Friday, December 31, 2010

A cloudy look back at 2010

Today seemed like a good day to take stock of the year in cloud computing, at least according to the view from this Data Center Dialog blog – and from what you as readers thought was interesting over the past 12 months.

Setting the tone for the year: cloud computing M&A

It probably isn’t any big surprise that 3 of the 4 most popular articles here in 2010 had to do with one of the big trends of the year in cloud computing – acquisitions. (Especially since my employer, CA Technologies, had a big role in driving that trend.) CA Technologies made quite a bit of impact with our successive acquisitions of Oblicore, 3Tera, and Nimsoft at the beginning of the year. We followed up by bringing onboard others like 4Base, Arcot, and Hyperformix.

But those first three set the tone for the year: the cloud was the next IT battleground and the big players (like CA) were taking it very seriously. CRN noted our moves as one of the 10 Biggest Cloud Stories of 2010. Derrick Harris of GigaOm called us out as one of the 9 companies that drove cloud in 2010. And Krishnan Subramanian included CA's pick-up of 3Tera and Nimsoft in his list of key cloud acquisitions for the year at CloudAve.

As you’d expect, folks came to Data Center Dialog to get more details on these deals. We had subsequent announcements around each company (like the release of CA 3Tera AppLogic 2.9), but the Nimsoft one got far and away the most interest. I thought one of the more interesting moments was how Gary Read reacted to a bunch of accusations of being a “sell-out” and going to the dark side by joining one of the Big 4 management vendors they had been aggressively selling against. Sure, some of the respondents were competitors trying to spread FUD, but he handled it all clearly and directly -- Gary's signature style, I’ve come to learn.

What mattered a lot? How cloud is changing IT roles

Aside from those acquisitions, one topic was by far the most popular: how cloud computing was going to change the role of IT as a whole – and for individual IT jobs as well. I turned my November Cloud Expo presentation into a couple posts on the topic. Judging by readership and comments, my “endangered species” list for IT jobs was the most popular. It included some speculation that jobs like capacity planning, network and server administration, and even CIO were going the way of the dodo. Or were at least in need of some evolution.

Part 2 conjured up some new titles that might be appearing on IT business cards very soon, thanks to the cloud. But that wasn’t nearly as interesting for some reason. Maybe fear really is the great motivator. Concern about the changes that cloud computing is causing to peoples’ jobs certainly figured as a strong negative in the survey we published just a few weeks back. Despite a move toward “cloud thinking” in IT, fear of job loss drove a lot of the negative vibes about the topic. Of course, at the same time, IT folks are seeing cloud as a great thing to have on their resumes.
All in all, this is one of the major issues for cloud computing, not just for 2010, but in general. The important issue around cloud computing is not so much about figuring out technology, it’s about figuring out how to run and organize IT in a way that makes the best use of technology, creates processes that are most useful for the business, and that people learn to live and work with on a daily basis. I don’t think I’m going out on a limb here to say that this topic will be key in 2011, too.
Learning from past discussions on internal clouds
James Urquhart noted in his “cloud computing gifts of 2010” post at CNET that the internal/private cloud debate wound its way down during the year, ending in a truce. “The argument died down…when both sides realized nobody was listening, and various elements of the IT community were pursuing one or the other – or both – options whether or not it was ‘right.’” I tend to agree.
These discussions (arguments?), however, made one of my oldest posts, “Are internal clouds bogus?” from January 2009, the 5th most popular one – *this* year. I stand by my conclusion (and it seems to match where the market has ended up): regardless of what name you give the move to deliver a more dynamic IT infrastructure inside your 4 walls, it’s compelling. And customers are pursuing it.
Cloud computing 101 remained important
2010 was a year in which the basics remained important. The definitions really came into focus, and a big chunk of the IT world joined the conversation about cloud computing. That meant that things like my Cloud Computing 101 post, expanding on my presentation on the same topic at CA World in May, garnered a lot of attention.
Folks were making sure they had the basics down, especially since a lot of the previously mentioned arguments were settling down a bit. My post outlined a bunch of the things I learned from giving my Cloud 101 talk, namely don’t get too far ahead of your headlights. If you start being too theoretical, customers will quickly snap you right back to reality. And that’s how it should be.
Beginning to think about the bigger implications of cloud computing
However, several forward-looking topics ended up at the top of the list at Data Center Dialog this year as well. Readers showed interest in some of the things that cloud computing was enabling, and what it might mean in the long run. Consider these posts as starting points for lots more conversations going forward:
Despite new capabilities, are we just treating cloud servers like physical ones? Some data I saw from RightScale about how people are actually using cloud servers got me thinking that despite the promise of virtualization and cloud, people perhaps aren’t making the most of these new-fangled options. In fact, it sounded like we were just doing the same thing with these cloud servers as we’ve always done with physical ones. It seemed to me that missed the whole point.

Can we start thinking of IT differently – maybe as a supply chain? As we started to talk about the CA Technologies view of where we think IT is headed, we talked a lot about a shift away from “IT as a factory” in which everything was created internally, to one where IT is the orchestrator of service coming from many internal and external sources. It implies a lot of changes, including expanded management requirements. And, it caught a lot of analyst, press, customer, -- and reader – attention, including this post from May.

Is cloud a bad thing for IT vendors? Specifically, is cloud going to cut deeply into the revenues that existing hardware and software vendors are getting today from IT infrastructure? This certainly hasn’t been completely resolved yet. 2010 was definitely a year where vendors made their intentions known, however, that they aren’t going to be standing still. Oracle, HP, IBM, BMC, VMware, CA, and a cast of thousands (OK, dozens at least) of start-ups all made significant moves, often at their own user conferences, or events like Cloud Expo or Cloud Connect.

What new measurement capabilities will we need in a cloud-connected world? If we are going to be living in a world that enables you to source IT services from a huge variety of providers, there is definitely a need to help make those choices. And even to just have a common, simple, business-level measuring stick for IT services in the first place. CA Technologies took a market-leading stab at that by contributing to the Service Measurement Index that Carnegie Mellon is developing, and by launching the Cloud Commons community. This post explained both.

So what’s ahead for 2011 in cloud computing?

That sounds like a good topic for a blog post in the new year. Until then, best wishes as you say farewell to 2010. And rest up. If 2011 is anything like 2010, we’ll need it.

No comments: