The Five Things Clouds Need To Deliver For IBM i
May 15, 2017 Lief Morin
The cloud is compelling and real and here to stay – and to accelerate. On the surface, cloud consumption models are primarily attractive because they deliver simplicity of payment, consistency of service, and lastly, elasticity. These are the highly touted benefits of cloud services promoted to clients as they seek to understand how cloud services might be consumed in their enterprises.
But, the real benefits are much more tangible than those. All cloud organizations must now offer something beyond those capabilities. They must offer regulatory and security compliance, inherent resiliency, and consolidation of expertise to enable clients to focus on their business systems, not on systems management.
In the context of the IBM Power Systems architecture, nothing changes about those qualities. Addressing all of those qualities, individually and collectively, is the job of the service provider and why IBM’s approach to exclusively licensing and consumption through a service provider marketplace is absolutely the right strategy. We make investments in people, process, and tools in order to deliver those exact qualities to a marketplace that is eager to find new models of consumption in the shared economy. Let’s take a deeper dive into each of those qualities and the focus needed to bring cloud offerings to market from the service provider point of view. (Hint: it’s not easy).
Simplicity Of Payment
A service provider must design economic plans for consumption that meet the needs of the market. This includes, amongst others, rigorous pricing methodologies, cost accounting and constant market feedback to ensure they continue to service the needs of the market over the long course of time. Each one is a resource-intensive process that is underpinned by a disciplined product management process. Cost accounting alone requires a detailed fiscal model that takes into consideration technology, labor, asset and lifecycle management, licensing and many other variables, packaged into an easy-to-understand-and-consume pricing model. Although essential, IBM’s licensing is but one part of that process.
Consistency Of Service
In the midrange systems world, consistency is critical. Sure, resilient systems are an imperative, but things change over time. People change, process changes and tools come in and out of favor for both the client and the service provider. It is the responsibility of the service provider to ensure that services delivered remain constant throughout all of those changes and to build a culture that values safety and quality and service to ensure a lasting value. It is the same in any free market business model and all service providers are held to extremely high standards, appropriately so.
Scalability is the last of the three obvious imperatives. As client workloads and business needs might grow or shrink, it is the responsibility of the service provider to be able to seamlessly provide that flexibility – and still provide the service consistency and simple economics as described above. This means effective planning, constant and intelligent systems management and deployment of multi-tenancy architectures to deliver on those objectives. While not all functions are yet automatable on certain platforms, automation is the key to self-provisioning and requires cloud systems expertise to deliver.
Regulatory And Security Compliance
There are hundreds of thousands of organizations in all industry sectors that are under intense audit and regulatory pressures. Companies ranging from the Fortune 50 down to the Fortune 5000 all face the same challenge and the only way that a mid-market company can meet these resource-intensive, increasingly difficult objectives is to consume them through a shared service. Service providers deliver on those capabilities; the expertise and technology required to deliver it is formidable. The resources consumed through audits and compliance alone represent material fiscal impacts, and a small healthcare company might have real difficulty in meeting those responsibilities. A service provider model leverages scale to provide compliancy to a broad marketplace and, as the story is written, allows David to compete with Goliath, and win!
This is the one that everyone obsesses about (and righteously so). Service providers have an almost impossible task as it is, with the perception that cloud services must always be like Google in delivering uptime. It is somewhat of an impossible task because the vast majority of clients still run scale-up applications that are not designed to survive a system failure (like a true scale-out application). However, in the IBM i marketplace, this perception is magnified because of the heritage of an always-on, never-fail perception for those systems. Indeed, it is how the IBM AS/400 and RS/6000 came to hold such a dominant position in the midrange computing marketplace.
How many times did folks say: “That system has been running for years and I’ve never had a problem with it.” It was this kind of legendary reliability that established those systems as the giants in the marketplace. In the category of resiliency, cloud providers of those platforms now have to exceed that perception, and that’s not easy to do. However, we do it through investment in all of the enterprise technology that is available to deliver on those SLAs. In many cases, the shared service model may be the only way mid-market clients can actually achieve those uptime statistics.
The IBM i marketplace isn’t expanding at 50 percent CAGR and service providers offer a way to consolidate resources across a wide variety of clients and technology sets to deliver on all of the services mentioned above. We provide a single source of capabilities across multiple disciplines, which clients can leverage to focus on their business model, instead of investing in patching firmware. We call this the elimination of valueless risks. A service provider enables clients to invest in resources who can develop their business models and help them to become more competitive.
There are many other qualities – ecosystems, future technology planning, and so forth – that I didn’t mention, but you get the idea. Although some large clients are able to deliver on all of those qualities because they can leverage the scale of their IT efforts across a diverse and disparate set of technologies and company objectives, most of these qualities are beyond the reach (or interest) of most midmarket organizations. Using colocation as an example here, clients used to build their own data centers, but now primarily consume data center services from a colocation organization.
The reason is simple. There’s simply no economic justification to build an entire data center to serve five racks worth of equipment, when that service can be consumed at a much lower economic cost through colocation. The same is true in the service provider marketplace. If an enterprise can gain all of the benefits (and many more not implicitly discussed above), through a shared consumption model at a price point that is significantly lower than building it themselves, they will and should choose that option. IBM has seen that shift and has offered a licensing model, which The Four Hundred has chronicled as it has changed and evolved, to enable widespread adoption of it to enable the smallest of clients to consume services at service levels never attainable, past or future.
This is goodness for everyone.