Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Why it pays to be early -- especially with this much cloud choice

It pays to be early.

Take my flight today, for example. I’ve done this flying-to-New York thing a few times. I’ve learned the hard way that it’s a good idea to reserve your seat early. I know when to head toward the line at the gate to minimize time spent standing around and maximize the chance that there’s still overhead bin space onboard. And, if it looks like this particular flight is headed for delay or cancellation, I already have a pretty good view of what my options are likely to be. I might even already be dialing/browsing customer service.

I think the same applies for cloud computing. To really have a good view of what you need to know, the folks who have been through this a couple times certainly have a head start. Being early to the party lets you assess what’s happening from a position of experience – peppered with a humbling but healthy dose of reality along the way.

I think today’s big cloud announcements from CA Technologies help drive home this point. (As you might have guessed, they are part of what I’ve been working on recently: 10 new/enhanced offerings for enterprises, 4 for service providers, plus a market accelerator program.) The announcements represent quite a bit of early market experience wrapped up for the benefit of very specific customer sets.

What we (and our customers) learned in the past 18 months

Last year, IT was asking some very basic questions about cloud computing, the core of which boiled down to “So, what is cloud computing, anyway?” CA Technologies kicked off 2010 with an aggressive cloud acquisition spree that surprised more than a few folks. We brought aboard a series of key technologies, some very smart folks, and a lot of on-the-ground services experience. Customers and industry-watchers showed interest (and skepticism, as you’d expect) as we brought the pieces together.

If you look back at our CA World announcements last year, you’ll see that we described the way cloud was changing IT and the solutions that we thought were needed. We talked about the IT role morphing into more of a supply chain orchestration job, focused on delivering IT service. We saw a need to understand those services, figure out ways to compare them, manage them, and control them.

But the market hasn’t been standing still. In fact, I think most would agree with me that the changes in IT as a result of cloud have accelerated. Our view that the IT function is shifting seems to be supported by some proof points (especially if you read some of the survey data I’ve seen in the past year). But that doesn’t mean we got everything perfect, right out of the gate. By being in the game early, we’re in a prime seat to watch the evolution. And react.

Evolving and targeting to match how enterprises and service providers adopt cloud

It’s now a little more than a year later, and we’re evolving our cloud portfolio. Today’s announcements are a set of next steps, and they reflect some pragmatic reactions to what we’ve seen. We’re enhancing the offerings we already have. We’ve built some new ones. And all of these are driven by what customers are saying and doing.

Here are some of the highlights, as I see them:

More than ever before, cloud means choice. Looking at cloud forces lots of internal and external decisions. As I’ve noted previously, these are decisions about technology, about organizational structure, about IT ownership and policy. With all of these options, there is no “one size fits all” for cloud. Instead, you have to make your own, very specific choices. And you want to have a portfolio of options that can help you regardless of which choices you need to make for your business. We, as a partner in that business, need to enable you to have your cloud, your way.

A broad portfolio to work from is a plus. The work to enable customers to use and provide cloud computing means a bunch of topic areas need to be covered. Management and security really end up jumping to the top of the list. (The CA portfolio is well-tuned to cover that emphasis, I might add.)

We see a lifecycle of decisions, and a set of capabilities at steps along with way. We think customers need to plan, design, deliver, secure, and assure their cloud efforts. And then constantly optimize these decisions for what’s best for their business.

Enterprises and service providers have very different needs and will make different choices. Enterprise and service providers are doing an interesting dance. Each sees benefit – and profit – in cloud computing, and is adopting it pragmatically. Enterprises are trying to evolve what they have invested in already, while maintaining the control they require and processes they’ve built up. That lets them continue with the heterogeneous components they have. That doesn’t lock them into a proprietary (and probably quite costly) “cloud stack.” Unless they want to be. In some cases, that’s a useful trade-off. But it still needs to be managed and secured.

Service providers are, in many cases, leading the charge to cloud, looking for ways to quickly deliver cloud services but to do so in a way that is going to mean differentiation and revenues, while building margin. Those that don’t won’t be around long. They are feeling pressure from big guys like Amazon and Rackspace. They’re trying to find the right niche. They’re trying to balance the right infrastructure with the financial structure to result in a winning (and sustainable) formula.

As a result of these differences, you’ll see sets of solutions from CA Technologies that address these very specific needs, but help make the connection between the two – the world of hybrid clouds – possible and appealing.

Finally, if you add new perspectives, experience with customers, and resources to some pretty innovative technology, you can move the needle. Several of today’s announcements show the combined effort of the vision of entrepreneurs that joined CA Technologies through the cloud acquisitions and the organic development efforts since then. A lot of these folks have been working on cloud since long before the term “cloud” existed.

