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Don MacVittie

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Related Topics: Cloud Computing, CIO, CIO/CTO Update, F5 Networks

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For CIO's Sake! Clarity in the Cloud

Talk sense when talking cloud - please?

Those who love to hear themselves talk about the growth of cloud computing just seem to keep barraging us with numbers, and it is time that those of us with a desire to understand what is really going on demand imagesome clarity into those numbers, because many are obviously questionable, some are even obviously bunk spewn by those who want you to believe everyone else is rushing to the cloud and you must too.

First of the issues is defining what is “enterprise computing”. It amazes me to see some of the numbers thrown about for how much enterprise usage of the cloud there is, then further on in the article have the same author point to the size of AWS or Google Docs as proof. News flash, a huge percentage of the data on these (and drop box and and and) “cloud” providers has absolutely nothing to do with the enterprise. Not. A. Thing.

The next part of this one went quietly by a year ago (and a year before that), but I’ll bring it up again so the slathering fanatics can point their guns at me… The number most tossed about for the “cloud computing market” is not necessarily the one you want to use for decisions in corporate IT. The Gartner Cloud Computing Market number includes revenue from Google Adwords in it. Those numbers alone double the “market size”. Many argue this is a valid inclusion, I argue it is not. Enterprise IT has little or nothing to do with Adwords. While lots of people have purported that this is just an indicator that enterprise IT is “out of the loop” and IT is becoming “consumerized”, I strongly disagree. Enterprise IT wasn’t involved in purchasing ads before Adwords came along, so this is no indication of anything except that Gartner chose to bloat the number. The detail includes segmentation that makes it clear, but the press doesn’t report that part, and Gartner has been around long enough to know that full well.

Raw “cloud market” numbers are good for cloud vendors to position themselves (and admittedly, companies like F5 who sell to cloud vendors to position themselves), but not for enterprises gauging the rate of adoption and what type of applications are being moved to the cloud. Don’t get me wrong, we value our cloud partners, and we have definitely used the market size numbers to position ourselves in the lead for cloud ADCs, but this blog post is about Enterprise IT, and those same numbers don’t help enterprise IT at all.

So we come to premise #1:


Should be obvious, but apparently it needed to be said, so now I’ve said it.

The next one that makes me roll my eyes is the utter lack of testimonials. There have been a couple, but seriously, with the number of vendors in the space? All I see is small business, a couple of cutting-edge CIOs, and some SaaS wins (like email) being hailed as Cloud wins. If our sales guys walk into a company that has never heard of us, the very first thing a responsible IT member does is ask the sales people for references. It really doesn’t matter what size Gartner claims the market is, or that we’re the number one ADC vendor, people want to hear stories of enterprises like theirs, doing what they do. That is true in every IT business. So why aren’t they out there for cloud? Or why can’t I find them if they are? Right now is not the time to hide them, so this lack is terribly suspicious. If they’re out there, and we’d all recognize the names, point me at them and I’ll blog I was wrong. But I’m paying enough attention that I’ll be surprised if anyone takes me up on that one.

And CIOs that took the “daring” step to move email to SaaS are not cloud visionaries that prove the adoption of cloud. Email SaaS has been around longer than cloud, and frankly it is ripe for the picking in the enterprise. I work from Green Bay, WI, out of my home, and almost never go without email access. To me, it is a service. If IT can get SLAs and ITsec along with legal can get assurances that our email is ours and ours alone, then it matters not to me if it’s running from our data center or a SaaS vendors. Though our IT does such a smashing job of making everything run smoothly that those SLAs might make any SaaS vendor quail ;-). If it took the “cloud” meme to get enterprises to consider SaaS that wasn’t SalesForce, then I’m happy about it, but it’s not cloud, because email is not infrastructure. It’s still SaaS, just with a vaporous breath of life.

Giving us premise #2:

IF YOU HAVE THE ENTERPRISE CUSTOMERS, PROVE IT. Show us large companies and the amount they provision from you.


And offers us a great segue into the next point. What the $%& is cloud? I mean seriously folks, If Cloud includes Google Adwords and SaaS, then I no longer know. Lori as covered this at length, but I still shake my  head that even major analyst firms don’t seem to agree on what constitutes cloud. People refer to the rate of uptake, but we have no way of knowing what that means, since every definition of cloud seems to include and exclude different things. Infrastructure as a Service seems pretty straight-forward, but there are those who have a financial stake in including Adwords, or SaaS, or AppDev as a Service, or Testing as a Service who want their segment included. And for some reason they keep getting air time.



Since we cannot seem to agree on what we’re talking about, I offer you the next premise:


Then at least we’ll know what you’re talking about, what’s in, what’s out, what’s cloud, what you consider just raindrops…image

Finally, a pet peeve of mine that may not fit here but since I’m writing, I chose to include it. You see a lot of pundits, most of whom have hitched their wagon to the cloud, claiming that security concerns enterprises have are misplaced – or even sinister excuses to block the cloud.

You do not endear yourself to your audience or your customers by talking dismissively about their very real concerns. Ask the press, if you can find any, what happens when you ignore your customer’s questions about key issues or attempt to minimalize them.

Like it or not, Enterprise IT takes their job of protecting corporate and customer data very seriously. When they ask about multi-tenancy and security, statements like “your data center is no more secure than the cloud” are not the answers they are looking for. They’re looking for assurances that they can lock down their multi-tenant applications such that there is no increased exposure from the cloud. It is not on their premises, it is not monitored proactively by the systems they’ve built over the years, of course they’re going to have questions. Ridiculing their attempts to secure the data center is akin to chopping their arm off when they reach out to shake yours.

So answer their questions. Seriously. This is information security, treat it with the gravity that it deserves. Explain to them how their data is protected. If you don’t represent a given cloud provider, then get knowledgeable about how a couple protect their data, and explain the different options to them. Always remember that they’re looking for answers, and if your only answer is to tell them that what they’ve done to date is no more secure than the public cloud, expect that you have ended the conversation, and perhaps done damage to the entire cloud computing ecosystem.

These people are part of the problem, because their reaction is symptomatic of the numbers thrown about. They want cloud to grow, and IT’s security concerns keep getting in the way.

And that’s the final premise…


Now, back to some good old fashioned virtualization.

That was a joke.

Get it? Old Fashioned?

Well I laughed.

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More Stories By Don MacVittie

Don MacVittie is founder of Ingrained Technology, A technical advocacy and software development consultancy. He has experience in application development, architecture, infrastructure, technical writing,DevOps, and IT management. MacVittie holds a B.S. in Computer Science from Northern Michigan University, and an M.S. in Computer Science from Nova Southeastern University.

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