August 17, 2017

More notes on the transition to the cloud

Last year I posted observations about the transition to the cloud. Here are some further thoughts.

0. In case any doubt remained, the big questions about transitioning to the cloud are “When?” and “How?”. “Whether”, by way of contrast, is pretty much settled.

1. The answer to “When?” is generally “Over many years”. In particular, at most enterprises the cloud transition will span multiple CIO’s tenure in their positions.

Few enterprises will ever execute on simple, consistent, unchanging “cloud strategies”.

2. The SaaS (Software as a Service) vs. on-premises tradeoffs are being reargued, except that proponents now spell SaaS C-L-O-U-D. (Ali Ghodsi of Databricks made a particularly energetic version of that case in a recent meeting.)

3. In most countries (at least in the US and the rest of the West), the cloud vendors deemed to matter are Amazon, followed by Microsoft, followed by Google. And so, when it comes to the public cloud, Microsoft is much, much more enterprise-savvy than its key competitors.

4. In another non-technical competitive factor: Wal-Mart isn’t the only huge company that is hostile to the Amazon cloud because of competition with other Amazon businesses.

5. It was once thought that in many small countries around the world, there would be OpenStack-based “national champion” cloud winners, perhaps as subsidiaries of the leading telecom vendors. This doesn’t seem to be happening.

Even so, some of the larger managed-economy and/or generally authoritarian countries will have one or more “national champion” cloud winners each — surely China, presumably Russia, obviously Iran, and probably some others as well.

6. While OpenStack in general seems to have fizzled, S3 compatibility has momentum.

7. Finally, let’s return to our opening points: The cloud transition will happen, but it will take considerable time. A principal reason for slowness is that, as a general rule, apps aren’t migrated to platforms directly; rather, they get replaced by new apps on new platforms when the time is right for them to be phased out anyway.

However, there’s a codicil to those generalities — in some cases it’s easier to migrate to the new platform than in others. The hardest migration was probably when the rise of RDBMS, the shift from mainframes to UNIX and the switch to client/server all happened at once; just about nothing got ported from the old platforms to the new. Easier migrations included:

The cloud transition is somewhere in the middle between those extremes. On the “easy” side:

Nonetheless, the public cloud is in many ways a whole new computing environment — and so for the most part, customer-built apps will prove too difficult to migrate. Hence my belief that overall migration to the cloud will be very incremental.


One Response to “More notes on the transition to the cloud”

  1. Paul Johnson on September 7th, 2017 5:46 am

    The migration from mainframe to Unix and client/server is far from complete.

    There are still plenty of clients of ours out there running ‘big iron’.

    It’s always fun when we show new hires an ISPF menu for the first time. And then there’s JCL…

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