Strategy and Cloud Transformation

Design Thinking (Part 1 of 2): Transforming Organizations with Entrenched Cultures

How do we balance a drive for perfection with a drive for innovation? This is a question that is discussed in “What Design Thinking Is Doing for the San Francisco Opera.” That opera company dates back to the 1850s and has a structured organization focused on perfection. Using Design Thinking, their culture has shifted from on that is “very, very, very averse to change, not open to the idea of failure” to one that embraces change.  Their experience is somewhat similar to what many enterprises face when adopting cloud computing. There is a need to change and challenge cultural and organizational norms.

Innovation at the San Francisco Opera
Prior to applying Design Thinking, experimentation from the San Francisco Opera was rare. Their high quality requirements meant costly and therefore few experiments. Working with Stanford’s “”, they undertook a series of rapid prototypes. (more…)

Will Enterprises reorganize into Agile Squads as they embrace Cloud?

The AWS meetup group in New York invited Hudl CTO Brian Kaiser to speak in September. He presented how Hudl implemented agile methods to overcome slowing code deployment time. As his company grew, deploys that used to take 30 minutes could take a few hours or even be pushed to the next day. Brian emphasized that their agile transformation began with the reorganization of teams into Agile Squads. Only later did they transform their “Monolith” application using microservices technology. Hudl’s approach offers insight on how enterprises can successfully transition Big IT to Big-and-Fast IT.

Hudl provides tools for coaches and athletes to improve play and strategy. Their initial tools were for football, a sport that epitomizes the importance of agility. Analyst David Linthicum once wrote about the important of agility in cloud computing using football analogies, including these.

  • Agility beats strategy each and every game
  • Agility (of a lineman) is more effective than size
  • The game can change quickly

In football, a team could be down by 20 at halftime and still win, or vice-versa. Those of us in technology know that our game can change quickly too. New disruptive innovations abound. How do enterprises take advantage of what is new? How can enterprises become more agile? (more…)

Lessons Learned from Nebula and an Updated Perspective on how to Assess Enterprise Clouds

I invested 14 months of my life working at Nebula after having worked 14 years at IBM. What a contrast. Nebula’s leaders and founders changed the IT universe by creating OpenStack Nova. Perhaps there was too much focus on changing the world than on making money, but it was awesome to work with the people who pioneered OpenStack. The mentality was very different than my prior experience, where the clear emphasis was sales. This blog post captures lessons learned from my Nebula experience.

The biggest takeaway might be best summarized by a question posed by one prospect. Do you have an equivalent of a “Hello World” program for cloud? What this prospect needed was something rare in today’s enterprise, applications well-suited for the cloud. Many enterprises and vendors have prioritized building and providing IaaS and PaaS (Platform-as-a-Service). If you read my very first blog post, “How to assess the maturity and growth potential of an enterprise cloud”, you will see that I had focused on IaaS and PaaS too. I have now updated the assessment method to include applications, as described later in this post.


Are meaningful server names just for tradition in a Cloud?

In today’s “AWS re:Invent” keynote, Andy Jassy, Senior VP of AWS (Amazon Web Services), said that 90% of their roadmap is driven directly by client feedback. For the other 10%, they listen to what the clients say but have to think about what the client really wants and invent on their behalf to solve the problem. Is server name convention one such scenario where those of us in the cloud space need to innovate?

One of my clients is so invested in their DNS naming convention that their applications and security protocols expect servers to follow a specific convention. They have requested that an IaaS (Infrastructure-as-a-Service) solution needs to conform to their DNS naming standard because it would be so difficult to move away from their convention.

Can we build clouds that scale and meet existing DNS naming conventions? Do we want to? In the long-term, when enterprises have fully embraced cloud, my belief is that we will move away from server naming conventions to server tagging and search. Such a transition will neither be quick nor easy. As Mark Twain wrote in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, “the less there is to justify a traditional custom, the harder it is to get rid of it”. We will need interim solutions.


Does the Cathedral and Bazaar analogy apply to Cloud Architecture?

Gartner’s Lydia Leong titled a recent blog post “The beginning of the end of cloud computing”. To clarify, I would state that we are at the end of an era of exploration and at the beginning of an era of adoption of cloud computing. What we have learned is that the most successful enterprise cloud initiatives are strongly influenced by developers and are not just an IT initiative. How do we build and provide the cloud environments that are agile and empower developers in this time of rapid innovation? To answer this question, consider “the cathedral and the bazaar” analogy that was used by Eric Raymond to describe how we engineer software.

Cathedral versus Bazaar Cloud Architecture
The cathedral architectural approach is more of a do-it-yourself (DIY) method, where one develops customized solutions. The bazaar architecture approach prefers turnkey solutions, leveraging standardized marketplace offerings. The cathedral approach is appealing because it can provide the best point-in-time solution. What’s the downside? While it meets short-term needs, customized solutions are harder to adapt to future needs. For example, some enterprises have assigned many of their top people to build a cloud. They now, however, face a new challenge. How do they maintain cloud “version 1.0” and also build “version 2.0”?


How to assess the maturity and growth potential of an enterprise cloud

Most enterprise clouds are still relatively young. Even so, these clouds represent critical initiatives that support strategic business goals. I have recently begun to field requests to assess the state of cloud initiatives. Therefore, I created a short assessment, a health check, to determine if a cloud is on track to meet expectations.

The mindset for a cloud health check is different from one used to assess a more mature “legacy” information technology (IT) environment. An assessment of mature IT environment is more of a point-in-time analysis, looking for gaps between the current actual state and current desired state. An assessment of a younger cloud environment is more of a dynamic analysis, looking for gaps between the current actual state and a desired future state. 

This is somewhat like our mindset with our own health checks. As children, we get checkups and our parents will want to make sure that we will, in the future, grow up to have positive attributes like height, strength and intelligence. As adults, we want to check that our health, e.g. measures like cholesterol, is within optimal ranges for our current age.

Some are anxious about getting a cloud health check and want to know what happens beforehand. The assessment begins with questions about history, trends and business drivers. Those are followed by more questions about IT process and workloads, aspects vital to the success of a cloud. Then there are evaluations of various capabilities. The goal is to determine recommendations on infrastructure, infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) and platform-as-a-service (PaaS) capabilities. An agenda might look like this


Sample Agenda for a Cloud Health Check