Death of the Data Center

Back in 2011, Mark Thiele (@mthiele10), Jan Wiersma (@jmwiersma) and I shared the stage at a conference in London, England for a panel discussion on the future of data centers. The three of us are founding board members with Data Center Pulse; an industry association of data center owners and operators with over 6,000 members that span the globe.

Our common theme for the panel: Death of the Data Center. Our message was clear and poignant. After decades of data center growth, a significant change was both needed and on the horizon. And this change was about to turn the entire industry in its head. The days of building and operating data centers of all shapes, sizes and types throughout the world was about to end. The way data centers are consumed has changed.

Fast forward the clock to 2014, a different conference (ECF/ DCE) and a different city (Monte Carlo, Monaco). The three of us shared the stage once again to touch on a variety of subjects ranging from SMAC to DCIM to the future of data centers. During my opening keynote presentation on the first day, I referred back to our statement from three years earlier professing “Death of the Data Center.”

Of course, making this statement at a Cloud and Data Center conference might have bordered on heresy. But the point still needed to be made. And it was more important today than ever. The tectonic shift we discussed three years in London was already starting to play out. Yet, the industry as a whole was still trying to ignore the fact that evolution was taking over. And by industry I’m referring to both internal IT organizations along with data center and service providers. How we look at data centers was changing and neither side was ready to admit change was afoot.

The Tectonic Data Center Evolution

During the economic downturn in 2008 and 2009, a shift in IT spending took place. At the same time, cloud computing was truly making its own entrance. Companies of all sizes (and their IT organizations) were pulling back their spending and rethinking what ‘strategic spending’ really meant. Coming into focus was the significant costs associated with owning and operating data centers. The common question: Do we still really needed our own data center?

This is a tough question to consider for those that always believed that data, applications, and systems needed to be in their own data center in order to be 1) manageable and 2) secure. Neither of those hold true today. In fact, by many accounts, the typical enterprise data center is less secure than the alternatives (colocation or cloud).

The reality is: This shift has already started, but we are still in the early days. Colocation is not new, but the options and maturity of the alternatives is getting more and more impressive. The cloud solutions that are part of a data center’s ecosystem are equally impressive.

Data Center Demand

Today, there is plenty of data center capacity. However, there is not much new capacity being built by data center providers due to the fear of over capacity and idle resources. The problem is, when the demand from enterprises starts to ramp up. It takes years to bring a new data center facility online. We know the demand is coming, but when. And when it does, it will create a constraint on data center capacity until new capacity is built. I wrote about this in my post Time to get on the Colocation Train Before it is Too Late.

Are Data Centers Dying?

In a word, are data centers going away? No. However, if you are an enterprise running your own data center, expect a significant shift. At a minimum, the size of your existing data center is shrinking if not completely going away. And if you are in an industry with regulatory or compliance requirements, the changes still apply. I have worked with companies some of the most regulated and sensitive industries including Healthcare, Financial Services and Government Intelligence Communities. All of which are considering some form of colocation and cloud today.

Our point was not to outline a general demise of data centers, but to communicate an impending shift in how data centers are consumed. To some, there was indeed a demise of data centers coming. However, to others, it would generate significant opportunity. The question where are you in this equation and are you prepared for the impending shift?

HP Launches Helion to Address Enterprise Cloud Adoption

Today, HP takes a huge step forward to address the broad and evolving enterprise cloud demand through their HP Helion announcement. HP Helion presents HP’s strategy to provide a comprehensive cloud portfolio. As HP’s CEO Meg Whitman mentioned, “HP is in it to win.” HP is investing over $1b in their cloud-based solutions. It’s clear that HP is working hard to win the new enterprise game.

Traditional IT demand is not going away, but the demand for cloud is increasing. Most enterprises struggle to leverage traditional IT while adopting Transformational IT. Providers, such as HP, need to address this complex and hybrid approach. With Helion, HP ups the ante in addressing this demand.

Today, HP launches their Helion brand encompassing their entire cloud portfolio. The formerly know HP Cloud solution is now part of the Helion branding. But the key change isn’t the branding change. It’s the end-to-end products that address an enterprise’s needs regardless of their state of cloud adoption.

Open Source Software Part of HP’s Strategy

HP’s commitment to OpenStack is not new. They have two board members as part of the OpenStack Foundation. And their further commitment to embrace OpenStack as part of their core cloud offerings furthers both HP and the OpenStack movement as a whole. OpenStack is a key opportunity for enterprises and service providers alike. However, open source software, and specifically OpenStack has presented significant challenges for enterprise adoption.

One of the first solutions from HP is their OpenStack Community Edition (OCE). OCE is intended for entry-level use up to 30 nodes. OCE is an approachable way for enterprises interested in OpenStack to get started. For enterprises interested in going beyond 30 nodes, HP’s commercial solution bridges the gap.

