Monday, January 31, 2011

More about the ‘people side’ of cloud: good-bye wizards, hello wild ducks and T-shaped skills

One of the problems that has dragged down the transformational ideas around cloud computing is the impact of this new operating model on organizations and the actual people inside them. I noticed this back in my days at Cassatt before the CA acquisition. The Management Insight survey I wrote about a few weeks back pointed this out. And, if you’ve been following this blog, I’ve mentioned it a couple other times over the past few months as the hard part of this major transition in IT.

While the technical challenges of cloud computing aren’t simple, the path to solve them is pretty straightforward. With the people side of things…not so much.

However, I’m optimistic about a new trend I've noticed throughout the first month of 2011: much of the recent industry discussion is actually talking through the people issues and starting to think more directly about how cloud computing will affect the IT staff.
Now, maybe that’s just beginning-of-the-year clarity of thought. Or people sticking to some sort of resolutions.

(I have a friend, for example, who swears off alcohol for 31 days every January 1st. He does it to make up for the overly festive holiday season that has been in high-gear the previous month. But I think he also uses it as an attempt to start the year out focusing himself on the things he thinks he should be doing, rather than having an extra G&T. And it usually works. For a while, anyway.)

Whatever the reason, I thought it was worth highlighting interesting commentary that’s recently appeared in the hopes of extending (and building on) the discussion about the human impact of cloud computing.

It’s got to be you
Back in December, the folks on-stage at the Gartner Data Center Conference had a bunch of relevant commentary on IT and its role in this cloudy transition.
Gartner analyst Tom Bittman noted in his keynote that for cloud computing, IT needs to focus. The IT folks are the ones that “should become the trusted arbiter and broker of cloud in your organization.” He saw evangelism in the future of every IT person in his audience from the sounds of it. “Who is going to be the organization to tell the business that there is a new opportunity based on cloud computing? That’s got to be you.” Are people ready for that level of commitment? We’ll find out. With great power comes great responsibility, right?
Automation & staffing levels
With cloud also comes an increasing reliance on automation. That hands IT people a big reason to push back on cloud computing right there. As Gartner analyst Ronni Colville said in one of her sessions, “the same people who write the automation are the ones whose jobs are going to change.”
In another session, Disney Interactive Media Group’s CTO Bud Albers talked about how the company’s cloud-based approach to internal IT has impacted staffing levels. “No lay-offs,” he said, “but you get no more people.” That means each person you do have (and keep) is going to have to be sharpening their skills toward this transition.

T-shaped business skills

In the era of cloud computing, then, what do you want that staff to be able to do?
Gartner’s Dave Cappuccio talked about creating a set of skills that are “T-shaped” – deep in a few areas, but having broad capabilities across how the business actually works. He believes that “technology depth is important, but not as key as business breadth.” The biggest value to the business, he said, is this breadth.

So that means even more new IT titles from cloud computing

To get to what Cappuccio is proposing, organizations are going to have to create some new roles in IT, especially focusing on the business angle. A few posts ago, I rattled off a whole list of new titles that will be needed as organizations move to cloud computing. Last week, Bernard Golden’s blog at talking about “Cloud CIO: How Cloud Computing Changes IT Staffs” made some insightful suggestions (and some, I’m happy to say, matched mine). He noted the rising importance of the enterprise architect, as well as an emphasis on operations personnel who can deal with being more “hands-off.” He saw legal and regulatory roles joining cloud-focused IT teams and security designers needing to handle the “deperimeterization” of the data center. And, IT financial analysts become more important in making decisions.

Gartner’s Donna Scott agreed with that last one in her session on the same topic at the Gartner Data Center Conference. She believed that the new, evolved roles that would be needed would include IT financial/costing analysts. She also called out solution architects, automation specialists, service owners, and cloud capacity managers.

Wild ducks & the correct number of pizzas

So what personalities do you need to look for to fill those titles?

At the same conference, Cameron Haight discussed how to organize teams and whom to assign to them. “If you have that ‘wild duck’ in your IT shop, they’re dangerous. But they are the ones who innovate,” he said.

Haight noted that the hierarchical and inflexible set up of a traditional IT org just won’t work for cloud. What’s needed? Flatter and smaller. “Encourage the ‘wild duck’ mentality,” said Haight. “Encourage critical thinking skills and challenge conventional wisdom” in individuals.

As for organizing, “use 2-pizza teams,” he suggested, meaning groups should be no larger than 2 pizzas would feed. (He left the choice of toppings up to us, thankfully.) Groups then should support a service in its entirety by themselves. Haight believes this drives autonomy, cohesiveness, ownership, and will help infrastructure and operations become more like developers, lessening the “velocity mismatch” between agile development and slow and methodical operations teams.

