Quick — define hybrid cloud. OK, I will: It’s a computing environment that relies on both a private cloud and public cloud services and can swap data between the two. Or is it? Maybe it’s a data center, private cloud and public cloud. Or data center, private cloud, public cloud and an assortment of managed services?
It turns out there a few definitions floating around, so the recent Hybrid Cloud Summit in Cambridge, Mass., set out to offer some perspective on it all. Judith Hurwitz, president of consulting company Hurwitz & Associates, co-wrote the book on the subject — or one of them, Hybrid Cloud for Dummies — so she kicked things off. Here’s her definition:
An environment that transforms traditional IT with a combination of on-premises, public and/or managed cloud services.
By “transforming IT,” Hurwitz meant injecting the old notion of providing applications and services and managing and securing them with a more flexible architecture that can grow and adapt as the business grows and adapts to the market.
“A hybrid transforms traditional IT with a combination of ‘I’m doing some stuff on premises, but I want it to be fluid and I want it to be self-service. And I need a public cloud because I need really cheap resources really fast,'” Hurwitz said. “‘And then I need a very specialized service. I might need security as a service because I don’t trust the security either on my public, private or even my own data center.'”
A composition of two or more distinct cloud infrastructures (private, community or public) that remain unique entities but are bound together by standardized or proprietary technology that enables data and application portability (e.g., cloud bursting for load balancing between clouds).
That’s a bit more detail, but Wise-Martinez is OK with it — and so are most cloud experts, for most part anyway.
Others might not be. According to a study by market research outfit IDC, 38% of IT professionals define hybrid cloud as a mix of public cloud services and dedicated IT assets — plus virtualization and private cloud; 23% say it’s a combination of two or more “distinct cloud infrastructures”; 11% a subscription to multiple cloud services for different needs; and another 11% say it’s a data center that supports hypervisors from multiple vendors.
NIST would mostly approve of hybrid as a combo of cloud infrastructures, but they’d certainly think the first 11% was too broad and the second maybe even a bit loopy.
“Depending on your perspective and what seat you’re sitting in, specifically in IT, you’re really going to be thinking about it differently,” Wise-Martinez said. So much for consensus.
Small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) are spending more on software and IT services, and these investments will continue to rise through 2019, according to IDC’s Worldwide Small and Medium-Sized Business Forecast. One main reason for this projected increase, wrote report author Raymond Boggs, is that SMBs are looking to new business resources such as alternative technology to help gain competitive advantage.
“Increasing investment in technology is an appealing way for firms to expand their capabilities without necessarily increasing their head count,” Boggs wrote.
IDC forecasted that total SMB IT spending will increase 4.4% year over year, from $560.3 billion last year to $694.5 billion in 2019. Drilling down, software spending will see the greatest increase, growing 6.8% annually through 2019; IT services will grow 4.7% annually, and telecom equipment takes third place at 4.4%.
This increased spending on software and services is in keeping with SMBs placing greater emphasis on solutions, particularly related to cloud and mobility, according to Boggs.
Meanwhile, spending on PCs and peripherals, systems, and storage, will grow at a slower rate, less than 3.5% annually. However, Boggs noted that in both categories, “the transitions to mobility and new technology approaches will still provide attractive growth opportunities.”
Compass Intelligence analyst Stephanie Atkinson agreed that SMBs are looking to more sophisticated solutions, particularly in the cloud, as they struggle to maintain expertise in-house in the midst of rapid technology change.
“The SMB sector continues to look for simplification opportunities when buying technology and telecom services, and cloud-based services provide just that,” she wrote in a blog post. One driver is that many cloud-based services, such as backup, collaboration and storage solutions, offer flat-rate billing or a recurring monthly fee.
“SMBs are often faced with managing cash flow on a week-to-week basis, and having a planned and fixed budget for IT/telecom services is highly preferred,” Atkinson wrote.
According to Compass Intelligence research, the cloud computing and services market is currently experiencing a 40% compound annual growth rate, and will continue to do so through 2016, at which point the market will hit $50 billion (see chart).
Hybrid cloud, which blends public and private cloud platforms, involves lots of arduous integration work — so preparation and governance work need to be carefully and deliberately executed. That’s a tall order when you have vendors beating down your door.
So how do you control the vendor hype?
That was the question directed at a panel of experts at the recent Hybrid Cloud Summit in Cambridge, Mass.
“Unfortunately it’s very hard to control the hype,” said panelist Judith Hurwitz. “Because part of the hype is that the technology industry is very ADD. You’ve got to go on to the next exciting thing.”
