It feels like there is something seriously wrong in this whole “cloud” thing.
It’s not just that it’s moving way too fast for most enterprise decision makers to comprehend, let alone make serious plans to adopt, but it seems to me that as we stand on the very edge of the cloud revolution, the industry is gearing up to make the same old mistakes.
If recognized industry brain-trusts like Andrew McAfee over on Harvard Business Review are to be believed, “2010 was the year we “passed a tipping point and moved into a new age of technology use. For lack of a better term, let’s call this the Cloud Era.” I am all for it. I’m all for the change. I’m all for the benefits it may bring however you quantify them in your business. But the one thing that seems glaringly evident is that, in the “clouderprise” (yes, I’ve made that up – it just means the cloud technologies applicable to today’s enterprise) there appears to a worrying trend towards the appearance of more and more “solutions looking for a problem” with a widening disconnect between “what we need” (enterprise customer) and “what we provide” (technology vendor).
You can keep your “vendor scorecards” and your “customer days” – frankly, they are not worth the “once a year” investment from either side. What there needs to be, in my very humble opinion, is a fundamental change in the vendor / ecosystem mindsets to meaningfully involve customers, strategic and tactical, way ahead of product launch days, to foster and facilitate products that can be readily applied to the real issues facing business – not the ones that the vendors think exist. Customers need to change too. It’s simply not acceptable for today’s enterprise customers (especially large ones) to sit on the sidelines, fat, dumb and happy and then complain with a vitriolic criticism that Vendor X with Product Y didn’t meet your expectations. It’s everybody’s problem, not just the vendors. Imagine how different the world would be with a joint risk & reward model ?
The smarter ones in the room will say “yeah, but that’s always been the case” or “one man’s drink is another man’s poison” – and I wouldn’t disagree – but just because something has always been done a certain way doesn’t make it right. Surely we acknowledge that the “build it and they will come” approach of yesterday’s product management strategies wasn’t exactly a runaway success across many of today’s customer / supplier tech relationships ? Isn’t that the lesson to be learned as we move at an incredible pace toward the future solutions ?
To avoid being labelled as an over-generalist, let me give you two simple, yet very different examples of how broken this is.
(Please note : These are simply examples of my point and I am in no way commenting nor making any statement or stance on the purpose, functionality, success or otherwise of the organizations named below.)
Firstly, let’s look at the DMTF.
Founded in 1992, the Distributed Management Task Force, Inc. (DMTF) is the organization bringing the IT industry together to collaborate on systems management standards development, validation, promotion and adoption. The introductory text on the DMTF website states:
DMTF enables more effective management of millions of IT systems worldwide by bringing the IT industry together to collaborate on the development, validation and promotion of systems management standards. DMTF management standards are critical to enabling management interoperability among multi-vendor systems, tools and solutions within the enterprise. We are committed to protecting companies’ IT investments by creating standards that promote multi-vendor interoperability. Our dedication to fostering collaboration within the industry provides a win-win situation for vendors and IT personnel alike
Yet interestingly, if you take a moment to review the member list on the DMTF website, there is only ONE organization who could be identified as a customer – all the others are technology vendors.
Secondly, let’s take a look at OpenStack.
Founded in 2010, OpenStack is a collection of open source technologies delivering a massively scalable cloud operating system. OpenStack is currently developing two interrelated projects: OpenStack Compute and OpenStack Object Storage.
What OpenStack is: OpenStack is a collection of open source technologies delivering a massively scalable cloud operating system. Who uses OpenStack: Corporations, service providers, VARS, SMBs, researchers, and global data centers looking to deploy large-scale cloud deployments for private or public clouds leveraging the support and resulting technology of a global open source community.
Fantastic. OpenStack is targeted at Corporations, yet take a look at the members of the community and this time, there is ONE organization who could be identified as a customer - all the others are technology vendors.
In the cases above, I’m willing to pin some hope that there are, in fact, customers involved in DMTF who “can not be named for legal reasons” or that I have simply got it wrong because OpenStack is still early in development. I will accept any and all criticism – but the point remains, one organization is almost 20 years old and one is only 6 months old – neither has a meaningful breadth of customer representation and even if there were two or three more customers per organization, it really isn’t enough and it is going to continue to keep hurting us, on both sides.
“History doesn’t repeat itself, but it rhymes” said Mark Twain. Who would have thought that he would become the guardian angel of Cloud ?
Analysts have long predicted that over the coming few years, IT organizations will spend more money on private cloud computing investments than on offerings from public cloud providers. It’s hard to see, other than on blind faith, how IT organizations can justify huge spends on cloud computing investments if they don’t know what they are getting for their dollars.
Of course there is a very valid counter argument that if vendors had too many customers in their sausage factory, then there would never be any sausage, but to use a slightly odd analogy, if you didn’t know and understand your customer, would you end up making pork sausages for export to the Middle East ?