Archive for November, 2012

Cloud’s impact on the IT team job descriptions

This was first posted on businesscloud9 in July 2012

For many people Cloud is seen as an evolution of outsourcing. By moving the traditional IT resources into a public Cloud customers can focus on their core business differentiators. Cloud doesn’t take away the need for the hardware, software, and systems management, it just encapsulates and shields the user from them.

It puts IT in the hands of the external specialists working inside the Cloud . And by centralising IT and the skills, costs can be reduced, risk can be reduced, and businesses can focus on their core skills giving improved time-to-market and business agility.
But where does this leave the customer’s IT department? Can they all go home or do some of the roles remain, or are there actually new roles created? Will we have the skills needed for this new environment?
Let’s look in more detail at some of these roles and the impact that the extreme case of moving all IT workloads to external Cloud providers would have on them:
IT Strategy
Strategic direction is still important in the new environment. Business Technology and Governance Strategy is still required to map the Cloud provider‘s capabilities to the business requirements. Portfolio Management & Service Management Strategies have increased importance to analyse investments, ascertain value, and determine how to get strategic advantage from the standardised services offered by Cloud . However, the role of Enterprise Architecture is significantly simplified.
Control is still needed although the scope is significantly reduced. IT Management System Control retains some budgetary control, but much of its oversight, coordination and reporting responsibilities are better done elsewhere. Responsibility for Portfolio Value Management & Technology Innovation is mainly handed to the Cloud provider.
At the operational level, Project Management is still required while Knowledge Management has reduced scope but best practices and experiences will still need to be tracked.
IT Administration
The scope of IT Business Modelling is reduced as many of the functions in the overall business and operational framework are no longer required.
There are changes in administration control. Sourcing Relationships and Selection is critical for the initiation and management of relationships with providers. Financial Control and Accounting will continue to manage all financial aspects of IT operations. HR Planning and Administration is still required, but the number of people supported is reduced. Site and Facility Administration is no longer needed.
All of the operational roles in IT administration have increased importance. IT  Procurement and Contracts as well as Vendor Service Coordination are needed to manage the complex relationships between the enterprise and Cloud provider. Customer Contracts and Pricing is needed for the allocation of Cloud costs to internal budgets as well as providing a single bill for services from multiple Cloud providers.
The main casualties of the move to Cloud are the build and run functions. The Service Delivery Strategy will remain in-house, although once the strategic decision has been made to source solely from the Cloud this becomes largely redundant. Responsibility for the Service Support Strategy moves to the Cloud provider.
Service Delivery Control and Service Support Planning also move to Cloud provider, while the Infrastructure Resource Planning functions are likely to be subsumed into the Customer Contracts and Pricing administration role.
Responsibility for Service Delivery Operations and Infrastructure Resource Administration moves to Cloud provider. However the help desk and desk-side support services from Service Support Operations remain essential activities for initial level 1 support, but beyond this support will be offered by the Cloud provider.
Further observations
Governance is a critical capability, particularly around maintaining control over SaaS adoption. Integration of services will be a challenge, but perhaps this will also be available as a service in the future. Relationships with partners and service providers in all guises will become increasingly important.
There is a potential issue with skills. With many of the traditional junior roles in development and operations moving outside the enterprise, it’s hard to see how candidates for these new strategy and coordination roles will gain the experience they need. Academia therefore has an important part to play in ensuring that graduates are equipped with the right skills.
In summary:
1. Most current job roles remain, although many have reduced scope or importance.
2. Fewer strategic roles are impacted than control or operational ones.
3. Build and Run are the main functions which move to the Cloud providers.
4. Planning and commercial skills are key; linking the IT department more closely to the business
In my next blog post here I discuss Delivering the new skill sets needed for cloud.

Contact Center in the Cloud reduces total business expenditure

This was originally posted on ThoughtsOnCloud on October 9, 2012 

I was recently asked to investigate how we could reduce the cost of running a global telecoms business. I took a look at the study by the IBM Institute for Business Value, “The contact center of the future: Spanning the chasms“. Although it was written 10 years ago much of it is still valid today, however it occurred to me that further improvements could be made by bringing cloud into the picture.

In the example given in the study, the cost of running customer relations is higher than the cost of the running the network. Other studies show customer service to be more expensive than IT expenses.  So it’s clear that the contact center holds had the greatest potential for reducing the total cost of running the business. I’m sure that a similar potential exists in other industries too.

