying technologies that underpin them ?

Cloud as you know it, as we know it is not a virtualisation layer or a fabric architecture built around proprietary locked down standards. Cloud is Open. If you invest in proprietary locked down technologies “that also interact with open APIs and standards” what does that say about your own understanding of technology advancement or the direction you want your company or platforms to take ?. It’s akin “to playing catch up”. What does that say about your companies position as a thought leader or being able to get the best out of your platforms ? Not a lot in the bigger scheme of things.

I am therefore waiting for the lightning bolt of reality to strike when the analyst brave enough to stand up from the masses with hand outstretched to the heavens having clicked that Cloud is actually built of the “Lego” building blocks developed in the Open, developed and fostered by the Community, polished and honed in a supported manner by specialist organisations but evolved by everyone – including you – who provide contributions, commits, documentation and importantly credibility.

A polite note to analysts. Shrink wrapped software providers make gross revenue profit from shrink wrapped boxes that do one thing. They shrink wrap in the secrets and they form the brick walls that prevent longterm growth. Thats the case whether you’re talking the secret recipe for a southern fried chicken fast food brand or a specific type of cola in a red can. Whilst being proprietary never did their sales much harm they were joined in their respective markets by other players who provided alternatives. However that is where this analogy ends.

Here’s the magic bit.

In days of old innovation was secured by intellectual property and shrink wrap, EULAs and the need to maintain world order. Cloud came out of the Open Source innovation model, if we examine the components of Cloud it’s actually built around the Open Source model.

The proprietary vendors whose revenue estimates or guesstimates make up the wild and crazy predictive revenue figures really do nothing for the credibility of Cloud. Are they supposed to increase our ability to want to spend or to feel braver to go to our CFO cap outstretched to make a budgetary demand for “Cloud” ? Personally they reinforce a realisation that all the time analysts are doing their whole predictive piece that the worker ants and the movers and shakers in technology are actually doing the important stuff. We are busy evolving standards openly, we are pushing the latest builds of Puppet or Boxgrinder, the latest OpenStack build, the latest OpenShift update, busy designing and releasing more mature ways of doing interoperability with CloudForms or looking at how we secure our very Cloud experience with SELinux.

Analysts whilst the Open Source community can’t write cheques to pay for your conferences and justify your expenses you need to realise that the actual difference between that world of old, of proprietary being the primary world order awaiting the catch up of those copying in their wake – it’s over.

The Cloud world order is the primary piece in the technological food chain and it’s actually the proprietary vendors  who are playing continual catchup whilst hoping customers won’t mind paying the technology adoption costs of being consumers of stuff that will forever be following the trail, not blazing it.

False prophets ? False profits – I’ll let you decide on that one, I’m just the evangelist.

Podcast: Chris Wells talks Open Hybrid Cloud

So this last month has been a lot of travelling, I’ve personally covered nearly 20,000 miles in a month and now I have a break for almost a month while I do other stuff. Never fear during this time there will be stories and podcasts appearing throughout, got a whole bank to get out to you and we do the iTunes launch about November 10th which will be a lot of fun as we ramp up. The podcasts are now approaching 13,000 downloads as an experiment before we even started to consider getting to iTunes syndicated RSS feeds. We had to get the content and tone right and make sure you wanted them in this format and the resounding reply from the community and readers is that it’s time to go mainstream.

This week we were in the capital of the Netherlands, Amsterdam. As always a chance to talk to a lot of European technology folk specifically about CloudForms and Open Hybrid Cloud. Chris Wells was over from the US. You’ve seen Chris before on the blog – he’s “Mr Magic Hands” on the CloudForms video thats been downloaded / watched by over 900 people from this portal alone. He gave a talk during the week to a breakout group talking about Open Hybrid Cloud. It’s a talk I give a lot on my travels but as he wrote the deck and I simply do my impression of this guy from Ohio to the best of my abilities I thought it would be good to hear it done properly. By someone who has more fashion taste than I do and doesn’t just bludgeon you to death with slides and interesting Cloud ephemera.

Recorded during a lunch session (apologies for clinking plates / glasses in the recording) I’ve also had to try and mix / amplify / blend in questions from the room as best I can.

So if you’re interested in Cloud and Open Hybrid Cloud this one is definitely worth a download. There is a slidedeck that you’ll need to download in Acrobat PDF format alongside the audio and you can grab that here or the recording will make no sense.

