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My Cloud Learning Journey: Part 2 “Made to Measure”

HaleyC

 

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By guest Author Tim Clayton, HPE Marketing Business Services, part 2 of his cloud journey.

In the second part of my cloud learning journey, I was lucky enough to chat with Bernard Golden, CEO of Navica, a boutique cloud consultancy firm which helps companies define the right cloud solution for specific needs.

My need from our chat is a little less demanding; I want to talk to Bernard, who is the author of ‘Virtualization For Dummies’, to find out about Cloud For Dummies (like myself). It is a pretty apt place for any learning journey to begin.

As it turns out, the conversation meanders and I end up finding out so much more. The real story that emerges is one about what makes cloud attractive to business and the impact on those who adopt…. It is also a story about the history of shoes.

But let us start with the three pieces of advice that Bernard gives to even the greenest of the green who are thinking about cloud:

  • Understand. Download the I.S.T definition of cloud computing which will help you understand what it is and what it is not. It will dispel the myth that the cloud is the computing equivalent of part-owning a time-share apartment in the Florida Keys.
  • Educate yourself a little. Check out free tutorials. Read some online discussions and find out what you can from others.
  • Experiment. Don’t just jump straight in at the deep end if you are unsure. There are a whole range of free tiers out there from the big providers and you can see if the cloud fits your business. If small companies are even a little tech-savvy, they can just roll up their sleeves and start using SaaS models without needing too much expert help.

It really is that easy and that just about concludes the ‘Cloud For Dummies’ chat that was supposed to be the focus of our full hour. It may seem like a simplified answer, but that is usually the best answer to give to someone who is not yet capable of understanding complexities. You don’t need to talk about the wealth of solutions and options on the market; it is often more beneficial to just direct people to a decent definition, recommend they learn a little more for themselves, and then tell them to try it and see how it goes.

And now let’s talk about shoes…

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I am a born and bred Northamptonian, from the very heart of England. The town’s shoe industry is world renowned, so much so that we have a shoe museum where you can see Elton John’s madcap platform boots from the film ‘Tommy’ and lasts made for royalty stretching back through generations. There is even a website dedicated to the shoemaking industry. Our perennially underwhelming football team are known as the Cobblers.

The local shoe industry may have declined somewhat in recent years but it still survives with over 25 manufacturers keeping up a 900-year tradition. You may ask: Why Northampton? It turns out that the plentiful oak bark and water for tanning, along with the abundant supply of leather from local cattle markets, made Northamptonshire the perfect place for shoemaking to flourish.

You may also ask: Why on Earth are you talking about this? That is a great question! It turns out that Bernard, an American based in Silicon Valley, and myself, an Englishman based in Poland, share an affiliation to this much-overlooked town in central England through birth (myself) and marriage (Bernard). We both love visiting the same theater each Christmas. It may seem like a tenuous link for us to start a conversation, but sometimes such small coincidences lead to interesting perambulations around the subject.

So, please join me as we take a walk around the topics of Silicon Valley, the growth of industry, and getting left behind in the cloud world—all in a comfortable, well-heeled pair of shoes. Here are some of the questions I put to Bernard:

Why do so many companies gravitate to Silicon Valley, and is it fair to say that Seattle, not California, is the real hub of cloud computing?

“It wasn’t always that way, Silicon Valley was once farming country. And it didn’t change overnight to there suddenly being thousands of tech companies here. It was a process. It is very much like the shoe industry. There was probably one shoe maker in Northampton in the past, then a local metal worker saw an opening and started supplying them with eyelets and buckles. Leather and material companies probably also adapted their businesses. This meant there was some infrastructure to attract other shoemakers; they found that the town now had good suppliers for all the materials they needed to make their footwear. Time passes and you have a huge industry with a number of players. Silicon Valley grew in much the same way.

Seattle is very much the heart of the cloud world. Microsoft and Amazon are based there, as is a lot of the HPE cloud team. Companies wanted to get into cloud and they found that the best people were in one area and were probably not likely to move to Silicon Valley and pay extremely high rents. The knowledge, skills, and infrastructure often grow around the first key players.”

