Technology Faces State-of-Mind Hurdles

Cloud and open source advocate Sam Ramji, vice president for product management for the Google Cloud Platform, provides a sneak peek into his Interop ITX keynote.

When Google's Sam Ramji talks about computing, you notice pretty quickly that success is about mindsets -- essentially, how we think -- as much as it is about the technology itself.

For example, he says that your organization will fail "if you are focused on assuming that computing is scarce." That conjures up images of an IT manager rejecting change because of a lack of resources. It also makes one think of the CEO who complains because IT is always asking for more, an expensive "more."

Of course, those negative mindsets have been conditioned by decades of tight budgets and status quo, and might not factor in that compute resources including storage and network bandwidth are relatively cheap today and very available -- whether on premises or in the cloud.

In an interview last week, Ramji, vice president for product management for the Google Cloud Platform, previewed his keynote address "Making the New Work for You, Navigating What's Next," scheduled for Interop ITX, which runs April 30 to May 4 at the Mirage in Las Vegas.

Ramji is a recognized expert in the cloud space and a long-time cloud and open source advocate. He was founding CEO of the Cloud Foundry Foundation, chief strategy officer for Apigee, and leader of Microsoft's open source strategy after holding executive positions at Outercurve Foundation and BEA WebLogic Integration.

Looking back five years, Ramji said that the common view was that the cloud was a place to do "elastic data processing." He was at Apigee at the time and notes, "I think what we saw coming and what has continued to change is the explosion of new devices," those devices connecting a wide range of services. Remember, the main objection to the cloud five years ago was that it was insecure.

"People have recognized that on the balance the cloud is more secure than on-premises systems. The people I talk to on a weekly basis, they get it," he added. When asked about the lack of transparency on the part of cloud vendors five years ago -- for example, cloud customers being unable to find out where their data was stored by providers -- Ramji noted, "I think we didn't know how to talk about it. We were kind of building this new way of thinking about security. Today we think about zero perimeter. That was super edgy thinking back in 2013."

Ramji observed that while Google is known for its public-facing technologies, such as search and its applications, it's a big company that runs the same types of internal applications as other enterprises, including Workday and Oracle.

Touching again on how people think things through, he said that Google continually has to address three core questions:

  • Do we have an effective model?
  • Are we managing for change?
  • Are we open?

Delving into those questions a bit deeper, he said the "effective model" point addresses how people work with critical systems, asking "Are we forcing people to handcraft things that could be automated?" That automation can make people's jobs more enjoyable.

Ramji added that at Google there has to be comfort with continuous change, which is reflected in practices such as "blameless post mortems" and "stimulating empathy with a user or customer."

In discussing the "open" question, he went back to address the mindset that computing is scarce. In the past, people were rewarded for just managing within corporate strictures and budgets. "If you keep holding onto the old governance structures, you will be stuck in an old way of thinking," he warned.

IT can enable or empower the business, according to Ramji, "to change the jobs that will be done." Consider concepts such as DevOps and site reliability engineering, he pointed out.

"We have to be able to read all the signals coming from the market and respond quickly," he concluded.

Learn more about the May 3 presentation by Ramji and other keynoters in the Interop ITX agenda.

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