Monday, May 17, 2010

A new way to compare your cloud computing options

If cloud computing does what everyone is saying it’s going to do, organizations are going to end up with many, many ways to get the IT service they need to support their business. And choice is good.

But having thousands of choices with no clear way to decide (or even prioritize) is not a recipe for success. Three of the announcements I’m helping with at CA World in Las Vegas this week (#caworld on Twitter) are aimed at addressing that problem: finding smart ways for companies to make those choices – and ways to constantly challenge those choices. Read on for a bit of detail and commentary on the first two; I’ll post another blog after Chris O’Malley’s Cloud & SaaS Focus Area Opening to cover the third.

Answering the bigger questions
These announcements are the result of quite a bit of soul searching at CA (now called CA Technologies, a hint that significant change is afoot) about how the company could and should help fill in some key missing pieces for really getting utility out of cloud computing.

What we saw and heard from customer after customer was that there are a number of very important issues around the cloud, issues that everyone’s been talking about: security, assuring performance and availability, managing and automating underlying technologies like physical and virtual servers. And, to be sure, we (and others) have answers to a lot of those that are getting better and better all the time (including some announcements from us coming this week).

However, there was a bigger problem not getting answered.
Business users are realizing that the IT department is no longer the single source for delivering the IT service they need. They can go around IT. Or at least use cloud services, SaaS offerings, and the like as pretty strong bargaining chips in the negotiations with IT.
And IT has had a pretty difficult time putting what they can deliver side by side with what can be sourced from the cloud and doing a fact-based comparison so the business can make the right decision.

We also realized that there are things that CA Technologies could and should deliver to help answer some of these questions, and things that are better driven by others with relevant expertise and experience. So we are doing a mix of both.

First, a standard way to measure IT service in business terms

Sunday afternoon, Jeff Perdue, a senior researcher at Carnegie Mellon University, and CA Technologies’ David Hodgson announced an effort to provide the industry a standard way to do these kinds of IT service comparisons. The result is the beginnings of the Service Measurement Index and a consortium to support it.

The Service Measurement Index (SMI) is the first of its kind – a relative index focused on describing IT services in business terms. Instead of looking just at cost, SMI provides a way to balance between six important characteristics: quality, agility, risk, cost, capability, and security.

CMU and CA Technologies got this started, but CMU will take the lead from here on out, pulling in educational institutions, global end user organizations (both commercial and public sector), and technology vendors. There’s no way this is something a single vendor could pull off, and CMU has the chops to help make this consortium -- and its work -- real.

And, even if you’re not a big user of cloud computing services now, SMI can be used to rate your existing internal services. Given that ways to do apples-to-apples comparisons are hard to come by, that should be good news.

There is a panel this week at CA World with lots more information about SMI and the consortium; I’ll forward (and tweet) more details as the week progresses.

Second, a community and website for qualitative & quantitative feedback on cloud services

Hodgson also announced Cloud Commons on Sunday (I need to have a word with whoever’s doing this wacky announcement scheduling). Cloud Commons ( is an independent community that CA Technologies is launching and supporting, again with the help of a lot of partners, that is now open and available for use. It’s intended as a place for cloud fans and skeptics alike. It’s for end users, technology providers, industry experts, and others to share experiences, best practices, and qualitative & quantitative information about the many types of cloud services available.

Cloud Commons will use the Service Measurement Index as one way for people to describe their experiences with cloud services and compare them to others. There will also be ways to add commentary and to interact with others in the community. Think of it as a Consumer Reports for cloud services, except you and your peers are the experts providing input.

Since this is going to be a living, breathing community, much of the content that will make Cloud Commons useful will come directly from the specific input of many, many IT folks. Knowing that we have to start somewhere, we got the ball rolling with a broad range of current and historical data gathered for major cloud sites and starting-point SMI data from an extensive research project with a leading analyst firm on the characteristics of particular cloud services (including e-mail, e-commerce, and a few other common examples).

But frankly, what you’ll see up there today are the bare bones. I’m expecting that the most interesting content started trickling in tonight when customers on the CA World show floor started registering and filling in survey data about what they are doing with cloud services – and their opinions on those services, good or bad.

In the press conference today, Hodgson was asked how Cloud Commons could possibly provide all the right information. “This isn’t CA doing this, this is the community,” said Hodgson. The site isn’t going to be perfect right out of the gate, but it will morph and grow with feedback, he believed. And that’s actually a strength. “Some of the answers will come from the community – what do people want to see? Just the fact that it’s going to exist as a concept will start the conversation that the industry needs.”

Next up: new CA Technologies cloud management solutions

The third cloud-related announcement is about a set of products that we have up our sleeves that Chris O’Malley will announce from stage on Monday. I’ll post on that after it happens.

Until then, take a look at Cloud Commons, dig into SMI, and give feedback both on cloud services and on the concepts I’ve been talking about here in general. That’s what will make all of this useful, after all.

Also of note: if you are interested in being a regular, more official contributor to Cloud Commons or would like to make sure your cloud services appear in the Cloud Commons marketplace, drop me a line. And to reiterate, we’re very serious about everyone being welcome: partners, customers, competitors, industry analysts, pundits of all types. Definitely take us up on the offer.


Website Design Dallas said...

Nice blog thank you :)

Jonhost said...

I came to know about Cloud Commons from this blog which is really good to read out.

keep up the good work.

Data Center India said...

Nice blog post! Really enjoyed reading it.