Now that you’ve embraced cloud computing, educated your customer and inspected their IT house, you’re ready to have an architect discuss the customers’ specific objectives and constraints. Do they want to remodel some existing rooms to reduce cost? Do they want to add on new infrastructure to support a new application? As any good solution provider, you’d share a number of different designs that would incorporate the appropriate compute, storage, data center or network cloud services. In many cases the remodel may result in achieving the same capability at a reduced cost. In other cases, the remodel could result in higher performance or higher security for the same costs. Either way, you are providing significant value by providing options to your customers.
I taught computer architecture at Stanford University for fifteen years. A few of my students went on to do some pretty great things. Back in those days we thought it was important to understand CPU instruction set architecture. But over time that was no longer important as the building blocks moved up to the system level and architecture was about blades, interconnects, firewalls and storage subsystems.
It’s all about to change again and cloud solution providers of the future, what I’m going to call real cloud architects are going to need a whole new set of skills and tools. I’m going to focus on three areas they’ll need to master.
Not Boxes, Compute & Storage Cloud Services
So if it’s not about the blades, interconnects and storage boxes, what is it about? Compute and storage cloud services are ones where someone else specializes on managing the security, availability, performance and change of the compute and storage and all of the underlying hardware (interconnects, firewalls) and data centers. Once upon a time we used to think of specifying the graphics card in establishing the system architecture. A real cloud architect will specify the security, performance, change and availability features. Check out a recent blog I wrote for Cisco to learn about what a compute & storage cloud security feature might look like.
Not Technology, Economics
Amazon’s innovation in compute and storage cloud services was not a technology innovation. It was a business model. Of course it took technology to implement the business model, but allowing you to buy a computer for 12 cents an hour and then give it back has enabled the creation of applications, which were always technologically possible, but never economically feasible. Let me give you one example.
You might remember a few years back on Super Bowl Sunday Denny’s and Dockers ran multimillion dollar ad campaigns to drive you to their website. What you don’t know is that within 60 seconds of running the ad campaign, the Dockers website failed. Furthermore, it’s widely believed the problem was discovered on the Denny’s website the week before. How? High volume load testing. It’s always been technologically possible to buy computers, locate them in San Francisco, LA, New York, Miami and use them to drive synthetic transactions, but consider the economics of buying them, installing the boxes in a data center and setting them up. Technologically this was always possible, but economically impossible. With compute cloud services priced per hour you can get as many computers as you need for an hour or a day, from locations around the country for maybe a few hundred dollars. A real cloud architect must not only understand the technology, but economics.
Not Horizontal, Vertical
Some might remember that Sun Microsystems tag line, was “The Network is the Computer”. It’s truer than ever. Recently I was with a large company and discovered the real estate group was trying to get $10M allocated to build a new data center, while the IT group was trying to get $10M to fund a virtualization project and get rid of a data center. A real cloud architect should be designing not only compute and storage, but also considering the impact of data center locations and network bandwidth availability.
Working closely with your customers to help them architect the future of their IT house will provide great value and strengthen your relationship with your customer as a trusted advisor. As a result of this effort, the cloud architect might recommend a general contractor to remodel the client’s IT house. Or with the new blueprints, your client could find their own general contractor. You might also consider providing ongoing design monitoring services as the new addition is built (as requirements might change or be enhanced).
I hope you decide to embrace the cloud and develop the skills, people and technology to help your clients move to the cloud and not only save them money but end up with a higher quality foundation for their business.