Agility, black swans and the Cloud

By April 19, 2010Uncategorized

Alright, I admit it! This whole public-private-hybrid cloud debate the clouderati love to go back and forth about just — *yawn* — never really — *yawn* — did much for me. Only you crazy engineering types could get so worked up over the purity of a definition. 😉

Same thing for the whole “capex/opex” cloud benefit speech. I see it at every single cloud event running today — you know, the “why the cloud will improve your bottom line” panel (or some variation on that theme), and wow I have something approaching zero desire to hear about that.

But until this morning, I could never figure out why. And then I read this piece. In it, Lori MacVittie lays out an amazing argument as to why “the benefits of cloud computing” (as in “public cloud”) aren’t about cost (or efficiency of cost) as a driver. As it turns out, *agility* is probably the key driver in the cloud, with a cost factor coming into play in the private cloud. Let me elaborate a bit.

Agility: This is the one that’s always made sense to me. You want an agile architecture, right? I mean, there’s not a C-level person on the planet that wakes up and says, “you know what we need? An IT architecture that makes us react to change as slowly as possible.” Agility should live at the infrastructure and platform level (an obvious, if not easy, benefit of cloud computing), but it *also* should live at the application layer. In ALL of these cases (infrastructure, platform and application), what makes agility work is “glue” — which is to say, when your architecture allows you to easily connect, disconnect, plug and play, whatever you call it (glue together the networks, data, people and applications), then you’re agile. Forget cost, the pure operational benefit of an agile architecture is self evident. Agility gives you the greater chance of survival in a world that seems to have become a constant stream of black swans.

Cost in the private cloud: This benefit makes perfect sense to me. At the infrastructure level, the private cloud collapses the network administrator (1 function), the security administrator (1 function), and the compliance administrator (1 function) into 1 function (3 into 1), thereby reducing the IT hours in the equation of cost. But it occurs to me that gluecon’s view of the application layer (essentially, one that’s been around since the dawn of SOA), namely, that we need business IT architectures to resemble our webby architecture — in fact, we need it to *become* the same as the web architecture — also lowers the cost of application development, deployment, scalability and interoperability. In other words, I’m wondering does the “cost benefit” of cloud computing happen at the infrastructure layer via a private cloud, at the platform layer via a hybrid cloud and at the application layer via a public cloud?

Anyway you slice it, the issue is not some cheap-hit panel on the “business benefits” of the cloud. It’s actually just *slightly* more nuanced than that. Every engineer in the space knows this instinctively. It’s why you won’t find them hanging around those kinds of panels. It’s why you *will* find them at gluecon.

I hope you’ll join us.