Why should you look at cloud services and embrace the consumerization of IT? It's all about innovation, or the lack of it, from entrenched enterprise providers.
When Werner Vogels takes the stage, you know you're going to hear a lot about Amazon cloud services. You could ask him to talk more generally about cloud trends, but what good would it do. As far as Vogels is concerned, Amazon is the cloud and the cloud is Amazon. He led off the keynote speakers on the main stage at Interop New York, a UBM TechWeb event, on Thursday, and was followed by execs from RackSpace, Terremark, and Hauwei. While Vogels was the big name draw for the day, he was upstaged by John Roese of Hauwei, who challenged the audience to rethink the IT toolbox in fascinating ways.
For cloud fans and skeptics alike there was plenty to like in their presentations. For the cloud fanboys, they can rightfully point to the diminishing list of enterprise objections to use of cloud infrastructure services. Those promises that "we can run it better" are pretty much being delivered upon, and objections like security and data ownership can more frequently be handled. Skeptics can now bring their full set of concerns and, as long as they bring an open mind too, can find ways that using cloud infrastructure makes sense. Meaning you can find things that can be done faster and cheaper in the cloud.
Vogels says he doesn't think we're yet at the knee of the hockey stick in terms of adoption of cloud services, and that's probably true. Early adopters are doing their thing, and there's plenty to learn from their experiences, but perhaps the biggest thing to learn is that cloud providers have come a long way in terms of understanding what enterprise IT buyers want and need from cloud services. Vogels made a point of noting that all of Oracle's and SAP's software catalog had been certified to run on EC2. That's a pretty remarkable thing.
When Roese took the stage, his first task was to say why Hauwei, a company that historically serves the carrier market, was at an enterprise show. The short answer was that the China-based equipment vendor was on track to sell about $4 billion of equipment into enterprise markets, and that if it has its way, it'll be biting at Cisco's tail in just a few years. But unlike Vogels, Roese wasn't there to offer a half hour commercial for his company, but rather pointed out at a macro level just how challenged entrenched enterprise IT vendors are.
At a high level, Roese notes that the past 10 years have brought very few new players to enterprise IT, at least not in the traditional sense. Instead, the market has matured and consolidated. At the same time, it's faced new challenges on security fronts as well as from regulations like Sarbanes-Oxley and HIPAA. All in all, not much of an environment for innovation.
Meanwhile, the consumer market has seen dramatic changes from dozens of innovators, which at least prior to Google's run-ins with the Justice Department, don't suffer from the same sorts of regulatory issues. Their services are generally far simpler than those provided by enterprise IT vendors, and as such don't in fact constitute complete "solutions." Instead, they've become easy enough to integrate that consumers themselves (and therefore IT organizations too) can integrate them into their own solutions.
The bottom line for Roese, the network is the enabler (you knew we had to get back to what Hauwei does eventually), and that smart IT organizations will broaden their toolboxes to include a range of consumer and cloud services that can be combined into more cost effective "solutions" that by default can reach a wider audience. It's a compelling message.
Art Wittmann is director of InformationWeek Analytics, a portfolio of decision-support tools and analyst reports. You can write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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