Smarter Infrastructure For A Smarter Planet

Kristof Kloeckner, IBM’s VP of Strategy & Enterprise Initiatives System and Software, & CTO of Cloud Computing, delivered today’s keynote on the theme of a smarter planet and IBM’s cloud computing strategy. Considering that this is the third IBM conference that I’ve been to in six months (Impact, IOD and now CASCON), there’s not a lot new here: people + process + information = smarter enterprise; increasing agility; connecting and empowering people; turning information into insights; driving effectiveness and efficiency; blah, blah, blah.

I found it particularly interesting that the person in charge of IBM’s cloud computing strategy would make a comment from the stage that he could see audience members “surreptitiously using their iPads”, as if those of us using an internet-connected device during his talk were not paying attention or connecting with his material. In actual fact, some of us (like me) are taking notes and blogging on his talk, tweeting about it, looking up references that he makes, and other functions that are more relevant to his presentation than he understands.

I like the slide that he had on the hype versus enterprise reality of IT trends, such as how the consumerization of IT hype is manifesting in industrialization of IT, or how the Big Switch is becoming reality through multiple deployment choices ranging from fully on-premise to fully virtualized public cloud infrastructure. I did have to laugh, however, when he showed a range of deployment models where he labeled the on-premise enterprise data center as a “private cloud”, as well as enterprise data centers that are on-premise but operated by a 3rd party, and enterprise infrastructure that is hosted and operated by a 3rd party for an organization’s exclusive use. It’s only when he gets into shared and public cloud services that he reaches what many of us consider to be “cloud”: the rest is just virtualization and/or managed hosting services where the customer organization still pays for the entire infrastructure.

It’s inevitable that larger (or more paranoid) organizations will continue to have on-premise systems, and might combine them with cloud infrastructure in a hybrid cloud model; there’s a need to have systems management that spans across these hybrid environments, and open standards are starting to emerge for cloud-to-enterprise communication and control.

Kloeckner feels that one of the first major multi-tenanted platforms to emerge(presumably amongst their large enterprise customers) will be databases; although it seems somewhat counterintuitive that organizations nervous about the security and privacy of shared services would use them for their data storage, in retrospect, he’s probably talking about multi-tenanted on-premise or private hosted systems, where the multiple tenants are parts of the same organization. I do agree with his concept of using cloud for development and test environments – I’m seeing this as a popular solution – but believe that the public cloud infrastructure will have the biggest impact in the near term on small and medium businesses by driving down their IT costs, and in cross-organization collaborative applications.

I’m done with CASCON 2010; none of the afternoon workshops piqued my interest, and tomorrow I’m presenting at a seminar hosted by Pegasystems in downtown Toronto. As always, CASCON has been a great conference on software research of all types.

4 thoughts on “Smarter Infrastructure For A Smarter Planet

  1. Well Sandy, while I definitely agree with you on the topic of multi-tasking listeners, I feel that you are taking a much too puritanic approach on the “cloud” topic.
    IMHO any service oriented environment can be qualified as a “cloud”, alas a private one, if it solves some of the most important pain points of the customer, such as

    – high initial license and hardware investment
    – high TCO (administration, updates)
    – up front investment w/o any way to “breathe”

    And simple hosting does not solve all these pain points, while a private cload indeed does.

  2. Axel, you’re right that I tend to be a bit puritanical about this: I guess that it’s my reaction to vendors taking the line way too far in the opposite direction. However, I don’t think that much of what IBM defines as private cloud is very cloudy at all, even by your definitions. In your blog post, you state that it needs to be “no up front licenses…pay as you go” which is not the case if you’re dealing with on-premise data centers or even, for the most part, managed hosting. If your organization owns the hardware and software — and you can be sure that just because you have an external company host it for you, dedicated systems are still fully billed back to you — then somewhere along the line, your company pays for the whole thing, usually with a large up-front component and a locked-in contract over a term that is effectively equivalent to leasing costs, if you were to just buy the hardware and software directly.

    I expect to see a number of things from a cloud environment that you’re not going to necessarily get from many of the private cloud scenarios: seamless duplication and failover in case of a physical site disaster, self-provisioning, true pay-as-you-go pricing, and more.

  3. Sandy, I fully agree. Especially your expectations like failover, duplication, pay-as-you-go. Unless that is done, one should really not talk about a cloud.

    For me it’s easy: if it’s in the customers net address space, it’s a private cloud, else it is public. That’s the main and very simple distinction. The rest must be “cloudy” as described by you.

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