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My Cloud Learning Journey: Part 5 “The Super Unknowns”



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Guest Post by Tim Clayton, Marketing Business Services

I was excited about having the chance to chat to Seattle-based Krishnan Subramanian about the importance of OpenStack and Cloud Foundry in the cloud world—although not for the reasons you may imagine. I am still stuck in 1994 to the extent that I tour around Europe with friends every time Pearl Jam hit the road and have read a dozen books about the town, so I was hoping to steer the chat away from the cloud and onto music. I’d even made a list of potential referential titles for this blog (or maybe I should say ‘this dereliction of duty’): No Code, Change Has Come, Piece Of Cake, Down On The Upside, Ultramega OK, Buzz Factory…

As it turns out, Krishnan moved to the US from India as a student in 1997 and has been in Seattle since 2004 (by which time the grunge scene was long dead). Oh well, nevermind. Whilst Seattle may no longer be known for the songs, it is forging itself as a town to be reckoned with in a trend that should last more than three or four glorious summers. “I’m so lucky to live in Seattle,” says Krish. “It is absolutely the heart of the cloud infrastructure community and is becoming something of a Silicon Valley for all cloud technologies.”

“Lucky”, “perfect”, “believer”, “great” and “excellent” are words that Krish uses all the time. He is full of optimism about the cloud and about the opportunities around him (his optimism being more clear proof that he didn’t grow up with grunge!), and he is so bursting with energy that he is founder and CEO of Rishidot Research while still finding the time and gumption to be involved in three different start-ups.


Whilst I am excited about our chat, I’m also quite nervous. So far, I’ve been able to hold my own in chats about security and cloud implementations during previous interviews in my cloud learning journey, as those topics are ones that non-experts can relate to without in-depth knowledge. In all previous conversations I stayed true to our original idea and went in without buffing up on the subject. My attitude was always “I’ll live through this.” But talking about OpenStack and Cloud Foundry without even knowing what they were would have been little more than a waste of Krish’s time; so, in the spirit of full disclosure, I did a little research to understand the basics and what follows are the questions I put to Krish about how I comprehend the mind riot of thousands of people all over the world, working together to create infrastructures that are owned by none but available to all:

The whole idea of Open Source is pure altruism, right?

“It is and it isn’t,” Krish replies. “It may be that the results of the work are open to all and meant for the greater good, but most people who contribute—on both a corporate and a personal level—are doing so with some level of self-interest. Companies and individuals alike are mostly helping out to create better solutions because they know they will use them and benefit from them in the end.”

Even the very beginnings of OpenStack are not as altruistic as some may think; NASA was developing the technology for its own ends and only realized later on that it could be used for the greater good. The idea is therefore a wonderful paradox; it seems to fit perfectly into the capitalist ideal whilst being a genuine, collaborative, non-profit movement integrating all levels of the IT world on relatively equal terms (everyone involved is theoretically on a plain, although there are gatekeepers and some elements of hierarchy).

 I imagine that companies like HPE, IBM, and Microsoft must hate it that we have a free infrastructure. Shouldn’t they have developed and patented their own technologies early on to corner the market?

Krish seems to think that this kind of idea is pie in the sky. As he points out, a government agency like NASA would never have the funds or people required to create and continuously develop something as complex as OpenStack. It takes thousands of skilled people and a pool of resources for which they would never have gotten the budget. And the same is true for even the giants of IT. No corporation would be able to set up and run a team dedicated to such an enormous project—the overheads alone would be crippling. And the risks would also be intensified if others were working on different solutions at the same time. Three or four competing platforms could hit the market simultaneously and only one would rise to the top; the others would essentially be white elephants that could sink even the soundest vessel.

Open Source initiatives are really a win-win for everyone. Large enterprises get the best possible solution without the risk connected to innovation. Small companies suddenly have PaaS solutions that allow them to build prototypes and go to market with only a sliver of the capex hardware costs and the expensive complexity of designing one’s own infrastructures. SMBs can essentially get ideas to market without the need to seek venture capital.

