One Show, Four Silos

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Content Copyright © 2016 Bloor. All Rights Reserved.
Also posted on: IT Infrastructure

Last week I spent two days at Cloud Expo Europe/Data Centre World/Smart IoT London/Cloud Security Expo. Never mind the potential extra attendees,  I am sure the organisers thought that, by bringing these four topics together customers would see a nice integrated end-to-end story.

In reality, the opposite was the case. On one stand I heard a customer ask if someone could please make sense of everything that was on display in the event. As I visited stands, listened to presentations and talked with exhibitors and visitors alike, it became apparent that the vendor predilection to sell features rather than real business benefits is still as strong as ever and creating a schism between applications and infrastructure.

In 1984, as a fairly new salesperson, I learnt a sobering lesson. I worked for Burroughs at the time and had targeted a wine importer whose old Data General mini-computer, running hand crafted applications was up for replacement. I was able to offer a fully-fledged database system with what we claimed was the best 4thGeneration development language on the market. From a technology perspective we were streets ahead of Data General. But, having opened up the replacement to a competitive tender the wine merchant decided to investigate the market a little further. They found a complete wine merchant software application running on IBM System 38. Any technology advantage I had was completely nullified by the application…and I lost.

The situation in 2016 feels very similar. There are large numbers of infrastructure providers telling business customers what they need to do to move to the Cloud. Terms such as hybrid-cloud, public-cloud, software defined everything, IaaS, PaaS, Orchestration, Cloud Brokerage etc. are often over-used, and even abused, to the confusion of all but the most up-to-date and tech savvy enterprises.

On the other side the application vendors almost don’t care about what the infrastructure is. They too can be guilty of too much tech-speak, but the ability to deliver business functionality at speed using new methodologies, based on Open standards, and the continued growth of Software as a Service will be the starting point for most Cloud journeys.

Interestingly there was little representation from application vendors at the event, or for that matter, from business decision makers. That conversation is going on elsewhere. IBM has a cloud vision that links apps, development and platforms to Softlayer which feels like the 1980s revisited. Elsewhere that conversation will render much of the infrastructure world a commodity zone increasingly under threat from the likes of AWS and Microsoft Azure…unless of course the infrastructure vendors learn how to partner with the application vendors and take the lead in helping those confused CIOs make the journey to the Cloud.

As a foot-note to the event I’d like to steal a BBC Match of the Day2 feature and have my own “Too Good, Too Bad.” Too Good goes to Alex McDonald from the Storage Network Infrastructure Association for a brilliantly simple and witty Exploration of the Software Defined Data Centre. After two days of barely disguised sales pitches and lacklustre panel debates his talk near the end of Day 2 really lifted my spirits.

Too Bad must go to the organisers, Closer Still. It’s bad enough that IT and Facilities still aren’t working together in the data centre space, but having different coloured carpets for Data Centre World and Cloud Expo felt somewhat akin to technology apartheid. Heaven knows what the two or three data centre operators thought who found themselves on the wrong side of the line. You could almost feel their potential customers being turned back by an invisible force field when they tried to cross the line.

This post first appeared on the old Cassini Reviews website.