Cloud Expo & PaaS: Where Do We Take It From Here?

“It’s the same old tune, fiddle and guitar, where do we take it from here.” – Waylon Jennings (RIP).

Waylon was talking about change in this song, which was entitled “Are You Sure Hank Done it This Way?” His view was that one could build on a great legacy – in this case, country music – while still respecting it. He faced the same reactionary forces that artists have faced since modern western society emerged during the Renaissance.

I daresay that cloud computing continues to face the same sort of resistance as it builds upon the great legacy of enterprise IT, and as it brings changes to decades of established procedure.

“Legacy IT” was a derisive term a decade ago, as an earlier generation of client-server systems threatened to eliminate the mainframe “hairball” (Scott McNealy’s term) for good.

From Derided to Accepted
Today, legacy IT is an accepted piece of the puzzle, and can describe anything that is not new. I don’t think anyone expects enterprise IT to run with “seamless interoperability” (the worst marketing buzzphrase ever) anytime soon. The challenge of making everything work is, after all, why everyone in IT has a job in the first place.

So…having returned recently from Cloud Expo in New York to my current office in Illinois, I have to ponder, “where do we take it from here?”

The big lesson from Cloud Expo, as I wrote a few days ago, is the inevitably of multi-cloud computing. Enough vendors are now partnering with one another, creating a vast new sea of middleware. This creates a marvelous tautology: a.) your current enterprise IT shop can migrate to cloud without having to rip stuff up, b.) cloud computing can be embraced by your organization because you don’t have to rip stuff up.

Well, this lesson might qualify as a big “duh” to enterprise IT pros who’ve been bemused to this point about “cloud myths” and the Den of FUD being furnished by companies large and small. Of course we will work within our own parameters! Of course we won’t tear everything up! In fact, we won’t tear anything up!

Now that cloud vendors – and those who write about the technology – have figured out there will be no clean lines drawn among public, private, and hybrid cloud, we’re all allowed to proceed with cloud initiatives as it suits our company’s fashion. The newish, cloud-era purveyors of Infrastructure (IaaS) in the cloud are now free to see hockey-stick growth in an arena populated by all of the traditional enterprise IT players.

Whither Larry’s Company?
While on this topic, I’d like to observe that it seems Oracle CEO Larry Ellison continues to have nothing of value to say about cloud computing. His feigned disgust of cloud of a few years ago has been replaced by condescending endorsement. The only good news here seems to be an earnestness among Oracle’s other employees to bend the company’s offerings to fit what there customers want. It is impossible for me to tell at this point whether cloud will ultimately destroy Oracle, be destroyed by it, or simply sleeken it up to meet the needs of this new era.

Time for More PaaS
In any case, Oracle must function within this multi-cloud universe. And within this universe, the question of software development (delivered as PaaS) also raises its head. I find PaaS to be the most dynamic area within cloud. As one PaaS entrepreneur told me in New York, “you know there are only two PaaS frameworks with more than $10 million in revenue right now – and one of them is Microsoft Azure.”

In other words, the Oklahoma Land Rush is on, and it will look chaotic to some, for some time.
As a business-side panelist during the DeployCon PaaS conference held within Cloud Expo noted, “the machine screws aren’t the same size” among the competing cloud development programs and frameworks today, further noting that “it will be a long time before they are.”

This can either signal chaos and cause timid managers to wait until things standardize themselves, or can signal healthy competition and cause bolder managers to pursue their cloud projects with what they think is the best software and framework for them.

I’m trying to think if there’s ever been a truly losing bet when it comes to software languages and frameworks. There must be more than 100 significant languages and frameworks already in use – and the better jobs go to those with well-developed skills in more than one of them.

Train ‘Em!
Which brings me to my final point of the day. Cloud computing promises to upgrade IT jobs. Let the water flow where it may – if lower level tech support continues to migrate to India, the Philippines, and Eastern Europe, let it. Train your people here, train them well, lobby against more H1B visas, and let a thousand flowers bloom.

If enough of the United States’ current population simply can’t be trained to meet the more extreme needs of cloud computing, then forget what I said about the visas. The opportunity is there in any case.

Ask the major research companies if you wish – or look around your shop, think about what you want to build on the cloud with PaaS, and see if you can find the talent to do it. If you can’t let me know – I’m ready to start a whole new series of PaaS conferences if there’s a need.

As Waylon himself wrote, “Tell me one more time just so I understand.” I think I’ve been told enough now.

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