Cloud computing is being touted as the next wave in information technology. The combined of clouds, social networks, mobility and data science is definitely more than the sum of the parts. In Canada, however, it has been difficult to find publicly available success stories that are detailed enough to convince conservative IT leaders. But first, a bit of context. Geoffrey Moore’s Crossing the Chasm model illustrates how the technology adoption curve can be married with the idea of a “chasm” that new technologies must cross on the road to success. This can also be combined with the Gartner Hype Cycle to provide a good perspective on how cloud computing is emerging and evolving. Some of today’s cloud services have definitely crossed the chasm while others remain at the early market stage.
There is a need for success stories at each stage of development, summarized as follows:
- Innovators – risk-oriented; willing to try new things; need to know features and functions; don’t need the experiences of others to justify their experiments;
- Early adopters – sector leaders; forward thinkers; willing to try Version 1 of a cloud service; they like to hear war stories but they aren’t essential to justify moving forward;
- Early majority – more conservative but open to new ideas; active in community and will bet on popular vendors; interested in pointing to success stories, even if for different industries;
- Late majority – fairly conservative; not strong leaders; tend to avoid pioneering and wish to invest only in winners; they need to know how others have succeeded, that there will be a long life for the products, and what the risks might be; and
- Laggards – very conservative; often have to be pushed to change; they wait until the end of life for currently installed products; they need to know that many others have been highly successful with the product or services.
A majority of the cloud target market needs to understand “how it’s going” with their Canadian IT industry peers. Many depend on their vendors for assurances, others will use their personal networks to gather information, and some will turn to industry analysts such as Gartner or publications such as IT World Canada. In my opinion, finding publicly available descriptions of conforming cloud systems is non-trivial. Although standard cloud conformance criteria do not exist, the key cloud characteristics should at least be demonstrable. These are (paraphrased from ISO/IEC 17788):
- Broad network access: cloud services are accessible over a network through standard communications mechanisms; provides increased levels of convenience and support for a wide variety of devices such as mobile phones, tablets, laptops, and workstations;
- Measured service: metered delivery of cloud services such that usage can be monitored, controlled, reported, and billed; the customer only pays for the resources that they use;
- Multi-tenancy: physical or virtual resources are allocated in such a way that multiple tenants (groups of cloud users that typically belong to the same customer) and their computations and data are isolated from and inaccessible to one another;
- On-demand self-service: provisioning of computing capabilities, as needed, automatically or with minimal interaction with the provider; offers users a relative reduction in cost, time, and the effort needed to take an action;
- Rapid elasticity and scalability: cloud services can be rapidly and elastically adjusted, in some cases automatically, to quickly increase or decrease resources; customers no longer need to worry about limited resources and might not need to worry about capacity planning;
- Resource pooling: physical or virtual resources can be aggregated in order to serve one or more customers efficiently; supports multi-tenancy while masking the complexity of the process from the customer.
Visible corporate support for public clouds (such as Facebook and LinkedIn) is a good start but this doesn’t meet the need for customer case studies and success stories. Clearly, these services show that cloud computing is viable, can scale extremely well, and generally lives up to the considerable hype. This does NOT, however, replace the need to publicize corporate commitments, to make explicit statements of support, and to share experiences. One example of a good write-up of a cloud user comes from the TD Bank (May 15, 2015 – TD Bank uses cloud as a catalyst for cultural change in IT). TD’s retail operations is (or soon will be) using OpenStack and other open source products to reduce costs and redundancy. TD aims to have about 80 per cent of its 4,000 applications moved over to the cloud over the next five years. Another example is Air Canada’s journey to the cloud, as described recently by Shane Schick. Other examples are available from an IDC document, dated September 2014. The abstract for the document states:
“This IDC Buyer Case Study includes two case studies of Canadian organizations that have made the move to the cloud. The first case study is of Béton Provincial, a large Quebec City–based firm in the construction sector, which used cloud integrator AFI Expertise for an unprecedented migration to Microsoft Azure. The second case study is of Safe Software Inc., a software vendor with its headquarters in Vancouver, Canada, which brought in TriNimbus Technologies to assist with a move to Amazon Web Services (AWS). Both these migrations were ambitious, complex, and successful. This IDC Buyer Case Study concludes with lessons learned from both these case studies and essential guidance for buyers, integrators, and vendors.” It is usually possible to find customer studies on cloud provider websites, although the Canadian stories are often mixed in with those from other countries. For some examples, see the following websites:
- Microsoft Azure case studies from Canada and for start-ups using BizSpark;
- Amazon Web Services provides a case study from Canada;
- IBM Social Business in Canada.
While it is possible to discover user examples by doing web research, there is also a definite need to make more success stories easier-to-find. Perhaps even a general “Canadian Interest Group on Cloud Computing” has a place and is an idea whose time has come! As always, what do you think? Am I missing something that would help to nudge the late majority to adopt a cloud-first strategy?