August 12, 2020
Image: Caroline Mackay / Protocol
Welcome to Protocol Cloud, your comprehensive roundup of everything you need to know about the week in cloud and enterprise software. This week: Why even the best engineers face a multicloud learning curve, the Hotel California of enterprise computing, and an autumn without Dreamforce?
As it became clear that cloud computing was going to redefine how businesses operate on the internet, lots of tech buyers held out the promise that they could navigate their apps across multiple clouds as a hedge against placing too large a bet on any one vendor. It hasn't exactly worked out that way.
That's because the learning curve is steep when it comes to understanding the complexity of operating even one cloud environment. Companies might find themselves supporting multiple clouds as the result of acquisitions or a very decentralized operating model, but it's increasingly clear that asking the tech department to support multiple clouds for a single endeavor is a fool's errand.
This week we saw another example that underscored that reality.
Cloud managers spent years worrying about being locked in by one cloud provider's practices. But as the Duckbill Group's Corey Quinn put it last week, the real lock-in problem is the mental overhead required to operate a modern application across multiple clouds.
So what does this mean for the broader cloud market? For the most part, cloud providers aren't yet competing against each other for applications that are already running in a cloud; they're competing against each other for applications that have yet to move to the cloud.
There are good reasons to be wary about finding yourself tied down to a single cloud vendor five years down the road, because a lot can change in a short amount of time. But it's hard enough to manage a single modern cloud environment, and outside a few special cases, it seems unlikely that the second wave of cloud business will start out life with companies operating across multiple clouds.
Edge computing is an emerging concept that holds great promise. AI best practices are still evolving in the cloud. Join us on Tuesday, Sept. 1 at 9 a.m. PT / noon ET to further understand edge computing, how it will change the way modern business applications are built, and why AI processes will have to be conduced at the edge. Speakers to be announced. This event is presented in partnership with Intel.
Tiffany-twisted: HPE CEO Antonio Neri's customers are exactly who the cloud providers are going after during this second wave of cloud adoption, and he's betting that a new product called GreenLake will help those customers move workloads between their own data centers and cloud providers. Count him among the believers of cloud as the new lock-in: "When you check in to the public cloud, it is like checking in to Hotel California: You check in and never check out, because that cost is ginormous."
Mesh networks: Microsoft initially tried to stay above the service mesh fray with a neutral approach to the emerging technology, but decided to throw its hat in the ring last week with the Open Service Mesh. It's a direct shot at Google Cloud's Istio, described as easier to use and understand with plans for open governance under the Cloud Native Computing Foundation.
Why AI? Depending on where you sit, it will unlock a powerful new future or accelerate the fall of civilization. But if you sit in the U.S. Congress like Rep. Robin Kelly, it doesn't really matter: Either way, the United States needs to be a leader in AI research.
What was your first job in tech?
I programmed pagers in BasicIV for PacTel/AirTouch.
What's the best piece of advice you could give to someone starting their first tech job?
Stay enthusiastic! I am inspired every day by team members who are filled with excitement about their first tech role and love to see the fresh ideas and perspectives they bring to the table. I like to remind them that their enthusiasm and passion should be looked at as a gift rather than a trait to outgrow over the course of their career.
What was the biggest reason for the success of cloud computing over the past decade?
Cloud has lowered the barrier to entry for disruptors. You don't have to have the budget of an enterprise to build something in the cloud, and once you've built it, you can put it to market quickly. That's spurred innovation in every industry, and the success of these innovators further spurred adoption of the cloud.
What will be the biggest challenge for cloud computing over the coming decade?
The biggest challenge can be found in traditional companies in highly regulated industries: They've been resistant to change and now need to completely reinvent. This is no simple shift to the cloud, this is a full rebuild to be cloud-native. It's a big undertaking, but I believe the COVID-19 pandemic made many companies realize that they have to transform to stay competitive.
Will the pandemic usher in a new era of remote working, or will we all come back together when it is safe to do so?
The pandemic has certainly been a catalyst for a new era of workplace flexibility. We're seeing more and more companies change policies on remote work and employee location, and I don't see that reversing once the pandemic is over. I can see a world where the workplace is more agile and companies are prepared to empower employees whether they work in an office, from home or a mix of the two.
Thanks for reading — see you next week.