Download the podcast here in MP3 and OGG formats

Open Cloud – it’s a no brainer

For those of us of a certain vintage who were schooled in the arts of computing in the 1980s and earlier we’ve seen empires grow and prosper as well as decline and disappear. Technological change breathes life into the markets as much as it also types the epitaphs and the obituaries of technology organisations and platforms. Obsolescence, you could argue, is part of the foodchain or technology lifecycle of everything thats ever been compiled or released.

This is never more so true than in the proprietary marketplaces where companies allowing you to rent time or to buy licences to use their technologies essentially “made hay while the sun shone”.

If you look up obsolescence in Wikipedia you get the definition:

“Obsolescence is the state of being which occurs when an object, service or practice is no longer wanted even though it may still be in good working order. Obsolescence frequently occurs because a replacement has become available that is superior in one or more aspects.”

Could you then argue that obsolescence is part of traditional IT procurement ? Part of the rich tapestry of acquiring technology and writing the purchase cost off over a fixed period and therefore IT becomes a balance sheet object as much as it does an avenue to go to work within an organisation ?

One things for sure obsolescence sure takes the fun out of computing. For years I’ve profited from it, I built my first major global software project SmoothWall and the company that was born from that GPL goodness. We built it one hundred percent on IT hardware made obsolete through Windows upgrades and inability to keep up with change and acquired through recycling companies. After all just because a box didn’t run Windows XP didn’t mean we couldn’t run Red Hat Linux on it or turn an old Compaq Proliant NT server running at a snails pace into a lightning quick LAMP stack box giving it extended life.

So maybe I’m missing something here we’ve defined obsolete. We know what it means.

So maybe if you accept that anything you buy will have a limited life on the balance sheet and you have a fiduciary responsibility to your company, your shareholders, investors or your own bottom line then maybe you need to understand what fiduciary means.

Fiduciary, if we return to Wikipedia once more gives us the description – A fiduciary duty (from Latin fiduciarius, meaning “(holding) in trust”; from fides, meaning “faith”, and fiducia, meaning “trust”) is a legal or ethical relationship of confidence or trust between two or more parties.

Interesting, so if you’re spending money from your IT budget on stuff you know is going to be obsolete, have a limited return and in the final quarter end up scrapped and out of date beyond the help of IT support and updates you have to then make a fiduciary relationship with a proprietary technology partner to buy that right to use that closed technology. The definition of fiduciary meaning trust and faith. So you’re trusting and putting your faith in that acquisition knowing the clock is ticking the moment you sign that purchase order as you can’t get under the hood. You’re buying something you can’t see that a EULA or a licence agreement only allow you to use rather than own or engineer to your needs as an organisation. To use the vernacular and IT speak thats a very real one way trust.

Let’s relate this to Cloud.

If you go down the route of using proprietary weaker technologies or locked in technology platforms you are part of the problem not part of the solution. Cloud should be an opportunity to correct the sins of the past. The ability to have virtual server images that can be provisioned, managed, utilised and torn down at speed and to fit the performance and scalability characteristics of your companies needs should have just as much a reflection on your balance sheet as they should your IT budget and your technical requirements. So if you can get to Cloud in a manner that is financially and ethically responsible, that amplifies and promotes the skillsets and capabilities of your staff and those that you source in the marketplace you’re automatically better off.

If you choose an Open Cloud and build your strategies using open standards, you’re also reducing obsolescence by being able to have a granular and strategic control over your stack, your adopted protocols and your business growth like never before.

So before you go to Cloud ask your vendor of choice if their cloud is truly open, allowing you the benefits of Cloud across every aspect of your IT resources not just a fraction of the technologies or legacy platforms you may run. Being open is allowing you to avoid essentially building a new silo and just labelling it Cloud. Being Open allows you to control your destiny and every aspect of your ecosystem without waiting for a vendor to get there first and to enforce obsolescence into your design or architecture. And being Open allows you to own your migration path rather than force you into project driven cost centric and licence hungry technology acquisition.

Being open matters, Open Source is the only way forward for the savvy Cloud adoptee. Going into an agreement or technology refresh with a closed or proprietary platform could be compared to the sentence that completes the Wikipedia definition for obsolescence:

Obsolete refers to something that is already disused or discarded, or antiquated. Typically, obsolescence is preceded by a gradual decline in popularity.

Wikipedia finished my sentence.