The study talks about consolidating multiple contact centers with an enterprise based architecture to allow the flexibility to easily integrate of divests parts of the contact center operation. It also discusses the technology improvements of network-based routing allowing a series of contact centers to interoperate and work in concert, universal queuing allowing enterprise-level business rules to manage customer service throughout the web of contact centers, and Voice over IP (VoIP) improving the performance of contact center agents because of the integration of voice and data technology solutions over an IP network.

Ten years on with the introduction of cloud, Bring Your Own Device, and home working, I wonder whether we’re ready to take this to the next level and disassociate the dependency on the physical location. Whether we could remove the physical contact center as we know it and take the web of contact centers to the extreme of each individuals working from home.  If we could reduce the cost of the technology used by each contact center agent so that it was almost negligible then we could offer access a much deeper talent pool by offering flexible home based working.

Opportunities could be given to the highly qualified women who are only able to work during school hours or after children can go to bed. Or to people who cannot travel to a contact center for personal or geographical reasons.

A friend of mine recently installed a virtual desktop client on a Raspberry Pi, a $25 credit card sized computer, and posted a video here of him using it to access a Windows 7 virtual desktop. For an additional $50 it is possible to buy bundles of the other components that are needed such as a keyboard, mouse and memory card. The computer could easily be attached to or integrated into the monitor or TV and provide a very low cost, easy to use and maintain contact center terminal for home workers.

IBM’s virtual desktop cloud software, IBM Virtual Desktop for Smart Business, provides virtual Windows or Linux desktops, running on a server that can be accessed from a variety of end user devices such as iPads, thin clients, old desktops, netbooks, and laptops. It combines VDI technology with stateless and personalized dynamic sessions, integrated offline VDI (for disconnected and mobile use) and remote branch support. Its open architecture provides flexibility and choice by supporting virtual Windows and Linux  desktops, and a variety of storage, directory, peripherals, and remote display protocols.

By combining these different technology advances I think we have a very exciting future ahead using cloud for business change, cost reduction, and work/life integration.

How IBM cloud can help ISVs

This post was originally published on ThoughtsOnCloud on September 21, 2012

The Development and Test community is one of the most obvious groups that can benefit from cloud; and this is one of the key activities of independent software vendors (ISVs). When you decide that you want to develop a new product or a new release, you want access to your development environment immediately so that you can start realizing your idea and get it to market before the market has moved on or the competitors have moved in. You don’t want the delay that comes with requesting infrastructure setup in a data center and you don’t want long-term commitment in a rapid application development and test environment. As you move toward cloud with standardization, automation, virtualization, pay-as-you-go, and self-service, you can achieve this agility.

Software development tooling

IBM’s Rational portfolio covers the whole software development lifecycle, and it’s available for access on IBM’s cloud. It can also be used to develop solutions that will actually run on a cloud. The IBM Collaborative Lifecycle Management Solution in IBM SmartCloud Enterprise brings together the key software development phases — requirements-gathering, development, and test management — pulling them together on a shared platform, with end-to-end governance. Here, the outputs from one phase are inputs to the next, allowing iteration; by putting it on the cloud, users from multiple locations can collaborate on the process.

Although the GUI for most other tooling can run in a browser with the majority of the application running in the cloud, some still require a thick desktop client. For this type, you can use a virtual desktop such as the IBM Smart Business Desktop Cloud. Again, this way gives any time and anywhere access with reduced cost of ownership for the desktop environment.

Virtualized testing

IBM’s recent acquisition, Green Hat, uses cloud to reduce the time and cost needed for application testing. Test environment setup and maintenance consumes 30 – 50 percent of a test cycle, and has issues such as third-party availability, security, and operational restrictions. Green Hat provides virtualized heterogeneous hardware, software, and services shared across parallel development teams to provide 24×7 testing capabilities on demand. Over 70 technologies are supported including BPM, databases, Tibco, Oracle Fusion, and IBM.

Security testing as a service

IBM Rational AppScan OnDemand is a software as a service offering to identify and prioritize web application security vulnerabilities and risks. It traverses a web application, analyzing and testing the application for security and compliance issues, and generating actionable reports. The service is then able to prioritize findings, interpret results, and make fix recommendations to simplify the remediation process.

Load testing as a service

With IBM Rational Load Testing on the IBM cloud, you can define large load tests, build a schedule of tests to be applied to the application, and run them from multiple virtual agents on the cloud.

IBM SmartCloud Enterprise

Of course you can simply use the standard IBM SmartCloud Enterprise public cloud, which gives pay-as-you go access to a clean, fresh, newly installed Linux or Windows operating system where you can develop and test using your own tooling. It has an intuitive GUI and secure APIs so that you can automate your use of it.


