Ready! Fire! Aim!

Time to talk about cloud stacks again.  No, not that there are too many (though there are), but rather the one-track mind that many IT buyers I encounter have with respect to cloud.  Some end users I have spoken with in the past few weeks are looking to implement a private clouds, and they are actively evaluating “cloud stacks” from a limited number of vendors (mainly their strategic suppliers).

I’ve asked about their process for their private cloud initiatives, and specifically how far along they were on their top-down requirements analysis and documentation.  The reply I typically received was more than a little bit surprising.  While it varies, it typically goes something like this…

“We have not created a high-level analysis of requirements.  We’re evaluating vendor solutions and will pick the best one.”

If IT leaders haven’t thought through their vision for private cloud, translated that into capabilities requirements, and aligned their business users, how can they possibly choose a technology?  And why do they think that all they need is a cloud stack?

Is the dog wagging the tail, or is it the other way around?  In this case, it’s clearly a case of tails wagging the dog as they get bombarded with vendor cries of “buy this cloud now and it will solve world hunger and peace.”

Cloud projects should have a flow that should definitively answer a VERY LONG set of key questions.  Here are JUST A FEW of them…:

  1. What are the strategic objectives for my cloud program?
  2. How will my cloud be used?
  3. Who are my users and what are their expectations and requirements?
  4. How should/will a cloud model change my data center workflows, policies, processes and skills requirements?
  5. How will cloud users be given visibility into their usage, costs and possible chargebacks?
  6. How will cloud users be given visibility into operational issues such as server/zone/regional availability and performance?
  7. What is my approach to the service catalog?  Is it prix fixe, a la carte, or more like value meals?  Can users make their own catalogs?
  8. How will I handle policy around identity, access control, user permissions, etc?
  9. What are the operational tools that I will use for event management & correlation, performance management, service desk, configuration and change management, monitoring, logging, auditability, and more?
  10. What will my vCenter administrators do when they are no longer creating VMs for every request?
  11. What will the approvers in my process flows today do when the handling of 95% of all future requests are policy driven and automated?
  12. What levels of dynamism are required regarding elasticity, workload placement, data placement and QoS management across all stack layers?
  13. Beyond a VM, what other services will I expose to my users?
  14. How will I address each of the key components such as compute, networking, structured & object storage, virtualization, security, automation, self-service, lifecycle management, databases and more?
  15. What are the workloads I expect to see in my cloud, and what are the requirements for these workloads to run?

This list goes on for several pages, and more.  If you have not done this level of analysis, you are not ready to evaluate a cloud stack.  Sure, you can research and hear from vendors – often a good way to educate yourself and prompt new thinking about the concepts above.  However, customers should stay away from asking for POCs, asking for pricing from vendors, setting budgets, and all of the other dance routines we face in the procurement process.

The unfortunate truth is that most vendors don’t want you to do this because it slows down the sales cycle.  But I’m going to quote the carpenter’s axiom here:

Measure twice, cut once!

Would you build a house without a vision, rendering and architectural blueprints?  Of course not.  However, the other unfortunate truth I am finding is that too many customers I see are falling into this trap.  They have the cart way out in front of the horse.

They are practicing “Ready! Fire!  Aim!”  I’m sure we all can guess how that will work for them…

8 thoughts on “Ready! Fire! Aim!

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by JohnTreadwayCloudBzz, Beltran Rueda. Beltran Rueda said: RT @cloudbzz: Ready! Fire! Aim! How not to choose a private cloud – new post: http://www.cloudbzz.com/ready-fire-aim/ […]

  2. SundarSkytap says:

    John: Great topic and great analysis. I applaud you and David for engaging on this topic. From my perspective (I work for Skytap), I want to say two things. Any new innovation that drives tremendous productivity benefits requires inspiration, capital and a lot of perspiration. History of innovation has shown new technology products go through rapid evolution and become extra-ordinary wealth creation machines. To look through that evolution a “capitalists are greedy” type lens in a narrow time window and with feels a bit uninspiring. nnI think someone recently wrote – it’s not the critic that makes things better, it’s the customer. I fully subscribe to this view.nnThat’s why I find the conclusion in both posts that customers should have business outcome in mind, have a good checklist of questions and try before buy is a much more practical and pragmatic one. I think that is serving the market well. nnBTW we make free trial as part of our core business model. We invite your readers that have a well defined business goal in mind to try Skytap for free at http://www.skytap.com/blogcomments.

  3. […] Treadway writes on CloudBzz that IT leaders he speaks with are taking the latter approach. They’re evaluating the vendors […]

  4. […] Treadway writes on CloudBzz that IT leaders he speaks with are taking the latter approach. They’re evaluating the vendors […]

  5. System says:

    Great comments! I run into the same challenge when I ask potential customers what problem are you trying to solve by implementing a private cloud (I don’t like to term but it’s viral and I have to use it.)? Automate provisioning and management of workloads? Provide self-service?… I typically get silence for a few seconds followed by a dismissive response.nnI left my role as director within IT to pursue consulting last year because I saw an opportunity to help customers think through and architect solutions that are aligned with their business needs. Cloud computing (all hype aside) has a lot of promise but you have to think it through to realize the benefit. I’ve found that most stakeholders just want to buy from a set of “popular” suppliers without considering their real needs. I’ve gotten so frustrated that I’m thinking of throwing in the towel and going back to another IT role.nnWhat will happen is one or two years from now enterprises will be frustrated with their “private cloud” implementations due to cost overruns or lack of meeting capability expectations. These organizations should hold themselves accountable and not blame it on the technology.nnSorry for venting… I’m just glad that I’m not the only one to think what goes on within IT is sometimes insane! To be fair, there are some thoughtful decision-makers that take the time to understand their needs and architect a good solution.

  6. System says:

    Great comments! I run into the same challenge when I ask potential customers what problem are you trying to solve by implementing a private cloud (I don’t like to term but it’s viral and I have to use it.)? Automate provisioning and management of workloads? Provide self-service?… I typically get silence for a few seconds followed by a dismissive response.nnI left my role as director within IT to pursue consulting last year because I saw an opportunity to help customers think through and architect solutions that are aligned with their business needs. Cloud computing (all hype aside) has a lot of promise but you have to think it through to realize the benefit. I’ve found that most stakeholders just want to buy from a set of “popular” suppliers without considering their real needs. I’ve gotten so frustrated that I’m thinking of throwing in the towel and going back to another IT role.nnWhat will happen is one or two years from now enterprises will be frustrated with their “private cloud” implementations due to cost overruns or lack of meeting capability expectations. These organizations should hold themselves accountable and not blame it on the technology.nnSorry for venting… I’m just glad that I’m not the only one to think what goes on within IT is sometimes insane! To be fair, there are some thoughtful decision-makers that take the time to understand their needs and architect a good solution.

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