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The IT as a Cruise Ship Model- Will it Float?

A few weeks ago I talked about the coming cloud computing war by discussing the formation of multi-vendor cloud-driven alliances and their implications for the IT industry.  Now that Cisco has announced its unified computing initiative which includes Nehalem blade servers and IBM is now in discussions with Sun Microsystems, I think its time to take a step back and explore the implications of these alliances for enterprise IT pros.

The idea of club cloud, or the delivery of a complete IT solution decoupled from proprietary hardware and personnel, is an interesting one.  The last several decades of computing have been marked by a series of feudalistic battles over standards, lock-in and footprint, especially in the enterprise space.  The rising tide of complexity and out of control management costs drove many firms to either outsource IT or hire legions of consultants and technology partners.


Standards has always been a dream for many areas of IT, as they often did little for incumbents with commanding market share while adding extra (at least initial) costs to development.  Then along came virtualization, the first strategic decouple that hastened the shift to commodity blade servers and unleashed the power of consolidation.

Yet virtualization's most significant impact on IT may not come from the proliferation of VLANs (virtualization-lite) but rather its ability to make cloud computing and private inter-clouds a reality.  I think it is that reality that has the large incumbents moving quickly to form cloud clubs, or pre-cast containers of solutions that can be deployed like virtually like honeycombs; and can set the stage for the unprecedented mobility of processing power.

That mobility is the cloud grand slam, game changer that can drive costs out of IT, from energy to the human capital required to keep networks up-to-date with changes.  I discussed three of the gating network technology issues at "Bringing Cloud Computing down to Earth".

Club Cloud Implications

I expect to see broad alliances form between the incumbents, perhaps into 2-3 major camps.  Cisco and VMware will lead one such alliance; IBM and Juniper may lead another; and there could be an open source virtualization alliance driven by Citrix/Zen and select service providers who want to build their own cloud club. In addition, there will be a range of service providers who will shift from hosting to cloud, and we could see some transformational surprises come from these camps as well.

I think both Amazon and Google will be limited to serving small and medium-sized cloud offerings, despite the buzz and the success of their core businesses (books and advertising).  Let me add an Apple (iTunes-like) cloud driven by iPhones in a new netbook form factor as my wild idea for the month, along with a Cisco OEM netbook.

Think of these clubs as all-inclusive services free from the burden of tactical vendor decisions with enterprise scale, security, availability and management requirements delivered like a cruise ship or resort.  OK... I've now made three wild suggestions.  Here's a fourth: imagine large networking vendors branding services the same way that Intel branded their processors inside PCs.

We are about to see a fundamental shift in IT that could drive costs out of systems and networks and enable vast new potentials.  Those who continue to manually manage their networks and systems will be victims of The CIO Shell Game.

I am a senior director at Infoblox. You can follow my comments in real time at www.twitter.com/archimedius or join the conversation at www.infra20.com.

About Greg Ness
Gregory Ness is the VP of Marketing of Vidder and has over 30 years of experience in marketing technology, B2B and consumer products and services. Prior to Vidder, he was VP of Marketing at cloud migration pioneer CloudVelox. Before CloudVelox he held marketing leadership positions at Vantage Data Centers, Infoblox (BLOX), BlueLane Technologies (VMW), Redline Networks (JNPR), IntruVert (INTC) and ShoreTel (SHOR). He has a BA from Reed College and an MA from The University of Texas at Austin. He has spoken on virtualization, networking, security and cloud computing topics at numerous conferences including CiscoLive, Interop and Future in Review.

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