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The Connected Web

Phil Wainewright

How Enterprise IT Gets On Top of the Cloud

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Listen to my interview with web services middleware veteran Chet Kapoor, CEO of Sonoa Systems, which provides high-volume monitoring and management of cloud services. Find out how he sees enterprises getting started with cloud computing and SaaS, both as consumers and providers, and how enterprise IT is learning to get visibility and control over the cloud.

Listen to or download the 8:06 minute podcast below:



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---Transcript---

PW: Chet, I think some of our listeners may have heard your name in the past because you've worked for some other great technology companies I believe.

CK: Absolutely. I had the pleasure of running the Integration Division at BEA and then ran an open source company called Gluecode, an open source app server company that was acquired by IBM; and then did some things in the content management and search products for IBM, before becoming the CEO of Sonoa Systems.

So I guess we can say you've been around the block a few times particularly with SOA, and ESB, and a lot of these kinds of acronyms to do with SOA and web services architecture. But now at Sonoa Systems, you're more concerned with the cloud — although there is a link with those other technologies. What you're doing at Sonoa is really providing a way for enterprises to manage how they're accessing cloud services. Now, can you say a little bit about when you're going out talking to enterprises, are people actually doing a lot with cloud these days? Is it a trend that you're seeing out there?

Absolutely. And let's start by just talking a little bit about what cloud means, because a lot of people use it in different contexts. I think a large part of cloud is — at least for the enterprise customers I talk to — SaaS is a very big part of it. So what I think has happened is, as SaaS has become mainstream, it's becoming very clear that they can do a lot more with computing that is done outside of the enterprise, outside the firewall, and that adoption has already started in — what I would say it's starting slowly. I think they're starting to go off and experiment. Much like the SaaS adoption, they are taking non-mission critical applications and going off and using the cloud services to get there, whether its Infrastructure-as-a-Service or Platform-as-a-Service, they're going off and doing them. And some of them, the more forward-looking ones, are already starting to do some mission-critical applications.

And generally, they're not just doing it as, "I'm just going to go with the cloud and forget about my on-premise." They've spent millions and billions of dollars on their on-premise computing, and it's generally a nice blend between using on-premise resources, on-premise computing resources, people, as well as doing things in the cloud itself. But the adoption is definitely there. CIOs are well aware of it and they're definitely figuring out what they need to do on next steps and paths to take the adoption to the next level.

Well, yes, but of course, a lot of this adoption is very informal, its experimentation — because if it is an on-premise asset you're dealing with it and you can trust it. What's out there in the cloud is often unreliable — and actually a lot of the cloud providers, I'm quite disappointed with the way that they put stuff out on the cloud, and maybe it takes them a year or two to get around to realizing that they need to do things like performance dashboards and SLA's, and so on — which Amazon, and Google, and Salesforce have finally kind of come out with. Is the enterprise ever going to be able to trust the cloud?

I think over a period of time. So let's talk — let's take a step back, Phil, for a second. I think there are two aspects to this. I think a lot of people are spending a lot of time talking about consuming services — coming into the enterprise from the cloud. And to do that, the pains that a consumer of cloud services feels, there's: they don't have visibility; they're not sure if information going out or coming in is following compliance rules, the law; they don't know about security, they don't know who in the enterprise is accessing the APIs; they don't know if the SLAs are being met; and performance, just like to talk about.

There's another aspect to this cloud-meet-enterprise-computing, which is there are many enterprises that are now becoming providers of services. These are not just B2B folks but folks are going off and saying, we have assets that our customers can use. And we have a completely new channel that can go off and use these services inside their applications. And by doing that, our services and our revenue becomes a lot more sticky and can grow over a period of time.

So they are approaching it from a consumer perspective. There's pain there, in adoption. They're looking at it from a provider perspective and there's pain there, from adoption.

Well, you see it reminds me of the early days of Service Oriented Architectures, SOA, where you had people running up these infrastructures and putting services out there — and then realizing that they weren't quite sure what was happening with the services or what sort of consumption to expect. And I think IT people are like that in general — which is why I said this about the cloud providers as well — they've got a tendency to say, okay, we'll just expose the service and then people will start using it. And they don't think about all these metrics that you need to put around — particularly if you're doing it in a commercial environment — metrics around quality of service and actually kind of how much people are using, and what you need to meter and bill for and all that kind of thing.

Completely agree, Phil. And I think the customers that we've spoken to that are not concerned about — that are culturally forward thinking, and culturally are thinking about doing this, are taking this in three different steps.