OCE is not only open source, but supported by HP. It’s also one of the first distributions based on the OpenStack Icehouse release. HP intends to ship updates every six weeks, which will keep the distribution fresh. HP OCE is available today as a free download.

Also announced today was HP’s commitment to Cloud Foundry. Cloud Foundry presents an additional opportunity for enterprises to embrace cloud through PaaS. For many enterprises, PaaS presents the solution between a core infrastructure solution and SaaS solutions. Plus, PaaS provides portability for applications based on a specific platform.

In Summary

HP Helion presents one of the most comprehensive end-to-end solutions for enterprises today. OpenStack is very interesting for enterprises, but difficult to consume. Helion lowers the bar and gives enterprises options they’ve been clamoring for.

First Impressions of EMC World

EMC World, EMC’s core annual conference is this week in Las Vegas and there are a number of very core things to watch out for. EMC’s presence in the enterprise space is legendary. However the enterprise space is gaining momentum in the enterprise IT evolution. The question is: Is EMC in a position to support these changes and continue to provide the leadership they’re known for. Bottom line: Companies are moving to the cloud. On the surface, this could present disaster for EMC. Key will be EMC’s ability to shift and help customers embrace the cloud.

Importance of Storage

Storage has grown up. No longer are the days where storage is just a place to store data and files. Storage is now key to the success of any given application. EMC clearly understands this and needs to evolve to this change. This is new! But it provides a radical shift in opportunity for companies like EMC. Look for EMC to make the connection between applications and storage.

Partnerships & Ecosystem Development

EMC provides leadership to enables IT to provide greater business value. The key is to evolve quickly and provide solutions that are needed both today and moving forward.

One could argue that no one company can (or should) be everything to everyone. Even very large enterprise providers such as EMC, need to embrace this shift. One example of EMC’s recent shift is their partnership with SAP. Frankly, this is a great sign of maturity on the part of EMC. Similarly, HP recently started providing their ‘Shark’ solutions for SAP’s HANA. Look for EMC to embrace this relationship and look to other key relationships between EMC and key enterprise players.

Open Source Software Integration

It is clear that open source software (like OpenStack) is changing the way enterprise solutions are built and consumed within a completely new economic model. The more mature enterprise-class providers will acknowledge this shift and embrace it. Look for EMC to provide greater integration with open source solutions.

Enterprise to Service Provider Shifts

Historically, enterprise-class providers create solutions specifically for enterprises…not service providers. Service provider requirements are quite different from that of their enterprise counterparts. At the same time, the shift in demand from enterprise to service provider happens over time, not all at once. Look for EMC to acknowledge this shift in terms of integration between solutions and changes in their management tools. The impact of general-purpose storage solutions also changes the paradigm for EMC. EMC needs to demonstrate value beyond the underlying physical hardware.

The VMware and Pivotal Impact

A constant question for EMC is how VMware and Pivotal play a role in EMC’s future. Both companies provide solutions that support the evolving changes within the enterprise. But potentially create a loggerhead for openness. Can EMC embrace the changes and innovation from both VMware and Pivotal, but still maintain flexibility in their open approach to alternative solutions? Look for indications of this through their partnerships and reference architectures.

Timing is Everything

EMC provides core storage solutions for key enterprise applications. In many ways, these are the very applications that are both sensitive to enterprises and harder to move. In both cases, this translates to risk. Enterprise customers have been hesitant to make the shift from traditional storage solutions to alternative approaches. That attitude is changing. Change is no longer an option it is a requirement. How is EMC taking a leadership role to help existing enterprise customers make this shift? Look for EMC to provide examples of flexibility beyond the traditional enterprise constraints.

In Summary

This year, more than any in the past, is a watershed year for EMC. This year, the stars are aligning where customers are open for change, looking for help and ready to get started. The traditional enterprise sacred cows are up for grab. Now is the time for EMC to demonstrate how they can make this shift and continue to provide leadership to the enterprise customer.

Initial Impressions from IBM Impact

This week is IBM’s Impact Conference in Las Vegas. In past years, IBM conveyed components of different strategies around Mobile and Cloud. However, they have since moved to an integrated approach. This integrated approach is great, but offers a few challenges for an incumbent such as IBM. Here are some things to watch for this week:

Hardware is King

Many of the conversations at Impact have mentioned IBM’s heritage and leadership in the hardware space. This year, IBM celebrates 50 years of the mainframe. And there is plenty of innovative work IBM is doing in the hardware space.

The question is not about IBM’s leadership in hardware. It is more around their longer-term vision. IBM is a company challenged with keeping existing customers engaged (many of which are hardware customers), while engaging an even strong software and services story. The days of the general purpose processor that supports a myriad of applications is less important than specific infrastructure geared toward highly specialized workloads that run at scale.