Development and test environments can quickly be provisioned from the traditional environment onto the IBM cloud, and also others, using Tivoli Provisioning Manager with the hybrid cloud extension. This way gives the ultimate flexibility of, for example,  developing in a cloud environment and then using it on premises for production.

Other cloud-based support services

Even if you choose to run your own infrastructure, IBM has many cloud services that can help you keep this running – backup and archiving to the cloud, security monitoring, and availability monitoring from the cloud.

Hosting your own software on the cloud

After you’ve written your software, you can even offer it as software as a service, hosted on the IBM cloud. An increasing number of ISVs are using IBM cloud to host their solution, ranging from CohesiveFT for cloud development tooling, to SugarCRM for a full Customer Relationship Management solution.

You can get additional help from IBM by signing up for the IBM Business Partner initiative IBM Cloud Computing Specialty, which is designed to help Cloud Services Solution Providers engage more closely with each other and with IBM in this key growth area.

Can cloud improve our children’s education?

This post was originally published on ThoughtsOnCloud on August 28, 2012

As a school governor responsible for the education of four to seven year olds in information technology I’ve been thinking recently about how cloud affects both what we need our children to learn and also how they learn it.

In the last couple of decades a lot of technical work has been off-shored to countries where the less skilled, easily specified and repeatable IT tasks have been cheaper, and in the more developed countries we’ve focused on the higher value roles such as product innovation and design. This has meant that there’s been no real demand for a workforce who can program computers. School IT education has focused more on being consumers of IT rather than creators of it, for example, how to use a spreadsheet or a word processor rather than how to write one. There’s also been no real demand from children themselves to learn programming. When I was young we bought a ZX81 or an Atari ST, for example, to play games on, and then some of us were curious enough to wonder how it worked. We had everything we needed in our game’s computers to learn and try out programming. Soon after that we moved to games consoles and the opportunity to program them disappeared. So the people coming out of schools at the moment don’t know programming, and maybe we don’t need them to as this work is off-shored. Unfortunately they don’t know IT design, governance, and how to manage relationships with offshore companies either.

Until recently I’d been advocating that these were the skills that we should be teaching our youth. However with the advent of cloud things have changed a little. Now that we have private cloud with automation, a lot of the menial work like build and test can be done by software so the off-shored work can now be moved back onshore. The need for managing the relationship with the external company is disappearing to be replaced by a need to be able to work with the cloud.

With the advent of platform as a service children now have immediate access once again to sandbox environments where they can learn to program and test out ideas, so there can be a new wave of innovation and creativity driven by curiosity and excitement and the desire to learn.

Also, with the advent of tablets there will be increased access to technology in the classroom. At the moment there are schools with cupboards full of unused laptops because over time each one has gradually had a minor problem that the teachers have been unable to fix. With tablets, appliances with very little running on them, where very little can go wrong because they are thin clients accessing the cloud where most of the processing happens, we have much more robust computers requiring far less technical skill to maintain them. This is going to mean that finally the dream can be achieved that we thought was going to happen when we bought all those laptops.

Finally, I’ve been thinking about the role of the teacher. In primary school teachers have a dual role. They educate children in academic subjects but they also act as a surrogate mother giving the children emotional support and attention.  When I was at school we had fairly small class sizes with one teacher per class. Now this has been optimised to have larger classes where there is one fully qualified teacher responsible for the class’s education but there is also a teaching assistant who ensures that the children have enough support, both with the task that they’re working on as well as emotionally.

At the moment IBM is helping various schools and colleges to offer education virtually. Using IBM Smart Business Desktop Cloud and IBM SmartCloud for Social Business we can significantly enhance traditional online learning by adding collaboration and a virtual desktop environment. IBM is doing this with the Classroom in the Cloud at Birmingham Metropolitan College in the UK and the virtual desktops at Pike County Schools in the USA. This is allowing education bodies to broaden their audience to students off campus and even outside the country.  Thinking about how this applies to primary school children, it occurs to me that we can have a teacher in the cloud delivering education to many children remotely, with the cheaper, lesser qualified teaching assistant sitting with the child to deliver the assistance and support.  Video conferencing is almost at the stage where you can have a full size image of the teacher right next to the student.

This last idea may be going a bit far for now so I’m not going to be recommending it to my school any time in the near future but I can imagine the possibilities of giving all children access to the very best teachers in the world, and I’m excited by the opportunities that cloud is bringing to education.

