The Curious Case Of the MBO Cloud
I was speaking to an enterprise account manager the other day regarding strategic engagements in Cloud Computing in very large enterprises.
He remarked on the non-surprising parallelism occurring as these companies build and execute on cloud strategies that involve both public and private cloud initiatives.
Many of them are still trying to leverage the value of virtualization and are thus often conservative about their path forward. Many are blazing new trails.
We talked about the usual barriers to entry for even small PoC’s: compliance, security, lack of expertise, budget, etc., and then he shook his head solemnly, stared at the ground and mumbled something about a new threat to the overall progress toward enterprise cloud adoption.
We’ve all heard of public, private, virtual private, hybrid, and community clouds, right? But “MBO Cloud?”
I asked. He clarified:
Cloud computing is such a hot topic, especially with its promise of huge cost savings, agility, and the reduced time-to-market for services and goods that many large companies who might otherwise be unable or unwilling to be able to pilot using a public cloud provider and also don’t want to risk much if any capital outlay for software and infrastructure to test private cloud are taking an interesting turn.
They’re trying to replicate Amazon or Google but not for the right reasons or workloads. They just look at “cloud” as some generic low-cost infrastructure platform that requires some open source and a couple of consultants — or even a full-time team of “developers” assigned to make it tick.
They rush out, buy 10 off-the-shelf white-label commodity multi-CPU/multi-core servers, acquire a plain vanilla NAS or low-end SAN storage appliance, sprinkle on some Xen or KVM, load on some unremarkable random set of open source software packages to test with a tidy web front-end and call it “cloud.” No provisioning, no orchestration, no self-service portals, no chargeback, no security, no real scale, no operational re-alignment, no core applications…
It costs them next to nothing and it delivers about the same because they’re not designing for business cases that are at all relevant, they’re simply trying to copy Amazon and point to a shiny new rack as “cloud.”
Why do they do this? To gain experience and expertise? To dabble cautiously in an emerging set of technological and operational models? To offload critical workloads that scale up and down?
Nope. They do this for two reasons:
- Now that they have proven they can “successfully” spin up a “cloud” — however useless it may be — that costs next to nothing, it gives them leverage to squeeze vendors on pricing when and if they are able to move beyond this pile of junk, and
- Management By Objectives (MBO) — or a fancy way of saying, “bonus.” Many C-levels and their ops staff are compensated via bonus on hitting certain objectives. One of them (for all the reasons stated above) is “deliver on the strategy and execution for cloud computing.” This half-hearted effort sadly qualifies.
So here’s the problem…when these efforts flame out and don’t deliver, they will impact the success of cloud in general — everywhere from a private cloud vendor to even potentially public cloud offers like AWS. Why? Because as we already know, *anything* that smells at all like failure gets reflexively blamed on cloud these days, and as these craptastic “cloud” PoC’s fail to deliver — even on minimal cash outlay — it’s going to be hard to gain a second choice given the bad taste left in the mouths of the business and management.
The opposite point could also be made in regard to public cloud services — that these truly “false cloud*” trials based on poorly architected and executed bubble gum and bailing wire will drive companies to public cloud (however longer that may take as compliance and security catch up.)
It will be interesting to see which happens first.
Either way, beware the actual “false cloud” but realize that the motivation behind many of them isn’t the betterment of the business or evolution of IT, it’s the fattening of wallets.
* I’m leveraging “false cloud” here to truly illustrate a point; despite actually useful private cloud initiatives, this is a term unfortunately levied on all private cloud initiatives by certain public cloud providers.
- CloudSwitch: Traitor To the [Public Cloud] Cause… (rationalsurvivability.com)
- Skype Downtime And The Cloud Fail (cloudave.com)
- Survey Says Large Enterprises Are Already Active In The Cloud (cloudave.com)
- Cloud Computing: A Beautiful Gift of 21st Century (globalthoughtz.com)
- I’ll Say It Again: Security Is NOT the Biggest Barrier To Cloud… (rationalsurvivability.com)
- Best Practices in Cloud Computing for 2010 (datacenterknowledge.com)