Hurwitz isn’t a medical doctor, so her diagnosis of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder shouldn’t be taken literally. But the president of consulting company Hurwitz & Associates and author of many books on IT was making an important point: Vendors know IT people covet the latest gadget, and they exploit that. They’ve got products to sell, after all.
But therein lies the problem. Buying into that hype can cause organizations looking for a competitive edge to flub an installation — possibly go over budget or even scrap it.
Get rid of the vendors, then. The age-old, tongue-in-cheek suggestion was made by attendee David von Vistauxx, senior security analyst at cloud software company Virtustream. It was met with spirited laughter from the audience, which had taken in five hours of PowerPoint presentations and discussions on the finer points of hybrid cloud computing.
Alas, it’s no joke — you can’t remove vendors from the picture, said David Linthicum, a consultant at Cloud Technology Partners and another prominent IT author. For one thing, they have all the money, which helps drive innovation in the industry.
“You’ve just got to learn how to listen to vendors, how they spin things and what they say,” said Linthicum, who sat next to Hurwitz on the panel. “Judith and I have been in the business a long time, so we can get beyond the BS that they spin to us and get right down to the essence of what it is.”
Hurwitz’s advice for CIOs and IT is to educate people about the new technologies grabbing headlines and let them know what the limitations are today.
“You can look at almost anything that has emerged as hype over the last 10 years and see where its roots are,” she said. Help them tell the difference: “‘This is the piece that’s solid and old; this is the piece that is emerging. It would be good to experiment with this, get some experience, but we’re going to have to wait until it matures.'”
Pamela Wise-Martinez, chief cloud and enterprise data architect at Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp., the U.S. government agency that protects pensions, described the customer-vendor dynamic this way: a partnership. The question is, how well can it work? Sometimes, she said, it all depends on the contract and service-level agreements.
“You have to find ways to build a more collaborative approach and be partners, because we all have a stake,” she said. “I’m trying to win the people I’m servicing, and the vendors trying to win with more business — so if you partner you can all win.”
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Measuring ROI for cloud investments isn’t what it used to be.
As more companies consider moving their IT operations to the cloud, they’ve stopped thinking solely about saving on capital expenses and more about making the business more nimble, and ultimately, competitive, said Brett Gillett of Softchoice, a software reseller based in Toronto.
“Customers even over the last couple of years have become more cloud savvy and realized that there are opportunities for cost savings,” said Gillett, who consults with companies that want to move to the cloud and builds and manages deployments. “But it really comes down to really speeding up your business, your time to market and your being able to deploy infrastructure for your clients.”
In the past, businesses were more interested in one-to-one price comparisons: examining what it costs to run an application on premises versus running it in the cloud. If the analysis showed the cloud would return cost savings, that’s where they’d head.
“That’s the way the conversations used to be,” he said. “What the conversations are like now is, ‘Well, here’s our budget, this is what we’re spending and we think we can do it for that or less, but if it’s a little more than what we’re currently spending and it allows us to get to market a lot faster, we’re still OK with that.’ ”
Human costs hard to quantify
Businesses still want to know what storage and compute hours will cost in the cloud, of course. But pricing models today make that relatively easy to do, Gillett said. What isn’t easy is comparing those costs to what they’re spending on premises. For example, it’s hard to estimate what Gillett calls the human costs — the people businesses rely on to manage and maintain their physical infrastructure.
“Do they really, really know how much time their technical folks are spending managing that database environment?” he asked. “Do they know how much time in their on-premises database their administrators are spending to maintain that? In most cases they probably don’t, so it’s very hard for them to understand what it’s actually costing them to maintain that.”
Another question: What happens to those employees once the move to the cloud is made?
“Those bodies may not need to exist in a public cloud environment because you’re offloading that to the provider; they’re going to manage the facility, they’re going to manage the physical network,” Gillett said.
Giving those admins higher-value tasks like data analysis is a classic benefit of cloud computing — making better use of expensive resources. But it’s harder for businesses to articulate what the savings would be.
See into internal services, see ROI
Businesses today are also interested in moving up the “value chain of cloud,” Gillett said. He meant going from straight infrastructure in the cloud to platform services like managed databases. They cost more, but the advantage is businesses can offload tasks that don’t differentiate them from their competitors.
“Everybody patches software,” he said, to cite an example. “Everybody installs software, so why not offload that to a cloud provider so you focus on the data that’s in that database, managing that data rather than managing the infrastructure that it sits on.”
But factoring in such moves muddies the cloud calculations even more.
“As soon as you try to calculate the value or how much you’re spending to patch or update your databases, that’s a much harder thing,” he said.
