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Gigaom Structure Day One-The World Will Be Cloudy All Day

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Gigaom Structure Day One-The World Will Be Cloudy All Day

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June 20, 2014
By Peter Bernstein
Senior Editor

The annual Gigaom Structure event here in San Francisco, is a feast for the brain. Luminaries from all parts of the tech industry—vendors, VCs, leading edge customers, IT professionals, industry analysts, etc. — in rapid fire (roughly twenty minute fireside chats and workshops) have an opportunity to swap war stories about the state of computing and communications and express their views on what the future, particularly the cloud, has in store.  It is a chance to literally take the industry temperature. There is good news and disruptive news to report based on the flood of insights from day one of the event.


The best place to start is with the confirmation of industry trends.  Noted venture investor Vinod Khosla set the tone for the event by affirming what  I have been stating for a few years about the nature of things, i.e., that we live in what I have called “The Age of Acceleration” where the only constants are change and the speed at which it is increasing. Khosla stated that, “Something fundamental has changed.  What has really changed has been the rate of change. Not just in architecture but in business.  What changes is old engineering habits. We need to re-engineer engineering to optimize for change.  If rate of change is high, you need to optimize for what you are going to be facing in a year from now.  It creates a slew of new opportunities.”  In short, time is of the essence and if you don’t change you will perish.

What the cloud is, and will be, is a change accelerant. This is a good thing as well as a bad thing. The message, loud and clear, was accommodate change in everything you do or die. If you don’t have a culture that is change friendly you are doomed to fail.

Whether it was Facebook announcing their own top of the rack switch (Cisco (News - Alert), Juniper and others beware), AWS talking about making datacenters more efficient and faster, or visits to vendor booths where speeding up database queries, giving dev apps the tools they need to create fast, test quickly and disseminate massively, consistently and securely, it is all about speed to market, speed in the market and speed to adapt base on insights gleaned from big data and powerful analytics. The cloud is foundational for why this has happened, and as numerous speakers articulated, we are still early in the learning curve on the power of the cloud (public, private and hybrid) and are in the process of being disrupted by a second phase of cloud adoption where the enablement of the Internet of Things (IoT) will profoundly change “E”verything. And, it will do so sooner than later.

Given this need for speed, and security/trust as a necessity for driving things forward, there was a not surprising consensus around cloud-based developments. Here are a few things you need to know to sound smart about the cloud and cloud adoption:

  • Visibility: You can be adaptable if you don’t have a view of your entire “E”vironmnent aka “Infostructure” in real-time. It is what enables IT to be proactive, as well as reactive whether it involves remediating risks or being responsive to changing market circumstances. This means the integration of legacy capabilities that are premise-based with new workloads most of which for speed, scale, extensibility and other reasons will be in the cloud.
  • The death of IT as we know it:  The goal is to rapidly automate as much as possible. All of the things that IT has done manually or just slowly need to become self-service or self-healing. That may sound like bad news for IT, but the reality is it opens up opportunities for them, specifically those with dev ops and data scientist skills, to better align their efforts with business objectives and spend less time managing Infostructure.  The issue here is going to be how to change internal cultures to ones that are change-centric.
  • Agility and programmability:  This is what the cloud delivers and what is requisite for success going forward. It is closely related to knowing everything in real-time in order to be responsive.
  • Not all clouds are the same and the future is hybrid clouds: The facts are that roughly only 2 percent of current workloads are in the cloud and this is expected to rise to 20 percent, but it won’t happen overnight. As virtually (pardon the pun) every speaker noted, for a variety of technology, regulatory and cultural reasons, some things are going to need to remain on premises, some will logically need to be in private or certainly local clouds, and some should reside on public clouds. Another reality is that most of what users need and want reside outside of their walled gardens, and accommodating this is a huge challenge as is how to migrate existing apps and business process to platforms that are secure, high-performance, are easy to use and are not disruptive to users and workflows that work.
  • Security is a big, big issue: This one is interesting because several speakers explained that because of the cloud and mobility the vectors of vulnerability have exploded and complexity of managing this explosion in most minds means that contrary to old views on security the investments being made by public cloud providers makes them going forward inherently more secure than even private clouds. Indeed, the issue of security and managing it is seen as an accelerant to cloud adoption, and another reason why the roles and responsibilities of IT are in the midst of radical transformation disruption.
  • Simplicity and integration will be key: As everything becomes a service, the goal is to provide enterprises and the service providers who serve them, all of the tools and insights they need to be fast, but also to remain in control even as ownership of assets shifts.  Complexity is the enemy. But, going back to the issue of visibility, you can’t make simple what you don’t know. And, in a world of choices simplicity, another way of saying improving the customer experience for internal as well as external users, is how differentiated value will be delivered. Again, it is the cloud that makes this possible.

There was a lot more to digest in terms of the choices customers need to make to assure optimal performance and outcomes, and as noted big data and analytics will play a huge role here. Those with the skills to digest and turn all of the data that will come from the breaking down of information silos inside companies to gain actionable insights, especially as the cloud delivers exponentially larger structured and unstructured data sets as we move deeper and deeper into the IoT era, will be in short supply and high demand.

One final quick note about day one.  The day concluded with Gigaom’s version of Shark Tank, called Launchpad. Seven start-ups with some really disruptive capabilities covering a broad expanse of computing and communications got four minutes to pitch the audience and a panel of three judges.

The judges liked the presentation from Jodok Batloog, CRATE Technology and their super simple backend for Big Data which creates a data store for any data that is simple to scale, requires zero administration, and is based on what the company calls a “shared nothing architecture.”  The audience liked Trent Fitz, NIMBOX whose approach to SDN for the datacenter by owning the entire stack to enable resource orchestration wowed the crowd.

Day two looks to hold just as much confirmation of trends as well as insights on disruption. Despite the beautiful weather in the Bay area, it promises to be cloudy all day, and that is a good thing.




Edited by Maurice Nagle

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