The Shift in Enterprise Demand

Enterprises are still buying hardware today. But the demand for hardware is shifting from enterprises to service providers. As such, providers like IBM must evolve their software, management and tools to support the change in customers. This impacts the usability for enterprises and service providers alike. And vendors like IBM need to both acknowledge these shifts…and have an answer to the demand.

The Converged Story

Many want to talk about mobile and cloud in specific silos. IBM has been no different in the past. However, at Impact this week, IBM is talking the converged story around both mobile and cloud. This is a key shift in thinking that mirrors the holistic thinking any enterprise should take.

The SoftLayer Parlay

IBM’s acquisition of SoftLayer presented a brilliant opportunity to build a platform for the future. IBM needs to continue innovating and leveraging the SoftLayer platform in a myriad of ways that accommodates the varied requirements of customers (both current and potential).

OpenPOWER Foundation

This week, IBM is promoting their OpenPOWER Foundation pretty heavily. While this is a great move in the right direction, the branding might be off-putting for potential new customers looking for an ecosystem that is less tied to IBM’s hardware heritage. Look for further distinctions to be made in this space as IBM evolves.

Hybrid & Holistic

Finally, moving away from a silo approach, look for IBM to take a holistic approach to embracing both hybrid cloud and mobile strategies. Again, this mirrors where enterprises today need to go. Not necessarily where they are today. But that provides opportunity for IBM to take a leadership position in the industry.

4 Reasons Cloud Storage is Not a Bubble About to Pop

With the recent S-1 filing by Box for their Initial Public Offering (IPO) the question of a Cloud Storage Bubble is raised once again. But is it really a bubble? And should enterprise customers take note and run for the hills? There is more at stake than what appears on the surface.

Box Files Form S-1 IPO

By Box filing their S-1, their financials are put on display for all to scrutinize. Within those figures, we learn that their 34k+ paying customers contribute $124m in revenue that offsets operational costs to the tune of a $169m loss last fiscal year. Over the past four years of reporting, Box reported an increase in the loss trend. But is this enough to consider impending doom?

Cloud Storage Startup Landscape

In 2013, Nirvanix (another cloud storage startup) closed up shop and sent their customers scrambling. Dropbox is another of the closest competitors to Box and announced their intent to IPO as well. Could Box and Dropbox be following in Nirvanix’ footsteps? Enterprise storage is expensive. Yes, there are economies of scale and tricks you can play to maximize the efficiency, but storage infrastructure is expensive.

So, let’s take a look at some potential hypothesis on what may be occurring:

Hypothesis One: There is a minimum amount of capital required to achieve profitability.

Nirvanix only took on $70m while Box and Dropbox took on $414m and $607m respectively. Consider that enterprises need stability in their cloud storage provider, a substantial number of enterprise features (ie: auth, security) and a solid ecosystem for integration. It is probable that $70m is not enough to reach ‘escape velocity’ in this space. It is possible that $400-600m may not be enough either. It is also likely that scale plays a significant role too. It will be interesting to see Dropbox’ figures when they file their S-1.

Hypothesis Two: The real value for cloud storage is not in unstructured file storage.

Sure, the ability to store, share and collaborate on files online is valuable. However, is there greater value in the meta-data that comes from understanding the behaviors of those files? Plus, similar to the problem email systems and enterprise storage vendors addressed years ago with data de-duplication, there is value to managing files at scale. Not to mention that the meta-data around that data could be repurposed for other functions.

Hypothesis Three: Unstructured file storage is simply a loss leader.

There are many directions a company like Box or Dropbox could take based on their current service offerings. Of course there are many directions this could take, but that is for a future discussion.

Hypothesis Four: The shifting enterprise storage paradigm will not allow cloud storage failure.

It is simple enough to treat all storage the same, but in reality it is not that easy. Traditional methods for storing files on internal storage sub-systems is cumbersome at best when we move into a SMAC (social, mobile, analytics, cloud) based world. Enterprises are already shifting toward cloud-based storage to alleviate the pressure and shift their paradigm. The thought of having to move back to traditional methods would break many apps and services. In the end, enterprises really need to move forward and are not able to go back.

Consider the Options

On the surface, it may appear that Box (and ostensibly Dropbox) may be losing money today, there is much more at stake. Enterprises know they need to make a shift to a SMAC based world too. The cards appear to point favorably in the direction of additional options beyond the currently cloud storage portfolio offering. I would look more toward the future opportunities of the space through one of the four hypotheses and less on the impending implosion.

The Shark of HP Converged Systems

The story of Converged Infrastructure (CI) continues to gain steam within the Information Technology (IT) industry…and for good reason. Converged solutions present a relatively easy way to manage complex infrastructure solutions. While some providers focus on CI as an opportunity to bundle solutions into a single SKU, companies such as Nutanix and HP have produced solutions for a couple of years now that go much further with true integration.

