Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Luckily, it's time for the next chapter in cloud computing

After a few weeks of quiet here at Data Center Dialog, it's time to rev things back up again. The timing seems right: after everything that's driven the cloud computing phenomenon to the top of the hype chart, I'm expecting (and I think we're seeing) some qualitative changes in the market. Hey, some of those changes even impacted me personally (for example, I'm sitting in front of my same old computer, but in a completely different office building with a brand-new employer).

The big build-up of cloud computing, leading to...

We've all been watching (and in some cases, participating in) the market frenzy around cloud computing. The last post I did here gave a bit of a snapshot of where we have come from in the past 6 months, recounting early discussions about public clouds, to arguments about internal clouds, to predictions about hybrid clouds -- and all the much-discussed nuances in-between.

But, if things continue as they have been going, you'd think at some point we will be awash in an undifferentiated tide of cloud computing press release boilerplate.

And that's bad.

Luckily, the market seems to have a built-in mechanism for self-correcting when it reaches truly oxygen-free heights on the buzz scale. Gartner calls the whole darn process the hype curve, and they are currently busy publishing this year's batch of them describing all manner of markets (their clients can go here to see exactly how close to the hype peak they placed cloud computing this year). This process could also be likened to a pendulum...or even just a rubber band. When things get pretty far over the top, that's when they snap back to reality.

Or at least people start remembering to ask some simple yet important questions.

And that's good.

Snapping back: the "simple questions" to ask about cloud computing

What's going on now seems to be the next chapter in the cloud computing story -- the chapter where reality starts to rear its ugly head. All of the promises that have been talked about now need to be matched with some actual delivery.

Whether you listen to Gartner or someone else, or if you're reading the industry (and business!) press coverage, you know we're about as high on the ladder of expectations as we can go. The backlash stories have begun, attempting to knock everyone down a few wrungs. Even though some of the "cloud computing will never work" stories are not always deserved, a little more rigor in the industry's conversation is always welcome. My take? As soon as the backlash starts, things get interesting. Those making claims now can't just paint a nice vision; they have to defend their turf. And their PowerPoints.

I like this part. This is where you see ideas that started as a little flash of inspiration in a customer's head, fueled by a willingness to take a risk, turned into a real, legitimate IT project that other people will want to hear about.

And it's the part of the market where reporters, analysts, VCs, and the like start asking the simple questions that they have often been neglecting to ask for some reason. Questions like, "hey, when is a customer actually going to be able to use that capability you just described?" And, "is anybody using this yet?" Or even, "why would anyone want to do that?"

The result will be a much more tempered view of cloud computing, but one that will be much more helpful for IT operations.

Just this week, in his farewell column for InfoWorld, William Hurley put it nicely: "Keep the hope; lose the hype." And, "[b]e realistic about what you're getting into." The Eucalyptus folks have a nice page of cloud computing myths they shoot down (a favorite of mine, as you know from previous posts, is the myth that virtualization *is* cloud computing). Jon Brodkin of Network World even printed a set of "half-truths" about virtualization, and he helps set the record straight about them. His list also shoots down the concept that "virtualization is the same as cloud computing."

See, it's getting better already.

Continuing the Data Center Dialog and the Cassatt perspective

Now, I may be assigning a little more of a turning point to our current moment in time because it also coincides with the transition of Cassatt (including me) to CA. At Cassatt, we certainly did our best to have practical, results-oriented conversations, but we were still quite a bit ahead of the market. I'm hoping that combining all we learned at Cassatt with some additional in-the-trenches realism from CA will be a good thing for all.

So, how should this Cassatt Data Center Dialog blog reflect these changes? As you probably noticed, we've done a little visual revamping for starters. Since Cassatt expertise, assets, and employees have been picked up by CA, that's where the vision that we built is being carried forward. I'm personally learning quite a bit about what CA already has to offer and am working with the team here on some innovative ideas going forward. It's interesting stuff, and I'm planning to have it trickle down to the blog in a couple ways:

· The name of the blog is now just Data Center Dialog. Since this really is a look across the market (and since Cassatt is now part of CA), we're removing the Cassatt name. However, we'll keep going with the concept we started with at the outset: having a dialog about what's going on in the data center, with an eye toward the fundamental changes that many of us think are possible (and, in the end, required). I'm also hoping that the simple change of templates has made the blog easier to view & read. If not, say something below.
· Expect more interviews. Some of our most popular posts over the past 6 months were interviews with people with something useful and intriguing to say about what's going on in the data center. There are plenty more where that came from.
· We will explore different viewpoints. I definitely have a point of view built from our experiences at Cassatt. That's going to be interacting with what's going on at CA. I'll definitely include CA-specific info in the blog, because that's what I'll have the most exposure, access, and personal investment in. However, expect other angles as well. The goal is to be as useful to the folks thinking about IT operations as possible, and that requires listening and considering a lot of different ideas. (By the way, that will of course continue to include posted comments from you.)

One other note: the Cassatt links in the older blog posts will likely point to CA or stop working some time relatively soon. Do not become alarmed; it's just part of the acquisition process. All of the posts from July '09 onward will certainly have updated links. I think we'll just leave the rest as a part of the historical record. Reminders of the chapter we just finished.

And now, time to turn the page. The next chapter has already begun, and it's certainly not waiting around...