How to think about Cloud Computing's "Alphabet Soup"

The situation in IT has become ridiculously complex.

ServiceNow, Mulesoft, Stratacloud, New Relic, Splunk, Basho Technologies, Rightscale, App Dynamics, Solar Winds, NexDefense and "8000" other companies occupy the increasingly crowded IT tools space. Consider the infrastructure providers of things like converged infrastructure and hyper-converged infrastructure. And don't forget about traditional tech vendors like IBM and VMware.


As mature enterprises look to gain flexibility and customer intimacy while startups look for speed and new business models, a federated model for IT is emerging. Some call it "hybrid" cloud (don't get me started on all the cloud-washing going on) But it's really more than just the infrastructure.

Depending on your situation, you could have a need for applications you manage yourself in your data centers, applications hosted by others in their data center in a managed services or SaaS model or any one of potentially thousands of combinations of in house and third party combinations.

How does one navigate all this complexity? Established companies, especially those over say $50 million in revenue, are likely to have a need for multiple platform types for the foreseeable future.

1. Know where you're going. IT strategists need to understand that the future of IT dictates a service management model that is capable of delivering IT across the increasingly complex landscape of IT delivery models. This federated model for IT service management is not possible today, but pieces of it do; companies need to begin preparing for it and will capture significant competitive advantages along the way, which leads to the second point.

2. Minimize rework (or "Technical Debt"). We can take a page from Jeff Bezo's mandate to Amazon employees in 2002 where he directed his developers to focus on standard interfaces (APIs) and modularity among other things. This is what lead to the creation of AWS and cloud computing in general. Companies need to adopt a zero new technical debt stance for developing internal applications as well as carefully consider the potential for creation of technical debt when considering tools, architectures, and vendors for new projects. Bezo's list is here:

  • "All teams will henceforth expose their data and functionality through service interfaces.
  • Teams must communicate with each other through these interfaces.
  • There will be no other form of inter-process communication allowed: no direct linking, no direct reads of another team’s data store, no shared-memory model, no back-doors whatsoever. The only communication allowed is via service interface calls over the network.
  • It doesn’t matter what technology they use.
  • All service interfaces, without exception, must be designed from the ground up to be externalizable. That is to say, the team must plan and design to be able to expose the interface to developers in the outside world. No exceptions."

3. Start with a Hybrid Cloud foundation. While hybrid cloud service management matures, every company will be presented with opportunities to become more digital. In the order of operation, start with developing a hybrid cloud delivery capability from an organizational perspective as well as architectural perspective. This is not just tech, although tech is a part of it.

4. Focus on the customer. Business process, application enhancements, and infrastructure enhancements should be prioritized based on improving customer intimacy. This is all about:

  • Interacting with customers where they are (social media).
  • Empowering your employees by providing them tools to communicate to other employees and customers, access to data they need at the time they need it for insights,  and the ability to work effectively wherever they are.

5. Get Help. Very few organizations have the capabilities required for a digital transformation. Given the complexities, and knowledge required around cloud service management, security, business process redesign, successful companies will recognize this and build ecosystems of partners and vendors to bring all the needed skills together. Companies that try to do this by hiring alone will usually fail.

Agree? Disagree?

Let me know what you think by commenting on this post or reaching out to me directly!