Cloud accelerates the evolution of mankind

This was originally posted on ThoughtsOnCloud August 3, 2012

I went to Lotusphere in January 2011 and I was surprised at how many people were using iPads, bearing in mind that iPads came out only a few months earlier. While I was there, I visited Disney World, and assistants were using iPads to find me information and record my details.

As time goes on, I become even more amazed at how the world has changed since that innovation. It wasn’t an invention, although I’m sure there are lots of patents on it, it was basically just a bringing together of various concepts that already existed and making them consumable. There are a few points in our history when something happens and suddenly everyone can see the value that they can get from building on it. A phone and an iPod existed and were put together to make an iPhone, and then it was made bigger to be an iPad. Yesterday I went to register at a conference; the registrars used an iPad to scan my QR code, I entered my Twitter ID on the tablet, and then they printed out my badge.

I’ve been using Twitter since I got my first iPhone. Twitter already existed, as did personal digital assistants (PDAs), but bringing them together suddenly made them consumable. I’m sure that’s happened for many people and this has led to a sudden uptick in the use of Twitter, the world of social media, and even the Internet of Things have taken off. Suddenly the world is a different place because people are building on the innovation.

People are now familiar with the concept of using a thin client to access web services. Cloud has become the default paradigm and decision-makers are taking this into their businesses with an expectation of instant access and low-cost consoles.

My light-bulb moment, when I realized the difference cloud was going to make, came when I met with a group of start-up companies at Bournemouth University. I’d been asked to speak about cloud. The University’s Digital Hub consultancy helps to sustain a competitive advantage for its clients by educating them about cutting edge digital technologies; the consultancy recognized cloud as one of these. Amongt other topics, I told them about the Wuxi iPark in China.

The local government for Wuxi New District has been pursuing a strategy of economic growth by encouraging the development of industry. The Wuxi iPark hosts hundreds of small and medium-sized companies that need business software to run and grow their businesses. IBM Research and the Wuxi New District implemented a cloud platform to enable Wuxi iPark residents – whether they are ISVs, technology manufacturers, or bakeries, for example –access to low-cost, pay-as-you go applications such as ERP, CRM, and e-Procurement to help them run their businesses. The cloud provides integration between these applications, which enable SMEs to share information with their business partners and supply chain when they need to. Cloud reduces their up-front investment in infrastructure, and allows them to concentrate their resources on developing business solutions for their markets more quickly, more cheaply, and with less risk. This way is stimulating growth both for resident businesses and the wider economy, and also is providing opportunities for employment and training to local residents.

So, while discussing this story with small businesses in Bournemouth, I suddenly understood that cloud enables anyone with a good idea to get that idea out into the world without needing any initial investment. I also understood how this approach opens up a massive amount of possibility for innovation — not just for the initial ideas, but for all the ideas that other people will develop based on the first one. And not just for technological ideas, I’m thinking about all the business ideas people have had in the past and that have been lost because of the effort of setting up a business. I really think that this way could give an exponential increase in our quality of life.

These businesses could be providing the foundations of technology needed for medical research; they could be charities that couldn’t afford to run with a normal infrastructure.

So this was my light-bulb moment, when I realized that cloud will accelerate the evolution of mankind.


What Wimbledon can tell us about business and the cloud, mobile and analytics

This was originally posted on ThoughtsOnCloud on June 29, 2012

Today’s businesses should keep an eye on Wimbledon this week to see how sports can apply to their competitive challenges. While the competitive nature of Wimbledon appeals to our drive for excellence, the analogy goes much deeper.

IBM SmartCloud, the global private cloud behind the Wimbledon website and mobile app, is optimized to handle the half a billion hits and 16 million unique visitors expected during this year’s tournament, despite significant increases in traffic. This cloud also handles the U.S. Open Golf Championship, the Masters and the French, Australian and U.S. Open.

Analyzing more than seven years of Grand Slam Tennis data—39 million data points—combined with real-time data, IBM’s “SlamTracker” determines the “Keys to the Match” which are the three metrics most likely to clinch the win.  Based on IBM’s SPSS analytics software, fans can exploit the power of data to gain insight into players’– and their opponent’s strategies, strengths and weaknesses.

So what’s the parallel for business? Like sporting events, business must make sense of big data, keep up with the multichannel evolution of commerce, and handle fluctuating demand. Three ways the cloud helps:

  • When we talk to clients in various industries we urge them to think about how analytics can help them understand the “three keys” in their businesses. And we can talk to them about how technology can boost their performance. It’s a useful exercise, clients tell us. Hear more on the importance of analytics here.
  • We rely on our mobile devices now more than ever. In fact at the U.S. Open, the U.S. Golf Association recorded a 44 percent increase in iPhone app downloads, and fans also followed the action on the mobile website, which charted a 375 percent increase in overall visits compared to 2011. All of this was enabled by cloud.
  • The cloud helps organizations handle unexpected demands. For example, last year, the US Open golf tournament ran an extra day long, overlapping with the first day of Wimbledon. Since IBM’s cloud handles both, its ability to scale was tested in a real-life scenario – to great effect.