To take this even farther, take a look at the Forrester write-up called “BT 2020: IT’s Future in the Empowered Era.” Analysts Alex Cullen and James Staten talk about a completely new mindset that’s needed for IT (or, as they call it, BT – business technology) by 2020. Why? Your most important customers today won’t be so important then, what those new customers will want IT doesn’t yet provide, and the cost of energy is going to destroy current operating models.

Other than that, how was the play, Mrs. Lincoln? But, hey, 2020 is still a ways off.

Moving past wizardry: getting real people onboard with real changes today

Getting the actual human beings in IT to absorb and actually be a part of all these changes is hard and has to be thought through.

At a recent cloud event we held, I interviewed Peter Green, CTO and founder of Agathon Group, a cloud service provider that uses CA 3Tera AppLogic (this clip has the interview; he talks about cloud and IT roles starting at 3 min., 55 sec.). These changes are the hardest, Green said, “where IT sees its role as protector rather than innovator. They tend to view their job as wizardry.” That’s not a good situation. Time to pull back the curtain.

Mazen Rawashdeh, eBay’s vice president of technology operations, noted onstage at the Gartner conference that he has found a really effective way to get everyone pointed the same direction through big changes like this. “The moment your team understands the ‘why’ and you keep the line of communications open, a lot of the challenges will go away.” So, communicate about what you're up against, what you're working on, and how you're attacking it. A lot.

Christian Reilly posted a blog last month that I thought was a perfect example of that eyes-wide-open attitude, despite the uncertainty that all of these shifts bring. Reilly (@reillyusa on Twitter) is in IT at a very large end-user organization dealing with cloud and automation directly.

“I am under no illusion,” Reilly posted, “that in the coming months (or years)…automation, in the guise of the much heralded public and private cloud services, will render large parts of my current role and responsibility defunct. I am under no illusion that futile attempts to keep hold of areas of scope, sets of repeatable tasks or, for that matter, the knowledge I’ve collected over the years will render me irreplaceable.

“Will I shed tears? Yes. But they will be tears of joy.”

A little over the top, sure, but he gets a gold star for attitude. Green of Agathon Group thinks the cloud is actually the opportunity to bring together things that have been too separate.

“Where I see a potential, at least,” said Green, “[is] for cloud computing to act as a common area where tech and management can start to converse a little bit better.”

So, as I said, January has given me a little hope that the industry is on a good path. Let’s hope this kind of discussion continues for the rest of the year.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

A cloudy look forward at 2011

A bunch of us in the cloud computing business here at CA Technologies put our heads together to see if we could articulate what we thought some of the big trends were going to be in cloud for 2011. It was a long and interesting list, as you might expect.

So, I cherry-picked a handful of key ideas from that list for this post. Don’t consider this a set of broad, all-knowing pronouncements, but instead think of this as some concepts that are getting traction – ones that I believe we’ll want to watch as we start the new year. Let me know if you agree, disagree, or have something even better to add.

Of course, you can’t surf the high tech pubs over the past few weeks without hitting dozens of such lists. So why is this one worth a scan?

I think the items on this list do a good job representing conversations and work we’ve been doing with two important constituents: leading-edge service providers and more traditional enterprise IT operations teams. We work with both and see a lot of ways that the two groups are learning from – and influencing – each other. Trend #1 to watch: I’m betting this cross-pollination continues, especially as people start thinking about hybrid public-private cloud computing environments.

Even better, most of these concepts represent an evolution of issues and trends we’ve been talking about over the past few months. I’m including links to posts that I or someone on our team has written in case you’re interested in a little background or supporting commentary.

As Casey Kasem used to say, on with countdown…

The “old guard” of IT will push back and then face up to the changing role of IT

A lot of people will continue to rail against cloud computing, highlighting its failures. Network or system administrators, those whose jobs are focused around traditional IT silos or the “break & fix” process, and even some traditional IT vendors will likely all chime in. After all, from their perspective, their livelihoods are being threatened with this transition. The smartest of the bunch will seize the cloud as an opportunity, transforming their own roles, leading to the emergence of new IT titles. We’ll see Chief Sourcing Officers, Cloud Service Architects, even Cloud Orchestrators. And that’s just for starters.

MSPs become the model of cloud progress

Many MSPs are bringing innovative, cloud-based solutions to market (many building on top of CA 3Tera AppLogic). They have spent 2010 working through the kinks, and they are showing IT pros from enterprises and service providers alike that real cloud computing progress is being made. MSPs are showing the industry how to do it. The GM of the CA Technologies cloud business, Adam Famularo, commented on how this is shaping up in CRN and CA’s Matt Richards noted a few examples in a recent blog as well. Enterprises are starting to not only see MSPs as a source for cloud services, but also as a model for how to operate IT.

