The Big Shift: From Cloud Skeptics & Magic Pills to ITaaS Nirvana

By Ron Dupler, CEO GreenPages Technology Solutions

Over the last 4-6 quarters, we have seen a significant market evolution, with our customers and the overall market moving from theorizing about cloud computing to defining strategies and plans to reap the benefits of cloud computing solutions and implement hybrid cloud models. In a short period of time we’ve seen IT thought leaders move from debating the reality and importance of cloud computing, to trying to understand how to most effectively grasp the benefits of cloud computing to improve organizational efficiency, velocity, and line of business empowerment. Today, we see the leading edge of the market aggressively rationalizing their application architectures and driving to hybrid cloud computing models.

Internally, we call this phenomenon The Big Shift. Let’s discuss what we know about The Big Shift. First for all of the cloud skeptics reading this, it is an undeniable fact that corporate application workloads are moving from customer owned architectures to public cloud computing platforms. RW Baird released an interesting report in Q’4 of 2013 that included the following observations:

  • Corporate workloads are moving to the public cloud.
  • Much of the IT industry has been asleep at the wheel as Big Shift momentum has accelerated due to the fact that public cloud spending still represents a small portion of overall IT spend.
  • Traditional IT spending is growing in the low single digits. 2-3% per year is a good approximation.
  • Cloud spending is growing at 40% plus per year.
  • What we call The Big Shift is accelerating and is going to have a tremendous impact on the traditional IT industry in the coming years. For every $1.00 increase in public cloud spending, there is a corresponding $3.00-$4.00 decrease in customer-owned IT spend.

There are some other things we know about The Big Shift:

The Big Shift is disrupting old industry paradigms and governance models. We see market evidence of this in traditional IT industry powerhouses like HP and Dell struggling to adapt and reinvent themselves and to maintain relevance and dominance in the new ITaaS era. We even saw perennial powerhouse Cisco lower its 5 year growth forecast during last calendar Q’4 due to the forces at play in the market. In short, the Big Shift is driving disruption throughout the entire IT supply chain. Companies tied to the traditional, customer-owned IT world are finding themselves under financial pressures and are struggling to adapt. Born in the cloud companies like Amazon are seeing tremendous and accelerating growth as the market embraces ITaaS.

In corporate America, the Big Shift is causing inertia as corporate IT leaders and their staffs reassess their IT strategies and strive to determine how best to execute their IT initiatives in the context of the tremendous market change going on around them. We see many clients who understand the need to drive to an ITaaS model and embrace hybrid cloud architectures but do not know how best to attack that challenge and prepare to manage in a hybrid cloud world. This lack of clarity is causing delays in decision making and stalling important IT initiatives.

Let’s discuss cloud for a bit. Cloud computing is a big topic that elicits emotional reactions. Cloud-speak is pervasive in our industry. By this point, the vast majority of your IT partners and vendors are couching their solutions as cloud, or as-a-service, solutions. Some folks in the industry are bold enough to tell you that they have the magic cloud pill that will lead you to ITaaS nirvana. Due to this, many IT professionals that I speak with are sick of talking about cloud and shy away from the topic. My belief is that this avoidance is counterproductive and driven by cloud pervasiveness, lack of precision and clarity when discussing cloud, and the change pressure the cloud revolution is imposing on all professional technologists. The age old mandate to embrace change or die has never been more relevant. Therefore, we feel it is imperative to tackle the cloud discussion head on.

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Let me take a stab at clarifying the cloud discussion. Figure 1 below represents the Big Shift. As noted above, it is undeniable that workloads are shifting from private, customer owned IT architectures, to public, customer rented platforms, i.e. the public cloud. We see three vectors of change in the industry that are defining the cloud revolution.

Cloud Change Vectors

The first vector is the modernization of legacy, customer-owned architectures. The dominant theme here over the past 5-7 years has been the virtualization of the compute layer. The dominant player during this wave of transformation has been VMware. The first wave of virtualization has slowed in the past 4-6 quarters as the compute virtualization market has matured and the vast majority of x86 workloads have been virtualized. There is a new second wave that is just forming and that will be every bit as powerful and important as the first wave. This wave is represented by new, advanced forms of virtualization and the continued abstraction of more complex components of traditional IT infrastructure: networking, storage, and ultimately entire datacenters as we move to a world of software defined datacenter (SDDC) in the coming years.

The second vector of change in the cloud era involves deploying automation, orchestration, and service catalogues to enable private cloud computing environments for internal users and lines of business. Private cloud environments are the industry and corporate IT’s reaction to the public cloud providers’ ability to provide faster, cheaper, better service levels to corporate end users and lines of business. In short, the private cloud change vector is driven by the fact that internal IT now has competition. Their end users and lines of business, development teams in particular, have new service level expectations based on their consumer experiences and their ability to get fast, cheap, commodity compute from the likes of Amazon. To compete, corporate IT staffs must enable self-service functionality for their lines of business and development teams by deploying advanced management tools that provide automation, orchestration, and service catalogue functionality.

The third vector of change in the cloud era involves tying the inevitable blend of private, customer-owned architectures together with the public cloud platforms in use today at most companies. The result is a true hybrid cloud architectural model that can be managed, preserving the still valid command and control mandates of traditional corporate IT,  and balancing those mandates with the end user empowerment and velocity expected in today’s cloud world.

In the context of these three change vectors we see several approaches within our customer base. We see some customers taking a “boil the ocean” approach and striving to rationalize their entire application portfolios to determine best execution venues and define a path to a true hybrid cloud architecture. We see other customers taking a much more cautious approach and leveraging cloud-based point solutions like desktop and disaster recovery as-a-service to solve old business problems in new ways. Both approaches are valid and depend on uses cases, budgets, and philosophical approach (aggressive, leading-edge, versus conservative follow-the-market thinking).

GreenPages business strategy in the context of the ITaaS and cloud revolution is simple. We have built an organization that has the people, process, and technologies to provide expert strategic guidance and proven cloud-era solutions for our clients through a historical inflection point in the way that information technology is delivered to corporate end users and lines of business. Our cloud management as a service offering (CMaaS) provides a technology platform that helps customers integrate the disparate management tools deployed in their environments and federate alerts through an enterprise command center approach that gives a singular view into physical, virtual, and public cloud workloads. CMaaS also provides cloud service brokerage and governance capabilities allowing our customers to view price-performance analytics across private and public cloud environments, design service models and view the related bills of material, and view and consolidate billings across multiple public cloud providers. What are your thoughts on the Big Shift? How is your organization addressing the changes in the IT landscape?