Last week I had the opportunity to participate on a panel titled "The Battle for Your Business in the Cloud" at the OnDemand 2012 conference. All of the panelists were asked questions that would be familiar to anyone that has been in the IT industry for the last few years, including the proverbial "hybrid/private/public/false cloud" debate or "what's holding enterprises back from throwing away all their existing IT investments and embracing the cloud?" Having these conversations onstage suggests we haven't made much progress since the big shift in IT began – and in the end, I left with the impression that if you were to judge our progress and innovation in cloud computing by the nature of discussions like these, you may end up with the impression that we're all sitting on our hands, frustratingly asking ourselves "WHY DONT THESE PEOPLE GET HOW AWESOME THE CLOUD IS?!?"
Luckily, we're not. (At least here at VMware!)
Everyone agrees that the new technology that's born in the cloud era has amazing potential. The full potential of these technologies won’t be realized until the discussion moves from the idea that there's "one true way" of doing cloud computing, and instead focus on how specific customer challenges can be enabled by a new approach to IT as a whole. In the end, success should be defined in terms of business impact, and hopefully beyond simply a cost reduction argument. The discussion should be about what a business was able to do because of its effective use of new technologies, and less about whether the specific technologies were applied in a way that conforms to any particular vendors definition of an already overhyped term.
VMware has recently embraced the mission of enabling "business transformation through IT transformation" whereby helping its customers change the way they operate their business and having IT be the primary catalyst of that change. This goal can be impossible to achieve with a mindset that there's only one path customers can take to successfully leveraging the new technologies that cloud computing offers. And while the panel discussion spent more time discussing the "one true way" to get to cloud, hopefully next time we can talk more about the journey to the cloud and keep taking this conversation to the next level. For example, one of the topics we briefly touched on was the subject of mobile computing and its close relationship with cloud adoption. Mobile is perhaps the perfect example of an applied use of the cloud that is having tremendous impact on individual users, not just IT. The combination of powerful networked devices, powerful cloud services, and excellent user experience has really opened up the floodgates of innovation in the enterprise. This shift will be the key way in which IT gets to truly achieve "hero status" with users. Now there’s a topic I’d be excited to debate on a panel! I guess we’ll leave that for next time.
In the meantime, I leave you with a picture of HP Chairman (and Fisker Investor) Ray Lane's beautiful Fisker Karma which I spotted parked outside the conference.