The hypervisor will begin a 5-year march to obscurity

OK, maybe that sounds like I’m overstating things a bit. Even so, expect the relationship between virtualization and cloud computing will become much clearer in 2011. Companies are now understanding that virtualization alone does not equal cloud. And even recent moves by VMware and the other hypervisor vendors show that the VM is not the strategic center of the cloud universe. Hypervisors are an important piece of technology, but aren’t the be-all or end-all.

Agility will be prized more highly than depth of functionality

The cloud is driving organizations to realize that they don’t need to have complex, process-heavy IT for everything they do. In fact, “good enough” is a kind of catchphrase for the cloud. For the apps where speed is more important, optimize on that. Embrace that agility where it makes sense (and it will make sense in a lot of places).

A government will ban using the cloud for any of its services…

It seems that all the discussion about the concerns of privacy, security, and the like, will probably lead to a government somewhere that will forbid all use of cloud services. I’d expect that to come as a knee-jerk reaction to some government agency or private organization experiencing a major breach or failure. At the same time, cloud security and SLAs will grow in importance as public and commercial industries alike seek to address these risks.

…while another government will fully invest in cloud computing

Other government entities, however, will find the cloud too compelling to ignore. The U.S. federal government, for example, has made an aggressive move to the cloud and continues to show its commitment to this approach, providing education and other support for government agencies. Our federal government even has a stated “cloud first” policy for some items from U.S. CIO Vivek Kundra. So, despite the perceived security and quality of service risks, governments will continue to drive innovation and advancement of their own IT systems by using new cloud services.

People will stop trying to define “cloud computing”

Thank goodness. And not a moment too soon.

Seriously, though: there’s no longer a debate about the viability of public vs. private clouds – we know that most enterprises are going to have some combination of both. At the same time, NIST is talking about expanding its existing definition of cloud computing in interesting ways. We’d recommend thinking about how to encompass the way IT is starting to think and act – focusing on the delivery of services more than the underlying technical components.

There will be a groundswell of consumer interest in cloud

Consumers are starting to hear about this cloud thing. You can grumble about Microsoft’s odd “to the cloud” holiday card ads (I have), but the profile of cloud computing continues to increase. There will be a follow-on groundswell effect within organizations, as business users’ expectations for speed, choice, and agility dramatically increase. And increase. And increase some more. IT pros will need to move quickly in order to provide the necessary infrastructure and services that its users come to expect.

Attempts to develop a single cloud performance benchmark will fail

As the choices for cloud services increase (and they will…daily), there will emerge an even greater need for transparent and reliable metrics and the ability to compare services against each other. Vendors and third parties will continue on the path of trying to find a single benchmark to measure performance, but they will fail. Instead, I’m betting folks will come to realize that cloud services need to be measured on many factors, including cost, security, agility, and more. A single benchmark will not give organizations the insight they need to make smart decisions aligned with their specific priorities. (CA Technologies is working as part of the Service Measurement Index (SMI) Consortium to address exactly this issue, by the way.)

Despite “troughs of disillusionment,” “cloud-washing” and FUD, users will show real progress in the cloud

Organizations will try a lot of things in 2011. Some will fail (hopefully fast), and the best projects will succeed. They will uncover realistic, practical uses that give them the flexibility and speed they require to improve how they serve the business. Sure, some might say we’re about to enter that unpleasant phase of an emerging market where the reality begins to expose the hype for what it is, but that’s actually a very healthy part of the cycle. It separates the real from the, um, PowerPoints.

Finally, if you don’t like our thoughts…

If you don’t like our ideas (or at least the ones I highlighted), comment here with some of your own. Also, here are some interesting lists from a few notable industry voices and what they think has been happening and what they think you might expect from the next 12 months: Derrick Harris from GigaOm on 2010 and 2011, Forrester’s James Staten, Bernard Golden at, Chris O’Brien from the San Jose Merc on Silicon Valley in general (and his self-assessment on his own past predictions), Gordon Haff from Red Hat (and some good back & forth comments on his ideas), the gifts of 2010 according to James Urquhart’s Wisdom of Clouds, Krishnan Subramanian’s Cloud Ave list of key cloud acquisitions of 2010, and Christian Reilly, giving a user’s perspective to keep everyone honest. Finally, the folks at have an even longer list on their site if that’s not enough.

So, take it all in. Let us know what you think. Oh, and happy new year.