Posted by Mike Rollings
Isn't it nice to sit down for a helping of comfort food? I grew up with pot roast, pork chops and gravy, fried chicken, mash potatoes and other wonderfully tasty foods. I don't eat them all the time, but when I make them now I have fond memories of my childhood. It is... comforting.
Now I reserve comfort food for the occasional meal. My workout regiment and my eating habits reflect my new lifestyle. My previous eating habits were slowly killing me.
The way IT implements business solutions today is loaded with comfort food. The solution paradigm has incrementally improved from the days of the mainframe. Sure there have been some major improvements that give the illusion of a transformation, but the dominant paradigm has been to build solutions inside the four walls of an environment protected at the perimeter. We are comfortable with it!
Like blocking the holes in a sieve, we keep trying to incrementally improve our approach and stuff keeps falling through. Identity, security, services, integration, information management... it is all a mess, and it becomes more of a mess when you try to apply it to a new paradigm like cloud computing. Complexity is constantly increasing and IT staff just continue to cope with the burden. I think it is a sign that you can become comfortable with anything. As long as it is incremental, you can put up with a lot of pain.
Two areas where the affect of comfort food is evident are the application portfolio and information quagmires. Many organizations have been ordering high-fat functionality from IT. But IT—not the people and departments ordering this unhealthy fare—has been piling on the pounds. The result is a bloated application portfolio, redundant data, and complex duplicative infrastructures. The business does not see the weight gain. These are two areas that cannot transform without the business at the helm pushing for a new lifestyle.
Cloud computing requires a new lifestyle.
When the assumptions fundamentally shift, incremental improvement that addresses “change” is the less-able brother of transformation. Incremental change typically occurs by examining what’s not working with the organization and then taking a modest step forward. Like a house inspector looking for cracks in the foundation and other imperfections, a list of problems is assembled. Estimates are then formed for all the repairs, and you may find that you have neither the time nor the resources to fix them all. Therefore, a small number of the achievable modifications are chosen to make the house more livable, slightly more efficient, and less prone to breakdowns. But many assumptions and constraints remain the same.
Transformation is different. Life changes present the opportunity for individuals to transform themselves. Yet many look to incremental change when it is incapable of yielding the transformation they seek. Sometimes we need a new house, yet we falsely believe that incremental improvement will achieve the same thing. The IT castle we have created...
- prone to leaks...
- constantly needs repair...
- only keeps out the casual bad guy...
- costly to maintain...
- difficult to remodel, and
- no matter how much we remodel it...
It still doesn't seem to be what we need. It's time for something really new.
Cloud computing could provide the vision for a new lifestyle, but my concern is that our ravenous hunger for comfort food will just keep packing on the pounds for IT. Cloud must support a paradigm where interoperability is a forethought; where security, identity, and entitlements are a fundamental part of a service's invocation; where the compromises we make about data do not expose us more than we are; and where the utility we dream it to be does not fade like Camelot.
Look at IBM's announcement for a private cloud appliance as an example. Create an appliance that runs a virtual machine, runs Websphere applications, and slap a cloud sticker on it -- PRESTO -- Cloud Computing is Here! NOT!!! It seems to leave out policy enforcement and operations management aspects of cloud.
Then listen to Larry Ellison. His sarcasm is evident as he says cloud computing describes everything we've ever done or will do. I agree that if it is not truly different, then we are only having another heaping serving of comfort food.
Mr. Elllison continues on to say, "I don't know what we would do differently in light of cloud computing". It seems to me that many vendors do not and sales of "cloud ready" stickers are set to skyrocket.
If we truly intend cloud to revolutionize IT then it must be revolutionary. Beware of new stickers that suggest doing the same thing will give you a new result.