In my mind, the cloud computing ‘sell’ is pretty straight forward. Fundamentally, cloud computing is a proposition of improving the time to value ratio for end users. Cloud solutions enable users to address their needs faster (and in some cases cheaper) than traditional approaches to the same issues. Typically, improving this ratio comes down to two things:
1) Embedded expertise
2) Operational prowess
Embedded expertise is the included awareness or intelligence delivered by a solution. In other words, it is the capability provided right out-of-the-box. This could be the ability for a given cloud solution to seamlessly integrate virtual machines with storage and networking, thereby relieving this arduous administration task. Alternatively, it could be delivering integrated and optimized application platform stacks such as those delivered by WebSphere CloudBurst. In any case, the user gets something for free. Okay, not exactly free, after all they are paying for the solution. However, the user gets capabilities without having to invest significant time and effort in building everything from the ground up.
Operational prowess is all about making existing tasks more efficient. This could be any task, but in the case of cloud computing it is perhaps easiest to see in the context of provisioning. Many cloud computing solutions focus on delivering IT services (servers, storage, application platforms, applications, etc) with unprecedented speed. Obviously, the time to value benefit here is crystal clear. Users get access to services that used to take days or weeks to provision, in what is typically a matter of minutes.
For many, this basic cloud computing value proposition and its two main components may be obvious. Personally, I came to the realization after talking with tons of end users about cloud-enabling application infrastructure stacks. Their expectations of a cloud solution point to the time-to-value proposition and the two main facets. As an example, here are some of the common expectations of a cloud solution in this space:
1) Automate common administration tasks such as the creation of the application platform, the integration of the components, and the maintenance of the system. This goes back to embedded expertise.
2) Get the environments up and running as fast as possible (read minutes). This is obviously operational prowess.
3) Squeeze everything you can from the application environment and underlying infrastructure. This is more of a blend of both embedded expertise and operational prowess. The system needs to understand the best configuration for the application platform based on the user’s needs, and it should provide capabilities that allow it to adjust on the fly to make sure it is getting all of the resource it needs and no more.
Personally, it is nice to hear these kinds of things because it validates the thought behind and implementation of the WebSphere CloudBurst Appliance. The appliance offering provides both out-of-the-box intelligence and know-how (via shipped, integrated, and optimized virtual image offerings of WebSphere products and an inherent knowledge of the software inside those images), as well as operational prowess (via accelerated service delivery times and intelligent provisioning). On top of this, we can improve the time to value ratio even more when using both WebSphere CloudBurst and the Rational Automation Framework for WebSphere in tandem to deliver cloud-based WebSphere platforms. Simply put, we provide real and tangible value to our end users.
In general, those looking to either produce or consume cloud solutions need to really hone in on how to improve time to value. It sounds basic, but it is easy for both providers and consumers to distract themselves with ‘new and cool’ and take the focus off providing/consuming solutions that promise to accelerate the time to value curve.