Businesses that are solidly grounded in ITIL, the protocol for delivering and supporting IT services, will have an easier time proving ROI for cloud investments, Gillett said. If businesses have visibility into say, how many help desk incidents they’re managing and how much that’s costing them, they can more easily make on-premises-to-cloud cost analyses.
“They really need to have a very structured system where they’re recording all of the work they’re actually doing, whether it’s change records, incidents or problems,” he said. “Without that it would be very hard to know how much time you’re actually spending maintaining those environments.”
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SearchCIO Features Writer Jason Sparapani recently traveled to sunny San Diego for the Gartner Catalyst conference, where he was enraptured by a presentation by communications expert Mark Jeffries. Sparapani called Jeffries’ lively, one–hour discussion on the mechanics of networking and influencing others “pure gold for CIOs.”
Having to go to San Diego for work doesn’t strike many people as much of a chore. “Oh, lucky you!” they say. “You have to go to the beach.” Others shout out a list of attractions: “The U.S.S. Midway! Balboa Park! The zoo!”
I didn’t get to see any of those hotspots on my two and a half days there. I saw the inside of the cavernous Manchester Grand Hyatt, which hosted the annual Gartner Catalyst Conference for IT professionals. It was a great event. I talked to dozens of smart people, went to technology sessions packed with useful information and dashed off a story about the opening keynote speech in my hotel room, which had a stunning view of the bay. Again, great, but no walk on the beach.
So at the end of my last day in that sunny metropolis, I was looking forward to a talk by communications expert Mark Jeffries. He had been a stockbroker and TV host and now gives presentations all over the world, tempering tips about being a good listener with jokes and campy impressions. Best of all, his talk promised to be light fare. “I’m honored to be your Catalyst afternoon speaker,” Jeffries said in a bright English accent, “the speaker that leads up to alcohol — that’s always a good thing.”
But diverting as it was — and despite my being off-duty — I found myself taking notes. It was pure gold for CIOs. In a lively, one-hour talk, he walked a ballroom full of IT people through the mechanics of networking and influencing others. My co-worker, Nicole Laskowski, wrote in her column about three truths about communicating — assumptions, Jeffries called them — that double as tips. The first one: No matter what your job is, you’re a salesperson. People are looking at you all the time, judging you — and deciding whether to buy.
“You’re judging me right now. I’m also judging you,” he said. “Right now I quite like what I see — primarily because I’m being paid to be here.” Raucous laughter followed.
Jeffries does that a lot. He puts a twist on an old standby — sell yourself — and then puts everyone in stitches. He also laces his speech with rhetorical devices such as the “rule of threes,” which holds that three is just the right number of proofs people need to be convinced. Jeffries let the audience in on the secret, using snippets of President Barack Obama’s speeches as examples — “We’ll reach for it, we’ll work for it, we’ll fight for it.”
It worked. The audience was rapt as he ticked off a list of steps detailing effective communication: LWAR, which stands for listen, watch, anticipate and respond. Note the triplicate: “By respond I mean pick up the phone, create the email message, send the instant text message — that’s the respond, the beginning of communication.”
But people get the order wrong, he said. “We’re so focused and determined to tell people our story, about what our idea is, we speak first … and we shouldn’t.”
He used a scenario that happens to so many: forgetting a person’s name immediately after it’s been given.
Jeffries asked an attendee in the front row to stand, turn toward the audience and say his name. It was Dave. “Now If I said to you [that] at the end of this speech I will give you $10,000 if you can remember Dave’s name, guess what?” Jeffries asked. “You’d all remember his name, because you want that ten grand. You’re going to turn the listening on.”
Next came W, watch. When someone speaks, Jeffries said, that’s not the whole message. People transmit a lot about what they’re thinking at the moment through body gestures and movements. One way to tell whether the person you’re talking with is engaged is a metric called NPM, or nods per minute. When you’re talking and your partner is nodding, that’s good.
“If the nodding stops and it’s replaced by a kind of glassy-eyed horse stare, something’s gone wrong,” he said to more yuks. “If you see the nodding stop, change topic, let them ask questions.”
A, for anticipate, Jeffries said, is about putting yourself in other people’s shoes — something IT needs to pay careful attention to. “We have got to stop thinking about what [IT’s] priorities are, within the team, within the operation, within the function,” he said, relying again on repetition. Instead, IT folks need to think about the business and speak the business language.
“You have to know exactly what the objectives of the business are. And you translate what you do into their language and suddenly you’ve anticipated their needs.”
Now it’s time to respond. Communication can’t go on without it. Jeffries is just telling you to stop and think for a moment. It’s good advice — and you don’t need to be an IT executive, you don’t need to be a TV host, you don’t need to be a professional keynote speaker to put it to good use.
To borrow a line from Jeffries, see what I did there?