If cloud can analyze millions of historical data points to predict keys to a tennis match, what could it do for your company?

Check out this video to learn more on the cloud at Wimbledon.

Doug Clark, IBM UKI Cloud Computing Leader, in conversation with Sam Garforth

In this three-part blog post, Doug Clark and I had a conversation on 4 May 2012 about his views on cloud in the IT industry and his role within it. It was my goal to learn more about the business aspects of cloud and whether there are geographical differences in its adoption.

This was originally posted as a 3 part series on ThoughtsOnCloud from 21/6/12-25/6/12

Doug introduces himself and discusses IBM’s commitment to cloud


Sam: Hello Doug, can you start by telling us your official job title and a little about your role?

Doug: I’m the UK and Ireland (UKI) Cloud Computing Leader for IBM. It’s a role that spans all the separate business lines in IBM. It’s an unusual role just by that definition. It’s very exciting and very dynamic. Essentially I pull the best of the best of the cloud skills we’ve got in IBM and across our IBM Business Partner organization and apply them to the challenges that clients have. So it really is an exciting environment.

Sam: How did you get the job?

Doug: I was invited to do the job. I’ve done a few intrapreneurial and entrepreneurial roles. My background is in bringing things to market. I’ve done that all my business life. I’ve built a number of businesses that, from a technology point of view or from an industry point of view, have created new cash flows, and that’s essentially what we’re doing here. I’ve worked with emerging technologies before, whether it’s RFID, wireless or mobility solutions, security solutions, digital media, but I’ve also used the same entrepreneurial skills in industry. Before I came into IT, I was working in pharmaceuticals and fast moving consumer goods. It’s a skill that’s highly transferable. I rely on colleagues such as you to provide the real technical intellect behind it.

So, in IBM, I’ve done a lot regarding innovation, bringing offerings and projects to market, and this one really excited me because I knew that the organization was completely behind it. I’ve led many other initiatives in the background but this one’s been announced to the street. Our current CEO, our previous CEO, and our CFO, have all made future statements to the stock market about how much business IBM is going to do with cloud. It’s seven billion dollars worth of revenue by 2015. When IBM makes an announcement like that it usually fulfils its commitments, as a minimum. So that’s what was exciting to me, that we really are making our intentions known. So I knew that there would be the backing and commitment within the organization to help us drive that new business. To put that into context, if you look on CNBC or other stock market portals, and look at $7b, what size of an organization does that represent that we’re replicating? It’s as big if not bigger than most Fortune 500 companies. That’s what we’re being charged with creating. That to me is such a responsibility. It’s such an exciting potential and such a new capability that I couldn’t resist it.

Sam: Does that make it harder for you personally — that you are expected to deliver?

Doug: No. Thinking about how that translates down to the UKI, we need to align and structure ourselves and put the right kind of governance and management processes in place to make sure that we deliver our portion of that $7b. That’s what’s on my, and the team’s, shoulders but that’s a great challenge to have. We’re all in this to grow the business. That’s the IBM side of the equation, but for IBM to earn that money from clients we must be driving business value for clients. Clients won’t be buying from IBM if they’re not going to see return on investment. So, clients themselves must get more than $7b worth of benefit.  If you think of it, there’s a global recession, so if IBM is saying we’re going to get $7b worth of new business from cloud by 2015 then the market must be growing so we must be helping to drive economic growth, because our clients will be implementing and benefitting from those cloud solutions.

Sam: How does cloud drive new business?

Doug:  Cloud is driving net new business for IBM. It’s agile, it’s nimble, it’s dynamic, it drives a huge amount of business efficiencies, and we’ve enjoyed those efficiencies ourselves in IBM. We’re going to be getting into opportunities with clients for new workloads, whether it’s big data, business analytics, social media, these are all new things. It doesn’t mean that traditional back-office systems, such as ERP supply chain, can’t and won’t be done on cloud, but what I’m seeing and what we’re really stepping up to in terms of business challenges are predominantly new workloads.

Sam: How is your team organized?

