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Clear Thoughts on Cloudy Subjects

Musings about the Xen Project, Clouds, virtualization, Open Source, and everything else that piques my technical interest.

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Posted by on in Cloud Strategy
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Cloud Evangelists: Emissaries of Evil

I've spoken at many conferences in this year.  Several times I have posed the question to the audience, "How many of you have functioned as a Cloud evangelist in your organization?"  Typically, a number of hands sheepishly raise up.  "And how many of you still have the scars to prove it?"  Inevitably, most of the same hands shoot up again, this time with vigor.

Introducing new technology in the IT landscape has always been a difficult proposition, but advocating the use of Clouds has produced some especially vehement objections.  If the Cloud evangelist finds himself wondering why, the answer is simple: You are not merely advocating Change, you are embracing Evil.

Think about it: IT in the pre-Cloud era was devoted to the concept of stability.  What's up was supposed to stay up; what was down was supposed to stay down.  Nothing was supposed to Change.  Everyone, from the IT Director down to the lowliest tape jockey, knew that "Change was Bad."
When the datacenter staff arrived in the morning, the one thing they did not want to hear was that something Changed in the night.  Change meant something went wrong.  Change meant something broke.  Or that someone received a call at 3 AM.  Or that someone would have to spend hours hurriedly recovering a failed system before it was needed at the beginning of business.
Change was not just Bad, it was Evil.

Even when Change was required -- like when a new server had to be added to the datacenter -- the Change had to be beaten out of the move before it could be blessed.  The new server had to be tested, poked, prodded, loaded, retested, certified, run-booked, etc. until it became no longer Change but part of the status quo.

Into this environment comes the Cloud evangelist, preaching agility, responsiveness to business needs, and superior use of assets.  All that sounds fine -- until the evangelist pronounces that all this is possible by embracing Change.  Change is desirable.  "Change," declares the eager evangelist, "is Good."

The IT masses instinctively recoil in horror.  The unthinkable has been uttered.  The cumulative knowledge of a half century of IT has been rejected and violated.  The ultimate Evil has been declared Good.

If the Cloud evangelist doesn't have a significant history in pre-Cloud IT, the explosive reaction against this declaration may be totally unexpected.  Instead of typical IT resistance, there is visible repulsion.  It's a visceral reaction, like someone telling their kindly religious grandmother that they were becoming a Satanist.  Or like someone telling a PETA member that it is fun to stomp puppies to death.

But Cloud evangelists can take heart.  The dirty little secret of IT is that it must learn to embrace Change... or perish.  Recent analyst polls indicate that old-style IT is rapidly losing its power in the enterprise as more and more departments reach around the IT department to contract for services in the Cloud.  If the concept of an IT department is to survive, it must embrace the Change found in Clouds -- not the haphazard and detrimental notion of Change which haunted IT for decades, but the planned, controlled, intentional Change harnessed by well-implemented Cloud technology.  Only then will IT be seen as providing agile business services to the enterprise so that its internal customers will once again see a value in the IT department.

So it is up to the Cloud evangelist to take the message -- and the negative reactions which initially result -- and plow forward.  If the evangelist is diligent and stands fast, the organization will benefit.  And, maybe someday, people will forget that the Cloud evangelist was once perceived as an emissary of Evil.

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Russ is the evangelist for the Xen Project. An Open Source advocate since 1995, he has been around the Open Source world as a columnist, Internet radio personality, book author, and blogger. He has spoken at over 50 Open Source events and continues to look for conferences to speak about Open Source in general, and Xen in particular (if you have an event in mind, contact him). He first began working with Cloud technologies in 2004. He also has over 20 years experience of software consulting.
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Guest Wednesday, 02 July 2014


Citrix supports the open source community via developer support and evangeslism. We have a number of developers and evangelists that participate actively in the open source community in Apache Cloudstack, OpenDaylight, Xen Project and XenServer. We also conduct educational activities via the Build A Cloud events held all over the world.