Open Cloud, Kids’ Building Blocks and Michael Corleone

We’ve heard a lot about the “Virtual Era” which relies heavily on technologies such as virtualization, interconnected mobile devices and cloud computing. But before you start your cloud journey on the wrong foot, back up a step.

The “Open Era”.  The most important decision that any cloud builder or cloud buyer could make is how open, how interoperable their clouds will be. Industry standards. Open Source. Open Stack. Open Compute. I detect a trend here. When is the last time someone actually promoted terms like “Closed Source”? Or “Walled-off-legacy Stack”? Or “Proprietary Compute”? Ummm. Never. Instead you will hear seductive terms from IT vendors like “Fully Integrated” or “Full Stack” or more informally, “One throat to choke”. That sounds enticing until you realize that you are getting their cloud…not your cloud. An “integrated compute, network, storage, operating environment, application, management system, data analytics, and cloud” might be tempting but beware the hidden costs that will never show up on an ROI calculator.

The “Proprietary Mindset” means legacy employees, legacy profit centers that must still be fed, lucrative service contracts based on yesterday’s technology and yesteryear’s business models. Creating a walled-off environment no doubt pleases the IT providers’ executive suite MBAs who seek every opportunity for “Barriers to Entry”. And that is a great business model for ensuring a “captive audience” (that would be you). But is every single element of that “Full Stack” truly best in the industry? And what happens when you want to add new capabilities to that closed system? First, know that any new add-on capability will be fought by the internal antibodies of the “Full Stack”. Next you will receive a familiar sounding offer: “We’ll just have our programmers create some custom code to (probably) make it all work. How about we send you an SOW?” At that point you might feel a bit like Michael Corleone in Godfather III, Just when I thought I was out… they PULL me back in!”

What’s this got to do with building blocks?  As a kid, did you play with those ubiquitous, interconnecting, snap-into-place building blocks with your friends? Those “industry standard”, interoperable parts let you and your buddies work together to create exactly what you wanted. Or did you have that uncle who tried to outsmart everyone by buying building block toys that were “non-industry standard”? Sure, they worked well enough by themselves in their own, closed world…but not with everyone else’s. It did not take too long to realize the limiting effect of those non-standard pieces on the larger design.

So whether you are buying a cloud for yourself or building a cloud on behalf of your own customers, remember that you have the option to base your foundation on interoperable and connectable, industry standard parts that work and play nicely together and with the outside world. 

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About the Author: Scott Turner