Doug:  There are a small number of strategic growth initiatives in IBM, for example: smarter computing, big data, and analytics. Cloud is one of those growth initiatives and in many ways it underpins some of the others too. These themes are triggers that shake the tree of the traditional IBM model which runs as the main lines of business and brands of software, hardware, and services. What’s great is that we’re straddling each of those lines of business and driving a truly integrated innovation.

The most recent public exhibit of that is the announcement of PureFlex and PureApplication Systems, which again are a breakthrough in IBM.  IBM is combining services and software and hardware in a way that’s never been done before to provide expert integrated systems—and from an insider’s view, we know it is not just hype. I think this is a really exciting new adventure in our industry. A lot of things have been brought together previously, but not done in this manner where it is a very integrated, agile, simple to deploy, dynamic, and a really expert system built on our industry knowledge. You combine all of those together and that is a really compelling story for the market, and it’s getting a lot of good interest and I think it will be a big success.  I think it’s unique.

Doug discusses the changing role of IT

Sam: Is IBM PureFlex considered cloud?

Doug: Yes. It’s dynamic, it’s virtualized, it’s standardized, it’s got a lot of the attributes that you would use if you were defining cloud. It’s easy to deploy, it’s scalable, it’s a utility based environment. In this case, it’s probably a private on-premises cloud that you’d be installing, but then within that you would be able to cross-charge your various departments or lines of business or projects for the amount of consumption that they utilise. So it’s a private cloud and it would link into other clouds, external clouds, public clouds, multitenant clouds, and give you hybrid cloud.

Some might say it’s de-emphasising the role of IT, but it’s actually allowing IT to stop wasting its time and stop diverting its limited resource. Every business that I’ve ever spoken to is under some kind of resource constraint, and IT is no different. In many cases, the way IT has evolved over the recent decade with things like ERP and those kinds of extensions to the enterprise systems, IT has become more of a cost center and a support environment than it really deserves to be. As a result, a lot of the IT effort is dedicated to keeping the lights on, keeping these big grunty enterprise machines up to date, and patched and maintained; whereas with these new expert systems those resources can be pointed toward exciting new areas where the IT department will become a significant part of the business team in those organizations.

This whole concept of cloud enabling an agile environment is very true. The experiences we’ve had, the initial case studies we’ve got from our clients, suggest that by deploying cloud-based projects, you can do so much more and so rapidly, that you need to have the IT profession sitting right up at the front of the plane with the business. That to me is probably the most exciting thing in all of this because it’s repositioning a whole profession and putting it where it rightfully belongs, which is at the core of the business, not as a support function.  This is strategic. The reason why it has to be up front is that you can’t purely leave the responsibility to the business. We have heard of business users basically buying cloud services, almost using their corporate cards, just doing stuff on the fly. If IT isn’t involved, then there is no governance, no failover environments to support you for those processes if they become business critical. That could be very dangerous. So it is important that proper practices such as the IT Service Management (ITSM) Framework, ITIL, and the usual IT governance practices are included in these ‘front of plane’ environments.

Sam: Are ITIL and other governance processes current enough for the cloud world?

Doug: That’s a great question. In my opinion there’s an opportunity for practices such as ITIL to be challenged, tweaked, updated or re-evaluated in terms of whether they really fulfil the requirements that cloud forces on us. Are the current best practice review cycles and the current auditability sufficiently agile, or near enough to continuous to give you those guarantees that your cloud-centric systems are fit for purpose? Using the more historical type of environments and infrastructures, the changes were nowhere near as frequent or dynamic. What we’re talking about with cloud is almost a constant change so maybe those processes, which I still think are really valid, need to also become dynamic in their own implementation. All of that scar tissue that’s been built up over the years, all of that experience, you cannot undermine that.

There’s been a lot of negative hype around cloud, a lot of myths, all well documented in the public domain, where people have tried to short circuit or bypass IT best practices. Some of those examples have failed and cloud has been blamed for it. It’s not a cloud issue in itself, it’s predominantly a governance issue.

Sam: People say that governance slows down things. That cloud is actually not that much faster because we still have the business processes and approvals processes delaying things.

Doug: I have an analogy from industry of quality management. They moved from “quality control” to “quality built in.” Quality was built into the process with rigor from the beginning. It wasn’t a matter of a guy standing at the end of a production line saying “that one’s a dud” and “that one’s good” — this was building in quality. Why couldn’t we do something similar with IT best practice and build it in so it’s a continuum? Maybe you would still have audit-type snapshots where you have to stop and look at things in more detail, but in general it could be continuous.

Sam: How have you seen the cloud market change over time?

