While at the Cloud Forum sponsored by IBM I had the opportunity to speak with IBM's Jim Comfort, General Manager, IBM Cloud Managed Services. He thinks that the market has cloud computing all wrong and is doing his best to convince others to think differently about the cloud.
About Jim Comfort
Jim is responsible for IBM Smart Cloud Platform and Services Capability inclusive of offering management, architecture, development, deployment and delivery globally. IBM's SmartCloud platform encompasses Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) and Platform as a Service (PaaS) capabilities delivered in both self service API driven models and fully managed ITIL compliant managed services.
Public, Private and Hybrid Clouds
Today, the industry conversation focuses on the distinctions between and among public, private and hybrid clouds. Comfort believes that this starts the conversation in the wrong place. It is his view that it would be much better to consider the following topics instead:
whether cloud resources are dedicated to serving the needs of a single client or are shared among multiple tenants
whether the cloud resources are on-premise or off-premise
Comfort believes that these distinctions lead to far better thinking about the growing use of cloud computing.
Dedicated or Shared
Cloud computing can be hosted on systems assigned to a single client or shared among many tenants. The proper selection of how computing, networking and storage resources are assigned makes it possible to achieve necessary levels of performance, reliability and management control.
On-premise or off-premise
Many of the principles and technology behind cloud computing can be utilized for both on-premise, in-our-own-data-center workloads and for workloads hosted in the data center of a cloud services provider. Companies needing to get the best utilization of their own systems, software, networks and storage would be wise, in Comfort's view, to break through their internal silos and start using them as on-premise clouds.
This approach, Comfort would say, would allow resources to be used more efficiently, allow less IT resources to sit idle and would, in all likelihood, would reduce the need to add new systems, software licenses or storage to a company's portfolio.
If a workload requires more computing resources than are currently available, it might be wise to consider using the resources offered by an external cloud services provider. Only if this need persists would it be necessary to go through the process of purchasing more systems, software licenses, storage and hire additional staff.
All of a company's options should be considered
Comfort suggested that if both dedicated and shared resources are available options in an off premise solution, then the optimization and flexibility around hybrid use cases are far simpler as the data locality issues go away. Furthermore, the security model is simpler to manage.
Decision-makers would be wise, he would point out, to evaluate the options for each of their workloads rather than deploying one option everywhere.
Looking at the wrong metrics
Comfort also points out that most companies that are considering the use of cloud computing services are looking at the wrong metrics when making their decision. He would suggest looking beyond IT issues to considering the full impact on the company as a whole. It would be wise for decision-makers to consider what no longer needs to be done and the costs of those things when working with a cloud computing environment.
Comfort suggests that cloud computing means that companies can shift to thinking more about what they need to accomplish rather than being locked into thinking about how something needs to be accomplished. The cloud services provider, he would point out, addresses the how leaving companies free to focus on the what.
In the end, Comfort would point out, companies could focus more on productivity and what they need to do to prosper in this rapidly changing market. Lifting the burden of IT from decision-makers' thinking could result in a great deal of innovation.
Comfort's efforts to change the industry conversation about cloud computing could result in both a more productive and pragmatic discussion of what companies need to do to better use IT as a competitive weapon without forcing them to consider things such as acquiring new real estate for a data center, systems, software licenses or increasing staffing levels to acquire new expertise.
Cloud computing needs to move beyond the stage of being merely a “catch phrase” to the “wiring in the wall,” that is just one of the ways IT is utilized by companies. Comfort is hoping that once cloud computing moves on from being discussed as being "everything to everyone, everywhere, always", like client/server computing, the use of PCs and other topics have over time, the industry can move on to solving business problems and helping companies achieve desired outcomes. An analogy would be to move from having to design the engine, transmission and frame and just focus on being able to drive where we want to go.