Last weekend at a family get together I was filling my role as the in-family IT guy by explaining Cloud-based business services to some family members. They were moderately interested until I pointed out that by using all of these Internet-based services like SalesForce.com and Gmail, they are already “in the cloud”.
This begs the question: when the whole point of your business infrastructure is to make it appear opaque and simple to end users, how do you differentiate yourself from everyone else in your space? To answer this, let’s take a look at why people move to this form of outsourced services, budgetary concerns and technical expertise.
The migration of IT services to companies completely focused on delivering that service is the natural progression of business function. As was pointed out by Chuck Hollis from EMC in this Boston Globe story, if you owned a factory 100 years ago, you also owned your own power plant to keep it running. Once cheap and reliable power was available all industries took advantage of these resources and focused on the core competency of their business. This will be the case with IT as well; those services will be outsourced to the people who can provide them most efficiently and effectively.
The leveraging and load balanced nature of cloud services enable cost efficient operation and higher reliability, but also introduce an additional level of variability in the delivery of a service that is already dependent on other people doing their jobs. Assuming that you cannot get some massive cost efficiency over your competition, the main way to differentiate is though higher reliability. The challenge here becomes evident when we follow all of the hops between a user and a cloud service from the point of view of the cloud service provider:
- User logs on to their computer, which as the cloud service provider is out of your control
- Computer connects to the company LAN, which is out of your control
- LAN connects to the internet through some 3rd party ISP, which is out of your control
- Finally some control when the internet connects to your LAN, but
- The users service is running on some node in some cluster in your cloud
I’m not a Six Sigma Black Belt, but even I know it’s rather difficult to build reliable services when you don’t control 60% of the equation. As with all service shifts, new tools are required to monitor the performance of this service from start to finish. The capability to track the performance of this service from the cloud, through the Internet and into the end users’ network, a start to finish vision that detect problems before users are impacted is how you differentiate from all the other clouds out there.
New infrastructure requires new tools, and PathView should be the first tool in your new tool belt.