At a cocktail party this past weekend, I spoke with some local business leaders whose job roles run the gamut from IT to finance to operations. When asked about the type of business I’m in, I gave my standard answer: “My company, Data Intensity, provides managed services both on premises and in the cloud for companies’ most critical applications and databases.” I described how the hype of the cloud has impacted our business, and our work in building a purpose-built cloud for Oracle enterprise applications. The response I got was, “Oh, so you guys are like Amazon?”
“Not exactly”, I said.
For me, this conversation captured one of the core issues with understanding cloud computing. All clouds are not created equal. A general-purpose cloud such as Amazon, Softlayer, Rackspace, or Microsoft provides markedly different services from the clouds provided by companies like Data Intensity and even Oracle. It’s not just whether it is a question of public cloud versus private cloud, either. In the daily course of my job, I encounter business and IT leaders struggling with one fundamental question: What is the most efficient, flexible, cost-effective model possible for application deployments? At the core is whether to keep IT infrastructure and applications in house, where SaaS fits in to the company’s application lifecycles, and how to provide IT infrastructure most easily and effectively. The appeal of a one-stop shop for cloud services versus multiple sources for specific-use cases is apparent. But the reality of building and supporting a diverse-use cloud, even for Amazon, is challenging. It’s clear to see why projects and initiatives that develop common frameworks to integrate across clouds, like OpenStack or OpenOrchestration.org, are gaining in popularity.
In the discussions I have in my role as CTO, I prompt business and IT leaders to give careful consideration to not just the “where”, but the “who”. Who is going to support these applications and how will your company’s operating model change when constrained by a provider’s restrictions and guidelines? Even after removing the physical infrastructure from the equation, employing talented knowledge workers who understand how to navigate the various delivery paradigms chosen is essential. The cloud doesn’t necessarily remove complexity, it just changes the profile of the complexity. The Data Intensity Cloud is not only distinguished by the purpose-built infrastructure that it runs on, but by the application and database management services that are tightly integrated with it.
At the end of the day, it’s the people who make the proverbial trains run on time. As long as the infrastructure an application or database runs on is secure, stable, fast, and flexible, most CIOs, and certainly most business users, don’t really care where it lives. However, it’s important to remember that an exceptional user experience is limited by the weakest link in the system. So even with the most robust, integrated clouds in today’s market, the user will not have a positive experience if the applications are not properly configured and integrated for the particular cloud implementation in which they are installed. For this reason, Data Intensity invests in engineering and automation and organizes in an inter-disciplinary manner that ensures we have captured the full benefits of a cloud solution in our model. Indeed, hiring and retaining competent knowledge workers is one of the most challenging tasks in today’s IT landscape. Even in the case of a pure-play SaaS offering like Salesforce.com, the greatest software is completely ineffective if you don’t have the people to configure and manage it.
With Oracle OpenWorld shortly upon us, the buzz is all about Larry Ellison’s new role as CTO and Oracle’s big push to become the leading cloud provider for Oracle software. Oracle has the financial resources to build and support a robust, successful cloud model, yet keep in mind that Oracle produces many different kinds of software. Supporting their SaaS products, like Fusion Applications, is very different than building a repeatable, template-driven deployment model for Oracle Database. These products have different performance profiles, security requirements, and maintenance procedures, and even these vary by each customer’s individual use case. And you’re not likely to get a solution that is fully tailored and supported for your particular use case under Oracle.
What really matters is that the infrastructure is tailored to the needs of the individual application, which is then tailored to the individual needs of the specific customer. But the weakest link is the people that support it all, which is why I take heart in knowing that I work with some of the best minds and most dedicated professionals in the industry. And while I believe the cloud that Data Intensity built is unsurpassed for the use cases of each of our individual customers, it’s these people that truly make it a success. That’s evidenced by the various infrastructures our customers run on – our cloud, third-party clouds, and customers’ own internal data centers – and our continued ability to adapt to diverse infrastructures to provide an exceptional service experience. As the cloud landscape continues to unfold before us and evolve around us, I know that will never change.
Stay tuned for more updates from Oracle OpenWorld…