Am I an IT Dinosaur?


image courtesy on flickr

I’ve been spending a lot of time with customers lately as well as people who have an opinion how service providers can serve their customers better.  I need a reality check from someone, anyone, because I’m hearing two seemingly conflicting messages.

Let me set the stage.  We’re talking about the solutions that enterprise customers who have some internal application development and quite a few enterprise applications and workloads.

From vendors: “Our customers need a solution that is competitive with AWS.  It needs to be developer centric where people can spin up instances and deploy to the cloud using services like scalable database (RDS), load balancing (ELB), and autoscaling.”

From customers: “We need to have a cloud offering.  But does it integrate with our federated authentication and authorization?  We need guaranteed IOPs.  Can we isolate networks?  Can we have custom SNMP monitoring?  Can we deploy our own images?  Can we do this with bare metal as well as a virtualized IaaS platform?  What logging data can we get for our audits?  Can we restrict access to the provisioning portal from other tenants?  Can we also isolate storage or do turn-key data-at-rest encryption?  Can we control the keys?  Can we deploy our own network appliances or load balancing tools?  Is there an option for U.S. 24×7 support only?  Oh by the way, this needs to be cheap, pay by the drink and competitive with AWS.”

Here’s where I’m confused.  A friend and colleague, Greg Alheim (absent from the blogosphere and social media because he’s too busy solving complicated “My-mess-for-less-but-give-me-an-f’ing-cloud” issues for customers coined the term “quadracorn” for me.  I realized, Mr. Customer, you’re asking me for a quadracorn.  Yes.  You’re asking me for a unicorn with four horns and we’re almost up to eight horns.  You’re asking me for a octocorn.  But at this point I think I’m turning into someone who can’t program a VCR or some other outmoded form of technology.  I’m questioning if I really understand what will help a customer trying to modernize IT. 

When I was at Joyent I thought I came to this realization that new “cloud” technology like PaaS and very simple IaaS was where service providers needed to focus their efforts if they wanted to capture a lot of revenue.  The reality I thought I discovered was that the same reality existed in enterprise IT that did back when I was an end-user.  It’s a complicated morass of legacy systems and governance that won’t go away and still occupy the bulk of IT spending.  But… Many if not most of the conversations I have these days seem to end with the comparison to AWS.

So what do enterprise customers want?  Why do I focus on them?  Because my impression is that they spend a lot of money and time worrying about legacy IT and how to manage it better, not just deploy some shared-nothing new application architecture.

Where would you focus your efforts as a vendor?  Are enterprise IT departments asking for an octocorn?  Look… I know legacy stuff isn’t all shiny and new.  It’s not “cool”, but a business isn’t just in the business of “cool”.  They can’t throw away existing acquisitions, systems, people, and processes that they’ve accumulated over the years.  Am I a dinosaur?  What would you do?

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