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So, the cloud industry may not be a manufactory, but it does follow the same supply and demand economics. Bernard also likens the Silicon Valley of today to the hotbed of innovation that was 19th century Britain. The same rules apply to IT innovation as they did during the industrial revolution. “Silicon Valley is the crossroads of the world for ambitious tech people. There is a lot of fermented innovation and it is almost an accelerated Darwinian evolution for products and ideas. But there are failures along the way just the same as in any business. It is governed by the same venture capital structure that all industries face. For every ten ideas, 1 or 2 are big hits, 4 or 5 trundle along without doing anything spectacular, and the others are total flame outs.”

How about cloud innovations? I’ve heard so many positives about it, it seems that there are no horror stories…

Bernard describes some ideas as brilliant and others as just ludicrous—something like trying to mass market Elton John’s three feet high platform Dr Martens, I guess—citing the innovative (mis)conception of an Uber-style service for house maids that someone sunk $30M into… without reasoning that the need for a one-off lift in a car and a house-cleaning service are quite different. Sometimes it costs thirty million to find out an idea is not going anywhere. But there will still be big hits and some can keep swinging for the fence if they have the finances to cover their failures. Let’s face it, Edison is not remembered for his obsession with trying to create single-pour concrete houses made from molds that included everything from the walls to the picture frames and door stops. He is also not lauded for his electric pen—although that idea did inspire the tattoo gun which is the essential tool of an industry that is about as popular as electric light right now.

“I’m sure some companies might think the cloud would not be appropriate for them, but many find that it is. For example, even the CIA are now more attracted to the public cloud, which seems so at odds with the work they do,” says Bernard. “Of course, there are horror stories with cloud, but I’d guesstimate that 90% of companies that switch all or part of their services find that things get cheaper, faster, and easier. But the horror stories are also mitigated by the process. You can move parts of the business to cloud and slowly transfer. It doesn’t have to be a total leap.”

Does that mean that not moving the cloud means you are doing business more expensively, more slowly, and with greater difficulty? 

“The N.I.S.T. definition starts off by describing cloud as self-service, then goes on to use the term elasticity, which means the ability to grow and shrink application resources quickly,” Bernard explains. “If you are using cloud, it means you can roll out more quickly, respond to trends, and support erratic workloads.”

That means that our friendly local shoemaker can design and produce new products more quickly, as well as respond to fashion trends and circumstances. In a particularly wet summer, he won’t be stuck a surplus of sandals (worn in the British fashion with socks, of course) if he is able to shrink down quickly in response to lower demand.

Of course, this does not mean that traditional industry cannot still thrive, but the cloud is a tool that is beginning to affect business models. “It is like shoes again. You could still produce at quality, but you would eventually get left behind if you were still hand sewing and your competitor had just invented a machine that machine-stitched through leather,” says Bernard.

In my own opinion, the hand-stitched-shoe company could still exist and thrive as a bespoke, niche product that does not manufacture in huge volumes. I personally feel that the cloud represents a more fundamental change in the IT world. I am starting to think that it is less like the shoe analogy in this case and more like the introduction of Jethro Tull’s seed drill in the early 1700s. What farmer would choose to scatter three bushels of seed per acre for a yield of twenty bushels, when the new invention offered three times less wastage when sowing for four times the yield?

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But can companies measure the impact of cloud in the same way a farmer can weigh his grain?

And this is where the really tricky questions arise—ones that we will cover in upcoming blogs. However, the different paradigm of payment means that companies can “pay as they use” and get a good measure of their costs related to the cloud.

The problem, in Bernard’s opinion, is that some companies have a “very poor sense of their own overall costs.” What about people? Infrastructure? Hardware? How can companies really measure time saved and productivity? These are all things we will take a deeper dive into in a later post. For now you can learn a little more in  the 451 Report: Transformative Impact of the Cloud. However, regardless of whether companies are budgeting everything the right way, there is an overwhelming assumption that cloud is saving money and making business sense, which means we are seeing more and more mainstream organizations going all in on cloud. There is a belief that it is the right way to go and that market conditions are dictating the best business decision.

If you have the right oak bark, the supply of leather and water for tanning, what other option do you have but to make shoes? 

About the Author

HaleyC

I manage the HPE Helion social media brand accounts promoting the enterprise cloud solutions at HPE for hybrid, public, and private clouds.I have put my toes in the ocean of cloud evangelism for the enterprise IT industry. But my expertise is in Social Media and Digital Marketing.

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