 So the venture capitalists must be losing money hand over fist, right?

Again, Krish isn’t convinced. “For the venture capitalists it actually means they can play things a little safer. SMBs still need capital. They can get to the prototype stage but they still need investment to grow. That means venture capitalists can now see ideas which are more mature and invest in companies that they see have viable products.”

This explanation really strikes a chord with me. I studied writing in the old days and am now trying to publish in the digital age. Traditional publishers have always been the ultimate venture capitalists. They screen thousands of ideas and invest in a few dozen that they think have a chance of breaking the market.


Nowadays, the cloud has revolutionized this model. I sent out the manuscript for my last book to a few agents and was surprised to get the same response from three or four: “I’d love to publish it. But first you need to self-publish and prove to me that people want it. Get the ball rolling and then we will take it on.” It is a frustrating process for the writer, but I can’t argue with their business logic. That is why you can find my latest book here and not on the shelves of your local bookstore… yet.


When creating these new technologies, which is better: 10 geniuses in a room together or 10,000 pretty smart people all around the world?

In Krish’s opinion it is not just a matter of scale—although that is important. “With thousands of people looking, they will simply uncover more bugs and more problems in the code, which will then be fixed to make it an overall better product. Even if you have a traditional development team and they are all geniuses, they will be limited by time and resources.”

As he points out, there is still a need for the superstar developers in the Open Source world. It may be an even flow of good developers that uncovers the problems—and bugs can be incredibly easy to find at times—but they often still need the absolute best programmers to get to the solutions.

There is also the issue of bias with the “Ten-genius-team.” The thing that excites Krish most about Open Source is the democracy of it all. He goes so far as to call it a “perfect” economic and technological paradigm—even if the solutions themselves are not absolutely perfected yet. “We are getting there. It is happening very fast and, whilst we may not have ideal technological solutions to every problem right now, we may be there in five or ten years’ time.”

 Does that mean the end goal of this perfect system is a singularity in which the machines replace the Open Source community? Won’t all these people write the code that makes them unnecessary?

Although Krish doesn’t believe in a singularity in the sense that people will be replaced by machines, he knows that A.I. that writes its own software is not far away. The makers of Siri just unveiled such a solution in the last few months and these systems will only become more advanced. The A.I that writes its own code will, however, still need the humans.

“In the future, the OpenStack community may not write the code for the infrastructure, but we will not turn it all over to the machines. People will still be the gatekeepers of the system; they need to be there to make sure that the code does not go rogue.”


It’s been a great debate and a wonderful learning experience, but why does all this matter to the cloud?

This blog may not seem to be grounded too strictly in the cloud, but even a general understanding of the benefits of Open Source, OpenStack, and Cloud Foundry is fundamental to the cloud concept. The whole area of cloud is one that is still evolving. Krish himself got in ‘early’ in 2008—and that is not even a decade ago. We are still finding our way with the right mix of private, public, and hybrid options, while not being fully aware of the technological possibilities and business trends that are just around the corner. Open Source is essential because cloud must be fast and it needs to react. Traditional IT, even with unparalleled geniuses in the room, will never be as quick to market, will not be as adept at finding the errors within its own code, and will never have the flexibility that comes from a totally democratic approach. There will always be something in the way.

“My work involves helping people to get their technology in a state that is right for today and tomorrow,” says Krish. “I always say that you need to treat your IT as a living entity—one that can evolve and change on a daily basis.” Without Open Source the cloud would be a far too slow.

Nothing man has created before has been so collaborative as the new paradigm; it puts the power of so many people working together into the tech solutions for small and large businesses alike. To go with Open Source in the cloud is to put the past of business in the rearviewmirror and strive for immortality, treating your business and its IT as a flexible, living entity.

About the Author


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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