Cloud hype versus cloud reality

Did the audience prefer hype?  How to get reality with block storage in the cloud.

Nearly every gear in the IT industry keeps trying to spin in a different direction around the cloud, and often gets monkeyed up in turn. But meanwhile, in the midst of the cloud buzz, every now and then one of the vendors in the market helps remind us all that the cloud really is just one more step down a path to better IT execution, and one that we've all been chasing for a number of years already. Sometimes this reminder is delivered with a subtle statement, sometimes it is practically a holler. One vendor made just such a subtle statement the other day, but an audience reaction helped turn it into a holler, and maybe it needs some carry forward here. That vendor was 3PAR. You see, 3PAR has for a good little while been in the business of delivering what they long ago envisioned as utility block storage, and architecturally, 3PAR realizes cloud is just a minor extension of that utility vision. But 3PAR also realizes that cloud is a different way of doing IT business.

So what is 3PAR's vision of a cloud architecture?  Pretty simple really: storage that can almost without effort stay matched to both your performance and capacity needs over time, and outruns the best competitors (whether file or block) when it comes to simplifying management, and uniquely extending the data optimization and protection capabilities of different data center platforms.  From what I've seen, that translates into a comparative fraction of the time and effort required by competitors for configuration, and a massive simplification of the block infrastructure. But this blog isn't about architecture. This blog is about seeing the cloud as more than architecture.

With a storage platform that could already easily be stood up at scale and with efficiency, 3PAR has taken their utility storage platform, and now leveraged the cloud as more than an architecture, but rather a way of doing business. In this sense, 3PAR recently referred to the cloud as a channel for new customer acquisition and product delivery.  And that's the thing that was greeted with some derision by a recent audience: the cloud as channel.  But you see, that's what the cloud really has to be about for vendors, and the smart agile ones are realizing this, and trying to figure out how they can create a vendor specific channel across the cloud for the consumption of differentiated services delivered on top of their product - à la Apple.  At the end of the day, for block, it is still product, whether it runs in the cloud or on premise. But the way it is consumed, and the channel through which it is consumed, is going to change.

For 3PAR, it isn't about building a new and different block product that is "cloud" - they already did that before the day was here.  For 3PAR, it is about turning the cloud into new business, and that has to be goal number one for any product vendor, otherwise they won't be your product vendor for long. Too often vendors run around looking for cloud architectures, without paying enough attention to how they can leverage the cloud to create unique new product offerings for "you, the customer", and consequently new business for themselves.

For "you the customer", the cloud only has value if it is a channel that gives you access to new capabilities or use, or a transformative change in costs. And if you accept that, you might ask yourself this when you're thinking about your next purchase - is your vendor just building something that looks like whatever the SNIA architects say cloud is today, or are they leveraging an innovative architecture to help you acquire new IT capabilities in new ways that will extend your business capabilities. The difference is, you may end up with a product that looks different, but still leaves you operating inside the same data center boxes of the past, or you might just find an entirely new way to "do" IT.

Some IT vendors will see the cloud in the enterprise market as just an evolving architecture. Others will see cloud in the enterprise market as a shift in architecture along with a shift in consumption. And that is what will determine what's destined to be real, and what's destined to be hype.

Jeff Boles
The Taneja Group
Thoughts and comments welcome (although comments don't show up on InfoStor)...
jeff@tanejagroup.com / twitter:JeffBoles

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posted by: Jeff Boles

Jeff Boles, InfoStor Guest Blogger
by Jeff Boles
InfoStor Guest Blogger

Jeff has a broad background of hands-on operational IT management and infrastructure engineering experience, with more than 20 years of experience in the trenches of practicing IT.
Prior to joining the Taneja Group, Jeff was director of an infrastructure and application consulting practice at CIBER and, more recently, an IT manager with a special focus on storage management at the City of Mesa, Ariz.