Let’s Get Real About the Cloud

Bob Deutsche joined Intel in 2004 and has more 25 years of business and IT experience in positions that ranged from data center operations to software development to CIO. He can be found online at Bob Deutsche on the Intel Server Room.


By now, if your disposition is like mine, you’re trying to avoid stomach cramps as you read all the latest articles, columns, and blogs extolling the virtues and inevitability of cloud computing as the technology to save the human species from self-inflicted destruction. After more than 25 years of experience in the netherworld between technology and business, let’s say I’m more than a bit skeptical about many of the claims people are making about the cloud.

While I‘d like to tell you my skepticism is based on an incredibly high degree of intelligence, simply put, the bulbs in my chandelier don’t burn quite that brightly. Instead, I tend to view things from a common sense perspective (at least what I call common sense) that evolved and was honed at a boot level (IT and business). Through the many professional lives lived, I’ve evolved into a Principal Enterprise Architect (EA). If you’re not familiar with this term, think of EAs as the folks who are paid—and supposedly have the skills—to be able to string technology, business, data, and applications together between data centers and end users (people and devices). If you consider the supporting ecosystem (some of whom might take offense to the word “supporting”) required to make this all work, maybe you’ll begin to understand why I have some concerns regarding the cloud.

Over the next few months, I’ll use Industry Perspectives columns to express opinions that may be a bit off-center and perhaps not what you’re hearing from others in the data center industry. They’ll also give you an insight into things we’re discussing inside Intel. I’d also like to hear from you. I hope you’ll call me out when I’m wrong and tell me when my conclusions match what you’re seeing. Time will tell.

So exactly what can you expect to see about every other week as we move forward on cloud topics? Here are some of the issues I want to explore:

  • Context: Solutions framework from an end-to-end perspective amid islands of isolation
  • Fundamental truths: The laws of physics and organization (likely to be discussed in two parts)
  • Business perspectives and challenges: Cloud is first about business; technology considerations being a distant second
  • Ecosystem players: Players in the evolving cloud business model are evolving
  • Delivery models: Now and tomorrow
  • Transformational frameworks: How do I execute cloud from soup to nuts, data center to end-user device (to be presented in at least three parts)

Again, we can change the order of the topics, if there seems to be interest in discussing a particular issue.

Finally, and in a shameful attempt to leave you with something to think about and perhaps react to as we move forward, let me set the stage by stating a couple of conclusions I’ve reached about the cloud continuum:

  • By virtue of its reach and associated complexity, a large percentage of the cloud’s purported advantages are self-defeating in a typical enterprise (when viewed beyond a single business unit) and will likely never be realized.
  • A centralized IT organization’s ability to successfully influence the tactical direction of cloud enterprise efforts by business users is significantly limited and will likely hasten movement towards decentralization (in-house or outsourced) of these resources to the business units.

A recent Forrester research paper for Vendor Strategy Professionals by Frank E. Gillett (“Navigating the Shifts in Computing Infrastructure Markets”, March 24, 2011), concludes that end users (called informal buyers by Gillett) are driving cloud IaaS adoption. These informal buyers are not IT operations staff and are seeking quicker and more flexible resources than their enterprise IT organizations are able or willing to provide. If it persists, this trend has obvious implications on those centralized IT organizations being bypassed as well as the dynamics of selling IaaS services.

With the sincere desire to discuss topics that have value in your world, I hope you’ll read and comment here and on my upcoming columns. Until next time.

Industry Perspectives is a content channel at Data Center Knowledge highlighting thought leadership in the data center arena. See our guidelines and submission process for information on participating. View previously published Industry Perspectives in our Knowledge Library.

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  1. Howard Wiener

    Hmmmm . . . . I've been around IT for as long as you have, Bob, and I think this is either the third or fourth time I've seen something just like this. The centralization/decentralization pendulum has been swinging back and forth throughout my career and will probably continue to do so forever. Unfortunately, the stakes in terms of data security and privacy seem to be much larger now than they did with client-server, departmental computing, web-based and now, THE CLOUD. While we seem to be heading back toward a centralized model, you rightly point out that this model patronized by individual business units rather than central IT organizations actually perpetuates decentralized decision-making and complicates, if not evades, IT governance. Possibly, the worst of both worlds. Just ask SONY. Oh well, I guess if it were easy to do it right a lot of us wouldn't have jobs.

  2. Bob Deutsche

    Howard, thank you for the input. You are spot on regarding your observation that Cloud is a bit of a repeat of earlier stories. What has changed of course is the supporting technology. Additionally, and this comes out briefly in a later post, Cosumerization of IT is also playing heavily into evolving Cloud ecosystems. When I speak with companies about Cloud, none seem to be that concerned about the DC. What they do worry about is the end-user device. Finally, right or wrong, there seems to be an increasing trend away from standards. Been spending an increasing amount of my time of late looking at how open source software is developed and released. Very revealing regarding standards, how simple things such as unit/system test are completed or not, etc. How this plays out is anybody's guess right now. Otherwise, have a great weekend. Bob