Clouds don’t bother me, anyway …


Whenever a technology, product or solution appears to be the only answer then it’s time to look beyond it …



At this time of year we can expect to be the victims of weather systems that Mother Nature cares to throw at us. Living alongside the Rocky Mountains simply means it can be cold and windy and the skies can be dark and cloudy. On the flip side, I don’t have to venture too far from my desk and given how I have just finished a major upgrade to my systems – a new HPE Pavilion laptop connected to multiple monitors, one of which is vertical and is the one I am using right now – it’s all still at the fun stage. Of course, the fun factor will diminish in time as patterns set in and I realize that it is still all work. 

This week it’s been all about publishing. The December 2019 issue of NonStop Insider has been the priority and given how close we are to the holiday season Margo an I have been pleased with the responses we have had to date from the NonStop vendor community; should be another good issue as it not only covers what transpired at the recent NonStop Technical Boot Camp (TBC) 2019 but expectations for 2020 as well. It’s been quite a while since I last was able to say that these expectations all center on a year devoted to upgrades as the NonStop X finds its way into every enterprise data center.

At this time of year too we rarely see the night sky as the snow keeps falling. It is a stark reminder that winter is fast approaching and even as there was a time when we looked forward to the first snows of winter, we are now very much over it. When will the clouds clear and when will we be bathed in sunlight again? In the mid-1970s I lived in Edmonton, Alberta, and it was around this time of year when the sun didn’t make an appearance much before 11:00am (to vanish some four or five hours later) and I am reminded of those times when I see darkness descend well before dinner time. However, there is more to this than just clouds, darkness and cold; whereas neighbors are busily placing skis on roof racks while others are decorating Christmas trees and installing lights outside of their homes, there are those dreaming of warmer days spent closer to the equator. Then again, no matter our preferences we cannot escape looking up at the sky only to see more clouds.

It wouldn’t be a blog post of any significance these days if it didn’t include references to clouds. It’s been hard to ignore the ongoing battle between tech giants Amazon and Microsoft over providing cloud services to the federal government expected to generate US$10 billion in revenues over a ten year period but then again, there never has been a big contract that didn’t create animosity amongst the bidders. Indeed, HPE’s acquisition of Cray had some connection to the big High Performance Computing deal with the government that HPE lost, according to some reports I have read. But that really isn’t the big story here; what’s been captivating has been emerging commentary on the post-cloud era. What are we doing to prepare for a time when clouds become well, last year’s news?

There is a tendency in our industry to fall head-over-heels in love with the latest technology offerings only to find a few years later that their significance was fleeting at best; distracting and costly at worst. For many this isn’t the case with cloud computing but then again, are we so sure of this? Are we still prepared to make the big investments in something that really doesn’t change the parameters all that much – the cheese still has to be pushed closer to the goal line, but does a cloud contribute to any forward movement to this end?

No, clouds don’t bother me. They are just the latest trend to capture our imagination and to introduce us to language that is well, kind of new. I have often written about the progress of technology being much like the tide - waves advancing and then retreating in a continuous march up the beach. Where clouds do unsettle me more than a little is when I read accounts of many clouds being relied upon to the extent where the complexity that arises masks any advancement in meeting critical business objectives. Cloud computing of itself is just another model that taken to the extreme can become so complex that whatever savings might have been anticipated have been squandered trying to oversee it all!

From the very first presentation on clouds that I saw, the word that stuck with me was “elasticity of provisioning.” This is an attribute I can warm to, winter weather notwithstanding. In any given data center there is more compute power on the floor than is typically required to meet the expectations of business, but are present in order to meet the needs of “Black Friday!” Wonderful; but there have been other options for many years – outsource to service providers to meet peak demands. Yes, traditional service bureaus have proved adept at meeting peak requirements for many businesses.

And yet, elasticity of provisioning is far more universal than we may think – everywhere we have compute power there are advantages of being able to assign resources on the fly. To this end, cloud computing shouldn’t be considered an end game but rather an attribute of all systems. What we see today being promoted by cloud services’ providers should be “standard equipment” of any new operating system! Whether native or via virtualization or the presence of containers, the disconnect between what’s real and what’s needed should be transparent. And the flexibility inherent with this model doesn’t mandate a separation of hardware from software – no; it’s likely to all move into the hardware freeing up resources to run the applications business deems necessary to staying in business.

In the post cloud era – or, dare I say (repeating what HPE’s CEO Antonio Neri spoke of this year), the cloudless era – this elasticity of provisioning we associate with clouds will become so ubiquitous that to purchase any new platform or system that doesn’t inherently support such a property would be very shortsighted. In the post cloud era we are heading towards, the trend will be to on-prem the big stuff and perhaps engage with others for the secondary stuff. But what about the OpEx versus CapEx arguments – surely, this is an unstoppable force with respect to how business sees future investments in technology? 

Unfortunately, governments worldwide aren’t stupid. Well not entirely. When every enterprise has moved to the “everything-as-a-service” model and shifted to reliance on external cloud service providers such a universal shift will go unnoticed? Governments have a history of changing models so would we be prepared to go along with all of this if there was no difference to accounting between OpEx and Cap Ex. How brilliant will we all look if with the stroke of a pen, it was all changed so governments could still count on revenues as they have done for eons? Just saying! No, business should never build a case around a current anomaly as these can disappear overnight.

Should clouds be ubiquitous and there’s no tax benefit from OpEx over CapEx, whereto then? No, clouds don’t bother me as already we are counting down the days to when the hype simply fades away and we are onto the next big thing! And what would that be exactly – well, for starters, the service model that is evolving in front of our eyes where everything we ever want is only hours away from being on our doorstep, is going to continue accelerating to give us new industry models. We talk about the edge but what happens when the Edge isn’t an access point but is us! We are the edge … ten billion people or thereabouts all hitting the enter key at once.

No, clouds don’t bother me even as the incoming tide matters little. History has taught us that when something has overwhelming support, the next thing is about to appear. In all that you are doing with respect to technology are you preparing for a world beyond clouds? Shouldn’t you be concerned or at the very least, be more than a little bit curious? For me it’s simply more stories to write and more interesting discussions to be held. More important perhaps and indeed more relevant to what will likely transpire in 2020 – don’t think for one moment that this is the last big thing we have to sign for and deploy. There is so much more to come – are you looking forward to that day?

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