The Cloud Exposes You

Although a gained a lot on a personal note this week – see The 365 Commitment – I also spent a lot of time trying to convince clients, sales people and engineers to adopt “the cloud” or specifically the three major hyper-scalers. It occurred to me that all three of them (GCP, AWS, and Azure) are all headquartered here on the West Coast. Sorry Alibaba – since Trump started the trade war this week – I am not moving any workloads over seas. So, I am here on the West coast doing my best to try to join the rest of the industry and start using large cloud providers instead of building out private infrastructure in buildings and leased space.

The major thought I had this week as I listed to a sales person cry over lost revenues and slipping opportunity because their clients are now “moving to the cloud,” I realized that the loss of a significant portion of technology infrastructure is exposing a lot of people. The exposure is not just old school technology sales people. The exposure is happening to anyone in the IT space. I think owning our own infrastructure, and having the business capitalize that, and continue to do so in three year refresh cycles has masked a lot of poor behavior.

If that poor behavior, or what I like to call IT sins, moves into a public cloud – you will very quickly find out what those sins cost. If you do not plan your consumption of resources, then you will be forced to make longer term commitments to try to keep costs under control – however – even that will begin to expose your lack of ability to really plan your consumption in an organized and disciplined way.

For example, when you create instances in the cloud you are using resources provided by others. If you need more resources – then you have to pay those others for their use. You had this problem before – but you were able to hide better. You could overbuild, under subscribe, slip little additions in along the way. Now you cannot do that. If you create a bunch of instances in this new cloud environment you had better keep track of them, because this will spiral out of control quickly.

Cloud providers have mechanisms to let you tag instances and resources and track what they are tied to so you can do this sort of evaluation – but you actually have to use them. If you ran a disorganized mess when you had a virtual infrastructure in your private environment, you are going to run a disorganized mess in the cloud environment. You will be exposed. Executives will start asking questions and wondering why their subscription costs with their cloud provider are increasing.

The attempt to blame the cloud providers and try to say, “the cloud is too expensive” might work for a little while. Perhaps you can convince people to spend a bunch of capital and move workloads back to a private infrastructure – but this is not going to work for much longer. Hosted applications, like Sales Force, are becoming mainstays for corporations. Your corporation is not going to move that back. Cloud providers are starting to include services that your applications are going to become increasingly dependent on. Moving back is rapidly becoming an option for only legacy, or applications built on a portable platform.

Sales people are also being exposed. They used to be able to rely on maintenance contracts, and hardware margin to buoy up their sales performance. However, now that clients are consuming these resources as a subscription through a cloud provider the sales person is exposed as providing no real value to their client. A sales person actually has to provide a valuable service now to gain sales performance. The other stuff is disappearing rapidly. Only the strongest are going to survive as they compete for an every shrinking portion of a clients’ budget that is spent on hardware, software, and maintenance contracts.

So our industry has finally come to a reckoning. We all enjoyed the glory days of the explosion of IT, but now it is becoming so core to how our society functions that the responsibility for the providing the infrastructure has become owned by larger, dedicated organizations. Welcome to nice fun by product of the industrial revolution – we are still in it. We have learned the those of us in the IT business are not immune either. Time to wake up and figure out how to provide our business, our clients with real value instead of just stuff.