Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Cloud Considerations - It's Too Early to be Adamant

This is the second Cloud Considerations post, although I've had much to say before that. To view the Cloud Considerations posts, see http://blog.smallbizthoughts.com/search?q=cloud+considerations

For all Cloud Computing posts, go to http://blog.smallbizthoughts.com/search/label/Cloud%20Computing.

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It's Too Early to be Adamant

One of the things that strikes me at this stage of Cloud Computing is that there are a handful of people who are adamant in describing and defining Cloud Computing. I am very opinionated, but it's too early to be adamant.

As I've mentioned before, I believe there are basically three types of Clouds:

- Out on the Internet (out of your control in any meaningful way)

- VAR-Centric (at your colo facility)

- On Premise (private cloud at client office)

Some people adamantly deny that you can have private clouds. And yet we're all building them every day. When you take all your client's computing power and stick it in 1-2 boxes with virtual machines, you're building a cloud. Whether it's the Zenith Smart Style, Citrix, or Microsoft, you're building clouds at client offices.

We like to joke about whatever as a service (WAAS), but the reality is that defining terms and naming services is an important step in the evolution of a new product. Will you sell . . .

- Technology in a Box
- Office in a Box
- On Premise Cloud
- Software as a Service
- Infrastructure as a Service
- Data center as a Service
- Technology as a Service

. . . or something else?

The question of defining terms helps us to clarify. What does cloud mean? Does cloud mean virtualization? If so, do you need to sell virtualization to the client?

I have literally started using the following question with clients: "What do you care how it works?"

Is it a big box from Sun? A cluster from Zenith? A hyper-V from Microsoft? A Citrix deployment? Who cares?

YOU, the technician have to determine which technologies you're going to become competent in. You have to determine what to sell and how to maintain it. So you care.

But the client . . . not so much. The client's future will consist more and more of knowing less and less about the technology that makes things happen. He turns on a switch and his technology is there. Where? On his monitor. Where else matters?

I'm not going to define "The Cloud" here. But I'll tell you about one key component: Shared Resources. Every version of Cloud Computing I've seen has this one thing in common. We're taking the computing power off the desktop and sharing resources somewhere else.

This is very much the model described by Nicholas Carr in The Big Switch.

For years now I've been helping clients centralize their computing into one room. It has been terminal services and virtual machines. But soon it will be much more.

The arguments for your powerpoint presentations are pretty straight forward:

- Why should you keep buying power supplies, processors, and hard drives every time you hire someone?

- Each machine in the office operates at about 5% efficiency overall.

- Why not invest that money in a centralized computing system, put thin clients on the desktops, and save a ton of money?

So if some know-it-all comes along and tells my client that there's no such thing as a private cloud or an on-premise cloud, I hope my client will say "Why do I care how it works?"

Good answer.


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  1. Karl,

    For the most part, I agree with you.

    The catch that I am finding with our clients is their customized Line of Business applications that tie into the requirement to have laptops on the go.

    For demonstration purposes we have desktop OSs on Hyper-V in our own server farm. We plug in a USB cellular modem to one of our laptops and connect to a desktop OS via Remote Web Workplace, which they already have, and they are sold.

    They don't care about the "how" as long as they see that SSL lock in IE when connecting to the RWW and other security related measures to keep their data safe.

    So, in this case, which I believe a lot of SMBs fall into, the "Cloud" will stay at the office.


  2. It is interesting because server based computing is really where it all began.

    The clients were completley dumb to begin with, green screen terminals on the end of a serial line.

    The processing in stages was handed off to more and more sophisticated clients.

    And now we are heading back to server based computing more and more. The technology is much more sophisiticated now and the clients are much smarter, but its happening.


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