Building large complex systems is hard

Building large complex systems is hard!

One of my earlier blog posts re-published here again. It comes from the period of time back in 2012 when I was in the business of Cloud Solutions.

Recently, Mark Thiele of GigaOm published the article “The cloud backlash could be deep”.

I agree with most of the conclusions in his article. However, at one point Mark makes comparison of cloud solutions as being engines that we sell to mechanics to build a car. I regret to say this is much more complicated than that.

Over the past couple of months, I use the following analogy with my customers.

Implementing a Cloud solution in a customer datacenter (aka on-premise Private Cloud) is very similar to selling an aircraft to an air transportation company.

A cloud provider, or a company who buys a private cloud solution, aims to get customers onboard and take them from point A to B. And move them from their own isolated IT infrastructures or applications, to an agile environment. Similarly, an air transportation company aims to get their customers onborad an aircraft, and fly their customers from A to B. For that, they not only need an aircraft, they need to integrate with the entire ecosystem – with interfaces how to communicate and use airports, how sell tickets, how to maintain their airplanes, or how to train pilots and staff, and so on.

Now for the critical bit. Have you ever heard about a successful air transportation company who would build their own airplanes, with assisance of Airbus, Boeing or Bombardier (you name it) somewhere in their hangar? Quite often we hear our customers that they would like to become “an air transportation company”, the effective EasyJet of the IT industry, yet our response to our customers tend to be “oh well then, we will build a bespoke private cloud solution for you”. Let’s make it clear. We say to our customers “we will build your bespoke plane for you”. This far of from selling an engine to mechanics, as Mark refers in his article.

In my view, the IT industry now needs to move past building planes and get real. There is no need to build bespoke aircrafts anymore. There are now Expert Integrated systems available from multiple IT vendors, such as Cisco, Fujitsu, HP, IBM, VCE (or what have you).

Last but not least, the IT industry needs to understand that to deliver an aircraft to our customers does not make that customer to become an air transportation company. They will just become owners of an expensive aircraft.

This is an opportunity for all of us in the IT Industry – we need to work with our clients to help them to integrate into the entire ecosystem, to help them to adapt their existing business model, their processes. Or simply – to help them to become a successful air transportation company.

We need to work with our clients to enable them to start making money out of their private cloud investment. And also to move beyond the simple OPEX reduction story as well! However, that would be a topic for another article.

This means there is an opportunity the IT vendors to start adding value to our customers by offering cloud related consulting and IT services. For our clients, adopting cloud solutions, is much more than just “building a car in the backyard garden).