Clear Thoughts on Cloudy Subjects
Musings about the Xen Project, Clouds, virtualization, Open Source, and everything else that piques my technical interest.
Are You Buying a Cloud... or Just Fog?
There's a lot of talk about Cloud these days, but not all Clouds are created equal.
Regardless of what type of Cloud your are discussing (IaaS, PaaS, etc.), there are certain guiding principles for a Cloud:
1. A Cloud dispenses resources when you need them and absorbs them back again when you are finished with them.
2. Because of principle #1, a Cloud allows your IT department to respond quickly to internal demand, allowing the overarching organization to respond to market forces in an agile fashion.
3. At the end of the day, the arrival of the Cloud has clear and positive implications for the entire organization.
Unfortunately, there are a lot of things which pass themselves off as Clouds which fail to live up to these principles. I call these false Clouds "Fog." Fog looks like a Cloud, and may even employ legitimate Cloud technology, but at the end of the day, Fog fails to deliver the value promised by Cloud.
Remember that in natural world, Fog may be a Cloud which descends to the ground. Instead of watering the fields for growth, Fog obscures your vision. If you spend too long in a Fog, you can lose direction and risk crashing into obstacles that seem to come out of nowhere. In the IT world, Fog does the same things it does in the natural world.
How can you tell if you are buying into a Fog instead of a Cloud?
1. Cloud is about outcomes; Fog focuses on buzzwords
We know that the IT industry is saturated with buzzwords, but when you peel back the Foggy buzzwords from your Cloud plan, what's left? If it isn't a concrete list of expected outcomes for both the IT department and the greater organization, you may have more Fog than Cloud. Make sure you know exactly what the goals are for your Cloud, and what steps will be taken to get there. Lack of a clear vision of the outcomes is a warning that you are entering a Fog.
2. Cloud has measurable results; Fog pushes promises
If you have outcomes defined, that's great. Now, what about measurable results? What metrics have you attached to your implementation to readily judge the success or failure of your Cloud? If those metrics are threadbare or missing altogether, you may be lost in the Fog. Don't settle for ethereal promises about the solution "making things better." Exaclty what will the Cloud do for you and how can you measure its effectiveness?
3. Clouds empower users; Fog empowers vendors
If someone is selling you a (supposed) Cloud solution, what do their references sound like? Are they based on customer success, or are they boasting about industry support and ecosystem? While industry support is great, you should be concerned if you are not hearing much about successful deployments similar to yours (and, no, deployment of a small R&D Cloud does not equate to your planned large mission-critical Cloud). If your vendor is talking more about vendors than successful solutions, you may be descending into a Fog.
So the bottom line is this: Cloud should give you clarity, focus, and measurable goals. If your Cloud vendor is offering something less, you may get lost in the Fog.
Demand clarity. Demand enablement. Demand a real Cloud.