Drowning in cloud silos? Time to think about the Curated Cloud

Martin Banks Profile picture for user mbanks June 15, 2022 Audio mode
Summary:
It's time to make life a bit simpler when it comes to selecting and running cloud technologies. I want to talk about the Curated Cloud!

Cloud

Hybrid cloud, multi-cloud, IaaS, PaaS etc are all terms looking at the issue of cloud from the wrong perspective, from the ‘tech’ outwards. The issue here is that, as usual, technology developers and vendors are approaching the issue of cloud from the point of view of what they can provide and how they market it to the user community.

There is nothing intrinsically wrong with this. It is not unethical in any way and indeed – especially when it comes to developing any kind of market for a new technology – lauding its capabilities and advantages for their own sake is an essential step. I personally remember the launch by Intel of the 1103, 1k bit random access memory. Users were very sceptical of this strange little novelty and vendors of existing memory technologies, such as iron core memory, were totally dismissive. After all, how could that tiny little `chip’ compare with a framework some 50cm square and weighing several tens of kgs?

Today, one can put a Terabyte of storage in a pocket and not notice the weight, even if it comes with more compute power than was ever available in a single system back then, plus a communications network offering point-to-point connectivity on a global scale. Try doing that with the old core memory and thermionic valve-based processors of way back then. 

But there soon comes a downside. When it comes to reaching that tipping point where the purpose of the new technology starts to become clear to users and they start to think in terms of needing it and ask existing vendors to supply it, the trouble can begin.

Vendors all start incorporating it in totally random ways, AKA any way that is easy to engineer into their existing products regardless of its capabilities. Stating that they do it becomes a growing part of their sales pitch. They all then start defining the application of the technology in ways that fit the way that they have redesigned their own products, creating sub-sets of the tech that are, by definition, very important because they are doing it.

The most recent example of this can be seen with cloud. This is particularly interesting because it has already become a number of branches of technology when it is in fact just a concept – a way of thinking about the use of existing technology. But vendors of the technologies that underpin cloud, and providers of the services that the concept has helped to create have – jointly and severally – a whole range of complementary and competing sub-sets of cloud with which users are expected to wrangle. This leads to many of users taking the defensive position of investing time and or money in buying `one of everything’ just in case.  

Have some more silos, get more lost

What we end up with is a potentially infinite number of technology-based and basic function-based silos, eventually followed by a number of other silos dedicated to bringing these new silos together in some form or another. As much as anything, this is driven by the vendors’ understandable need to establish the importance and the value of their individual offerings, and as cloud is a concept this can get ever more complex, because there is no technological limit to the number of possible divisions of what is, or might be, classed as cloud. 

This just creates an ever-more confusing menagerie of options from which users are expected to choose. What is worse is that the majority of those options, at least in the balance of their own functional objectives, have a role to play. None of this so far is intended to suggest that any vendor of cloud services or technologies is being disingenuous. 

But it is intended to suggest that they are inevitably geared to `telling the story’ in ways that make them look good. But `look what we can do for you’ is not the same as users’ asking `what are my business goals and how can cloud meet those objectives?’ and, perhaps more profoundly, `do I really need this stuff anyway?’ Answering such questions now requires a fundamental change of perspective: to be blunt, it is time to turn the cloud ass-about-face.

Is it time to curate your own cloud?

So how about developing the notion of the Curated Cloud? This is one where the curator of what a cloud service should be like is the user, with the terms of curation based on what that user wants or needs to achieve. And because the cloud is a concept – not a thing – there can be an infinite number of clouds for an infinite number of users. 

The first thing then is to define what is a user, as  this term can range from the individual to the huge business. It can also be multi-layered – for example, a business will no doubt have overall plans and objectives and can define and curate a cloud to provide it. But in turn that will be made up of – at the very least – individual departments responsible for parts of the business and each will need to curate its own cloud environment. Larger enterprises may well comprise individual companies that build their own requirements, while most will find that different geographic regions will require clouds that are curated to meet localised requirements – and not just language differences. 

Then, of course, there are quadrillions of individual users, each of whom will generate several tens of Curated Clouds for various parts of their lives. They will rarely understand that they are creating Curated Clouds - if appropriate they may end up using pre-curated clouds, especially if the area of interest or need is tied to a common group or service – but they will expect their interactions with it, and service levels from it, to be exactly as they demand.

There will, of course, also need to be a measure of control, of limitation, on what curations are allowed and disallowed. The highest level would need to be at whatever is considered illegal in a country, which in itself could pose some interesting geographic management issues. Close behind that would come the need to cover security issues. The fact that there will inevitably be ’n’ levels of curation, particularly in any business-related application, will also require a level of subservience in curations created down the chain, with those lower down the hierarchy not being allowed to introduce functions or services that undermine or damage those above it.

This suggests that there may well be a need for a curation management framework, which run counter to the notion of cloud just being a concept, but as a key part of the concept is the creation of the collaborating collective, there will always be the need for some rules to make it work.

More important, however, is that re-framing the way the concept is viewed – moving towards 'what the users need and why they need it’ and away from a 'see what this technology can do for you’ mindset – is becoming an imperative. After all, once the users know and understand what it is they really want and need to achieve they can accurately curate the cloud environment they require. These days, there will always be a technology available to satisfy that need.

As a final note,  yes I do realise that observing that there is likely to be `a need for a curation management framework’ will open the door for the next probable rush of vendors trying to create then dominate that market. They may well find customers in the consumer marketplace, but I feel that, when it comes to business use of cloud services, this has to be a core management capability within the business, with the CIO being the obvious place holder. 

The curation process has to be theirs, part of the culture of the business and the underpinning of all the 'what, why, when and how?’ that lies at the heart of any business. It is not something that can be bought in. And yes, it will have a strong element of silo about it, but it will be your silo, designed to build the environment that shapes the cloud and the technologies to your needs, rather than oblige you to bend the business to fit in an available tech silo.

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