Several of those are near and dear to my heart, and I’ll highlight those here:

CA Business Service Insight 8.0. We’re calling it 8.0, because the previous 7 versions were called Oblicore Guarantee and were focused on service level management. However, the work done on CA Business Service Insight since last year opens up new territory. The latest release gives enterprises information about their existing services and the ability to compare and contrast what they are doing internally with services they could choose externally. All this, while also managing the service levels from what they acquire from outside. In addition, CA Business Service Insight’s connection to the Service Measurement Index and Cloud Commons will become more and more intriguing as it matures.

CA AppLogic 3.0. The ability to work at an application level rather than dwelling on low-level hypervisor questions takes a huge step up with the addition of VMware support in this release. Now, you can think in terms of virtual business services instead of ESX or Xen. That’s an important extension to the vision that the 3Tera team brought to CA Technologies, especially if you’re an enterprise.

Service providers are probably still interested in the financial equation of using Xen, but now have new options in working with enterprises who’ve made big VMware investments. And, frankly, that’s everyone at this point. The new languages, VLAN tagging, and role-based access features are probably even more interesting to service providers and how they make money from a cloud business using CA AppLogic as their cloud platform. The service provider ecosystem that’s building around CA AppLogic is should get a mention here, too, but that’s worthy of its own post.

I’m personally pleased to see Cassatt capabilities woven in here, too (check out the Global Fabric Controller to see my previous company’s influence).

Learning pragmatically

There are a lot of moving parts here, mostly driven by the huge number of options that the cloud now presents. In my opinion, CA Technologies made a pretty prescient decision to jump into this market with both feet (and wallet), and to do so early. Much of what you’re seeing come to market here has benefited from early moves by both the innovators CA acquired -- and by CA itself.

The resulting time and experience have infused our offerings (and those of us working on them) with what I’d call a healthy amount of pragmatism. This pragmatism is something that I think will serve CA Technologies, its ecosystem partners, and our collective customers well as cloud computing continues to evolve.

And, of course, it’s good to see all those hours I’ve spent waiting for flights are paying off in interesting ways.


Shivan said...

Interesting stuff and excited to see what else comes up at CA.

I think what resonates in this article the most for me is the point you make about choice with cloud. There truly are a maze of cloud providers coming out of the woodwork. A key challenge these guys will have is in differentiating themselves from one another. Price and performance are only a piece of the pie. Amazon has shown that creeping up the stack does in fact offer quite a bit of value to end consumers. One thing to note now is the demand for flexibility and agility that cloud offers over that of traditional IT infrastructure. I think as time progresses, these needs will (and seem to be even now) morph towards security, compliance, governance and other functionality that will ultimately fragment cloud technologies to enable, as you say, 'your cloud, your way'.

I look forward to more blogs in the future.

(Disclaimer, I work at RightScale)

Jay Fry said...

Thanks for the comment, Shivan.

Differentiation is definitely the key, especially with the big guys like Amazon continuing to move up the stack, as you said. Service providers have to find a unique value prop -- and a way to deliver that without constantly being in red. Investors aren't fond of that red ink stuff.

One thing CA is working on to help describe some of the differentiation is the Service Measurement Index (it's a topic of other posts on this blog and described in more detail at Cloud Commons). The idea behind it is that the way to judge a service is by a more complex set of criteria as you noted, and that it's going to have different weightings for different organizations. Price and quality are important to some. Security and risk are paramount for others. CA Business Service Insight is starting to leverage that. Could be pretty interesting and useful.

I also think that the compliance, security, and other requirements are going to be the things that continue to drive enterprises. If we don't find a way to help enable those better, it'll be a tough road.

Shivan said...

Thanks Jay


I'll have to read up on Service Measurement Index but it does sound interesting...but complex off the cuff. I wonder if someone is going to have to read a lengthy report to truly understand how one cloud type is different from another. A number / metric means little without understanding what it stands for - your thoughts?

I look forward to hearing your thoughts on how to enable enterprise functionality in the cloud. It's something that I struggle to find good solutions for. To be fair, a number of our partners at RightScale are making good headway--which is great, but curious to hear CA's perspective in this arena and how you'll enable your customers on this level of functionality.


Jay Fry said...

The idea behind SMI is to have some very straightforward, business-level metrics that are easy to understand. Complex reports certainly aren't going to help, as you said, but you do want a way to weight the things that are important to your enterprise. The balance between simple and useful is the hard part. CA's participating with a bunch of orgs alongside Carnegie Mellon to try to find that balance.

As for those enterprise-level things, it's one of the areas that CA knows well from its history. But cloud is about "good enough." This topic is rarely about "good enough," if you ask an IT guy. So there are some things to figure out. CA's working on some, our partners (some starting to work through Cloud Commons) are working on some, and there are still more to be tackled. We're trying to get as many interesting advancements from us and others all in one place at CA World in November in Vegas. (Ah, Vegas.)