Doug: I talk to a lot of clients and one of the things that I’m finding fascinating, one of the things that really strikes me, is how disruptive cloud is. We’re saying cloud is disruptive from an IT point of view — yes, it’s changing the way IT is deployed. It’s changing the way IT is architected. It’s becoming more of a utility type model. Actually the architecture is very similar to a telco model with operations support systems that support network operation and management, service delivery and fulfilment, and business support systems that allow a dynamic environment,  pricing, billing, and so on. That’s different to how traditional business runs.

Something else that’s interesting is that the business model is disruptive because people, for example, are paying for workloads or “paying as you go” rather than buying physical kits or buying into long term contracts. There’s a school of thought that says long term contracts are now really under threat because cloud brings with it a fickleness in that it’s easy to get into and easy to get out of.  I dispute the latter but that’s one of the thoughts behind it.

The other thing that’s disruptive about cloud is the ecosystem. A lot of IBM Business Partners are becoming cloud service providers or managed service providers for the first time, so the center of gravity in the market is changing. We’re working very closely with a whole myriad of Business Partners in an ecosystem bringing in solutions, software, and offerings that will provide a service catalog.

Looking at the traditional innovation adoption curve, you used to be able to allocate a particular market, client, or industry and say they’re always a follower, or they’re an early adopter. You know from their cultures where they fit, but with cloud it’s changed. Industries that you think are going to be the first to move are often not, those that you think are normally laggards in the market are quite often the first adopters. It’s totally turning every dimension on its head. You can’t take anything for granted with cloud. It’s such a change that you can’t use any historic models to predict the future. Whether it’s an insurance company, a government agency, or a bank, or whether it’s a retailer, any of them could take the lead. This is a significant change agent and the benefits that those organizations are seeing from those first implementations of cloud are so significant that, if anything, it’s accelerating the curve not just switching it.

Sam: From a technical point of view, we’re moving to thin consoles and centralized processing, and people are saying that that’s what the future will be like. But these things are cyclical. That’s what it was like in the 1960s and then we went to client/server so is this going to be cyclical also? Will we go back; will it change again?

Doug: I think it’s a good observation. IBM has been doing cloud for 40 or so years, because mainframe is fundamentally a cloud-like environment. It’s virtualized, you can change workloads up and down, and provision and deprovision. So it’s not new to us in terms of how we tackle it from a technology point of view. But you’re right, we’ve seen a number of evolutions of client/server – moving workloads out to the periphery of the IT environment then reabsorbing it back into the center. I think with cloud, what you have now is a phenomenal choice and it’s really down to the IT professionals to select the most appropriate architecture. They need to determine whether this part of the architecture needs to be centralized because we want to pool capacity or CPU, because for example, it’s a high performance compute cloud requirement.  Another part of the architecture might need to be very distributed, because the point of presence is out on the edge, because that’s where the transactions are happening, because that’s where the real-time checking needs to be done, for example checking a passport ID or an RFID or a scanner.

We’ll end up with a blended architecture. Whether it’s centralized or distributed will depend on what’s fit for purpose. Just as we’ll end up with a hybrid cloud as the predominant result, I think we’ll end up with a hybrid IT environment, where you have some distributed workloads, because that’s best in class, and some centralized workloads, because that’s best in class. And those centralized ones might be multitenant. For example, we’re talking about high performance computing clouds for engineering environments, where multiple clients might buy into that capacity because they might use it on a project-by-project basis or they might use it seasonally and so the business justification is to share, rather than to own.

Doug looks at the UK and Ireland, and looks to the future

Sam: I know that you read lots of international journals about cloud. Do you think the UKI is particularly different?

Doug: I do think we’re different here. We’ve always been pioneers, whether it was the industrial revolution, or the women’s movement. The UKI has always been a first mover. Over the last few decades a lot of that manufacturing and engineering prowess has morphed from being physical to being service-led. We pride ourselves on our expertise in the UKI. We’ve got a fantastic workforce, whether it’s technical or otherwise. Because the UKI is a service-centric market now, the UKI is one of the main cloud markets. The UKI has very actively pursued an outsourcing model, for the last few years at least. Many workloads, services, and processes have been moved into an outsourced environment, a hosted environment, or even an off-shore environment. We’ve all experienced call centers in our day-to-day private lives.  What’s interesting is that I’m starting to see some of that moving back. I’m starting to see some of those data centers that were moved out of the UKI being justified to move back to the UKI as a cloud data center or cloud-based environment. So I’m seeing another shift, because cloud has a lower cost, the business benefit of having it off shore no longer is as strong as it was. How that will ultimately be architected is a good question. It could be that some workloads are private on-premises, some are hosted, and some others are shared.

