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Another annoying cloud pitch

Why do vendors think Cloud is new?

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I just sat through another cloud consulting services pitch from a major IT vendor. Some of it was under NDA so can’t talk about specifics, but that’s not really relevant to the point that has prompted me to write this.

I guess my big problem is that I have spent the last ten years as an analyst looking at different disciplines and domains across the IT industry, from virtualisation and service oriented architecture (SOA) at the architectural level, through the evolution of provisioning, monitoring and management capability in operations, to Business Service Management (BSM), Business Process Management (BPM) and IT governance at the business delivery end of things. Along the way, I have investigated the relevance of hosted services and other forms of outsourcing in various contexts, and spoken to lots of really bright people from CIOs, through architects, to software engineers and operations specialists, about the interplay between all these things.

Then I hear people talking about the cloud revolution and how it changes everything. I listen to evangelist presentations talking about how [insert vendor/consulting firm name] is going to help customers navigate through this brand new world of possibilities and imperatives. And when you get to the actual detail of what they are talking about, it’s the same virtualisation, provisioning, management, SOA, BSM, BPM and hosting stuff that has been steadily evolving and maturing over the past decade, just talked about under this new ‘cloud strategy’ umbrella. And that’s the best case scenario, from big incumbent vendors and consulting firms who know that piling into enterprise customers with crackpot messages about the whole of their operations moving into the cloud (i.e. someone else’s data centre) is probably not going to be taken that seriously.

Against this background, I really wonder what CIOs, architects and those running data centres out there think of these pitches. Do they just see them for what I think they are (unless I am missing something), as a repackaging of selected elements of IT strategy consulting services? When we got down to the brass tacks slide in today’s presentation, for example, there was nothing on it as a discipline or technology domain that was less than five years old. And talking about it all as cloud doesn’t change the conversation about making it all work together effectively – we figured out a long time ago that if you start with BSM and IT governance and work backwards, you end up embracing all of the aforementioned stuff anyway.

But the evangelists and marketeers come back and point out that the game really has changed. It’s a new philosophy of computing, and IT departments need to run themselves as service providers, etc. But again, while this discussion about styles of IT service delivery might be new to some, it certainly isn’t to anyone who has moved in senior IT and business management circles, and even if cloud brings that discussion to a broader audience (which would be a good thing of it didn’t get so garbled and/or dumbed down), surely claiming that it’s all new and revolutionary risks running into a credibility problem when most of the detail looks all so familiar.

Now don’t get me wrong, I think there have been some great developments in all the areas I mentioned that have been incrementally adding capability to help build more flexible, dynamic and open systems, and break down some of the cross boundary constraints, but all that has been happening anyway over the past 10-15 years. Within this, there have been some specific developments around self service provisioning, metering and billing that support attributes often associated with the cloud bandwagon such as elasticity and pay as you go business models, but that’s only relevant in certain scenarios, and all of the other important stuff to just make IT better and easier is being overshadowed by this.

So let’s keep some perspective guys, and stop confusing the hell out of everyone by pretending it’s all new. The argument that there have been a lot of developments over the past few years means you might benefit from some strategic consulting is fair enough, but trying to sell a service on the premise that customers need to put together a ‘cloud roadmap’ or some other such blinkered and contrived nonsense – come on.

Footnote:

Comment from Jon Collins when reviewing the above: "I think some vendors are being taken by surprise by the fact that Cloud just equates to IT done right. It's a bit like the kid who runs into the bar having just found something out that’s very exciting, only to find everyone in the bar not only already knew it, but also knew it wasn’t that exciting after all. I wonder if, when the dust settles, whether the CIOs and IT managers might well be the guys in the bar, and [the vendor], the kid."

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