I think almost all the smart ones are starting by saying, "I need visibility. I need visibility into who's using my services and I need visibility into who's consuming my services," whether you're a provider or a consumer. You have to be able to see the needle before you can move it. And this comes back to a very simple thing. You would never introduce a website without having some kind of analytics or visibility into it. Why would you do that with services or why would you do that with APIs? I think, almost always, they start with visibility.

And the next thing that comes in is, how do I make sure I have some kind of control, some kind of management? What kind of SLAs can I provide and how do I monitor those SLAs and how do I enforce those SLAs? Are my compliance being — am I going on destroying all the compliance laws that my enterprise signed up for? Is sensitive data going in and out?

And so then comes the — after visibility and control, then you go off and say, now that I know who's using it, I can control it and I know how to do what I want to do with it from inside the enterprise and outside the enterprise. Now, how do I scale it so it becomes a very large part of what I do, so that I can have all the cost savings that I actually thought cloud services would have to begin with.

But I think customers are starting to think of this as a three-step process: crawl, walk, run: analytics, management and scale.

And so, actually, when people outsource to cloud services — when they start doing things using outside providers instead of using internal resources — they're actually creating more work for themselves as IT people in some senses aren't they, rather than — because they still have to remain responsible for the actual performance of those services even though someone else is running them?

Absolutely. And I actually think that role will change and it will become much more strategic as time goes on. I think cloud services is a cultural shift for large IT groups because you're going away from building power plants, and managing power plants, to actually just using power from a utility. But I think firstly, it's going to be a combination of on-premise and cloud. That's one aspect of it. The second thing is, it gives them the ability to be much more responsive to their business. They have to be pragmatic with their approach so that they are not breaking the law, and they're making sure that their users are getting the quality of service that they were expecting from their on-premise computing over the last twenty years.

2 Comments

No company will completely switch all their applications to cloud computing. But the interesting thing is that the mix of on-premise computing and cloud computing in a company will require the appropriate tools for integration and end-to-end supervision, in the same way that such tools are necessary when you mix on-premise and SaaS solutions. Moreover, when a new business requirement arises, cloud computing will introduce new possibilities to answer this requirement. The choice will then be:

- developing completely new applications that provide the required features from the company's IT resources

- developing a new application that partially relies on services provided on the cloud (mixed development)

- buying a software package that provides the required features and runs on-premise

- using the same software package in a traditional SaaS mode

- using services that provide all the required features on the cloud

The choice will be made after taking into account a combination of different criteria like cost, accuracy of the features provided, complexity of management, visibility, etc. In all these cases, one needs integration and supervision, and this requirement is even more important and complex when using SaaS or cloud computing.

I agree on the point that companies are starting with cloud computing by using it for non-mission critical applications. But this is nothing new: companies are always starting with this careful approach!

Some challenges are the same as those related to SaaS, but some of them are more acute due to the fact that cloud computing services are provided through the Internet, and so the common fears associated with it are developing once again: security, compliance, SLAs, and performance.

Cloud computing is a new channel to provide business services, and thus to make more money for the providers of such services. But they must provide strong answers to the customer's expectations regarding security, compliance, SLAs, and performance. If not, adoption will be very slow, and perhaps will not occur at all!

A service approach must come from the business, and then will naturally include the definition of the required metrics, dashboards, SLAs, and level of compliance the business requires for a given service or set of services.

Don't forget that cloud computing, even if it is a buzz phrase, is only a means to satisfying business requirements. IT is not the center of the world--it is a tool to help business. The cloud computing buzz today comes mainly from IT guys or analysts, and its success depends on its ability to provide an appropriate answer to businesses, not to its ability to satisfy IT’s "modern" infrastructure approaches.

For sure, the buzz hides one of the main drawbacks of cloud computing when the approach is purely IT-driven and not business-driven--the real TCO of a cloud computing-based solution.

Bernard Manouvrier
Chief Architect
Axway Inc

Responding to KA's question, I think that cloud computing has a lower short-term cost of ownership than on-premise alternatives but an unknown TCO over the longer term.

Cloud simply hasn't been around long enough for us to know how the TCO will pan out. It will probably turn out more expensive than people originally imagine (the buzz obscures the cost of governance etc), but still cheaper than on-premise when you take into account all the costs (including upgrades) of running on-premise infrastructure.

Therefore it's better to implement cloud in the context of a business need, so that the TCO can be measured in terms of business results achieved, rather than simply hoping for a return based on lower IT costs.

Phil Wainewright

Phil Wainewright blogs about how businesses are using the Web to get better plugged into today's fast-moving, digital economy.

Phil Wainewright

Phil Wainewright specializes in on-demand services View more

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