Sam: Which brings me to the other part of the question: Is the UKI different in which elements of cloud it’s adopting, whether it’s public or private, infrastructure as a service or software and business process as a service?

Doug: I do think it’s different. I’m seeing a lot of infrastructure as a service. We have these managed service providers building clouds, cloud builders building on-premises clouds for clients, we have many clients looking at test and development sandboxes for trials on cloud, and a lot need to be hosted in the UKI and the EU. Because the UKI is services-centric means it’s slightly skewed in terms of its deployment architecture compared with other countries.  The UKI is an early adopter of cloud compared with some of the other European markets. As we’ve seen with the UK government G-Cloud strategy, it’s not just a private sector phenomenon; it’s one that seems to have resonance everywhere.

Sam: Is IBM moving towards “cloudifying” the more traditional business applications?

Doug: Up to now there’s been a lot of activity around infrastructure as a service and building the platform, the foundations onto which cloud will be overlaid. We have evolved that now to platform as service which is the next level of maturity. One of the most exciting areas in which IBM is particularly strong, though arguably not vocal enough about, is our portfolio of software as a service or solutions and applications as a service. We have significant skills and services business built around the deployment of ERP and CRM solutions in our Global Business Services (GBS). That’s GBS’ core business; GBS’s reason for being is to deploy those business solutions. We’re seeing a transition point in the maturity of the cloud curve where software as a service and business process as a service components are coming to the fore.

The IBM software portfolio has had many acquisitions over the last few years and there’s definitely a shift toward software as a service type companies. Does that mean we don’t do traditional software and sell licenses in the usual way? No, it just means that we’re in a good place to offer our customers choice – they can buy in the way that best fits their business need. And there’s another concept in the market, which is bring your own, so our clients have the ultimate flexibility to say “we want to own the assets” — whether it is software licenses or hardware kits  — or “we want that asset deployed on cloud and we want that managed somewhere else,” or “we want to buy it on a pay-as-you-go basis,” or they want to run that particular part of the business the way they’ve always run it. So from a customer’s point of view, the amazing thing is the choices that they have.

IBM can also help clients finance it through our IBM Global Financing team. So here’s a scenario that I can see occurring, and it might change depending on the workloads or depending on the maturity of the market. You might switch from a sandbox environment with pay as you go to saying “yes, we’re happy with that design now, we’re going to migrate that image to our own private cloud and now we’ll deploy our own licenses.” That’s another challenge that IBM and the IT community need to address.

Sam: Where do you see yourself in two years?

Doug: I see cloud as being very much integral to everybody’s design, it’s certainly not a peripheral aspect. Most IT environments will be based on cloud or will have a significant proportion of cloud infrastructure there. So maybe cloud as a title might simply morph out and it will just be smarter computing or just become the norm. We need to be constantly driving and stewarding this change and my expectation is that, as a guy who’s more entrepreneurial — focused on bringing innovation to market — I may well have moved on to another area but I’m expecting that the foundations that we’ve deployed with cloud in IBM are the template and building blocks from which many other innovative themes spawn.

I worked for six or seven years in mobility in the late 1990s and early 2000s and we were too far ahead of ourselves; whereas I think we’re doing cloud just at the right time. Mobility is coming back in, and I think with the convergence of mobility and social media and big data, a whole myriad of new initiatives will be born. So I’m confident that we’ll all be kept busy.

Who knows? Who realized the power of some of these social media environments? Who ever imagined that Short Message Service (SMS) as a fundamental tool to be used by engineers on cellular networks would become something that kids just do as a matter of course, now. It’s bizarre how some of these ideas have become so embedded into our cultures. I think the future is really exciting and it’s brilliant to be able to play a part in it and enjoy doing it. So I’m chuffed to have had the opportunity.

About Doug Clark

Doug Clark is Cloud Leader for IBM UK and Ireland – his mission is to help clients seize their full business growth potential and agility using cloud. Doug has over 10 years of UK and international experience in the IT industry, having predominantly worked with clients in communications, utilities and industrial sectors. Doug is part of a global team in IBM shaping and implementing the IBM cloud strategy.  He leads a specialist team of business development, solution, and technical architects spanning IBM to support the ambitions of our customers.  Prior to IBM, Doug had 17 years international experience in business consulting with PricewaterhouseCoopers and as a client in various blue chip corporations across CPG and Healthcare, holding director level roles in sales, distribution, and process improvement.  Doug has an MBA and a Biochemistry degree.  He is an active member of the Chartered Institute of Marketing.

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