As enterprise IT customers shift their focus away from infrastructure and toward platforms, application and data, expect the CI space to heat up. Part of this shift includes platforms geared toward specific applications. This is especially true for those operating applications at scale.

Last week, HP announced their ‘shark’ approach of hardware solutions geared toward specific applications. One of the first targets is the SAP HANA application using HP Converged System 500 as part of a co-innovation project between HP & SAP. It is interesting to see HP partner with SAP HANA with so much emphasis on data analytics today. In addition, specialized solutions are becoming increasingly more important in this space.

Enterprise IT organizations need the ability to start small and grow accordingly. Even service providers may consider a start-small and grow approach. Michael Krigsman (@mkrigsman) recently wrote a post outlining how IT projects are getting smaller and still looking for relief. HP expressed their intent to provide scalable solutions that start small and include forthcoming ‘Project Kraken’ solutions later this year. Only time will tell how seamless this transition becomes.

Additional Reading:

HP CS Blog Entry:

http://h30507.www3.hp.com/t5/Converged-Infrastructure/HP-ConvergedSystem-for-SAP-HANA-meet-the-industry-s-most/ba-p/157176#.UynDsdy0bfM

HP Discover Barcelona: What to Watch For

Today kicks off HP’s Discover conference in Barcelona, Spain with a bevy of information on tap. Looking over the event guide, it is clear that HP is targeting the Enterprise customer with an emphasis on Cloud Computing, Data (including Big Data) and Converged Infrastructure. HP’s definition of ‘converged infrastructure’ does include a bevy of their core infrastructure components.

With an emphasis on cloud and data, HP is really targeting the future direction of technology, not just traditional IT. HP is a large company and can take a bit of work to evolve the thinking from traditional IT to transformational IT. It is good to see the changes.

Of note is the expansion of data beyond just Big Data. For many, the focus continues to persist on Big Data. Yet, for many enterprises, data expands well beyond just Big Data. Look for more information beyond the existing NASCAR example on both the breadth and depth. In addition, there are sessions that provide a deep dive specifically for HAVEn partners. It is good to see HP consider the importance of their partner program.

Core areas of both printing and mobility are making an appearance here at Discover. However, their presence pales in comparison with the big three.

So, what to look for… With cloud and data, the keys for HP will rest with how well they enable adoption. How easy do they make it for customers to easily adopt new technologies? Adoption is key to success. With converged infrastructure, has the story of integration moved beyond a reference architecture and single SKU approach? Look for more details on how far HP has come in developing their portfolio along with execution of the integration between the different solutions. This integration and execution is key.

Time to get on the Colocation Train Before it is Too Late

The data center industry is heading toward an inflection point that has significant impact on enterprises. It seems many aren’t looking far enough ahead, but the timeline appears to be 12-18 months, which is not that far out! The issue is a typical supply chain issue of supply, demand and timelines.

A CHANGE IN THE WINDS

First, let’s start with a bit of background… The advent of Cloud Computing and newer technologies, are driving an increase in the number of enterprises looking to ‘get out of the data center business. I, along with others, have presented many times about ‘Death of the Data Center.’ The data center, which used to serve as a strategic weapon in an enterprise IT org’s arsenal, is still very much critical, but fundamentally becoming a commodity. That’s not to say that the overall data center services are becoming a commodity, but the facility is. Other factors, such as the geographic footprint, network and ecosystem are becoming the real differentiators. And enterprises ‘in the know’ realize they can’t compete at the same level as today’s commercial data center facility providers.

THE TWO FLAVORS OF COLOCATION

Commercial data center providers offer two basic models of data center services: Wholesale and Retail. Digital Realty and DuPont Fabros are examples of major wholesale data center space and Equinix, Switch, IO, Savvis and QTS are examples of major retail colocation providers. It should be noted that some providers provide both wholesale and retail offerings. While there is a huge difference between wholesale and retail colocation space, I will leave the details on why an enterprise might consider one over the other for another post.

DATA CENTER SUPPLY, DEMAND AND TIMELINES

The problem is still the same for both types of data center space: there is a bit of surplus today, but there won’t be enough capacity in the near term. Data center providers are adding capacity around the globe, but they’re caught in a conundrum of how much capacity to build. It typically takes anywhere between 2-4 years to build a new data center and bring it online. And the demand isn’t there to support significant growth yet.

But if you read the tea leaves, the demand is getting ready to pop. Many folks are only now starting to consider their options with cloud and other services. So, why are data center providers not building data centers now in preparation for the pop? There are two reasons: On the supply side, it costs a significant amount of capital to build a data center today and having an idle data center burns significant operational expenses too. On the demand side, enterprises are just starting to evaluate colocation options. Evaluating is different from ready to commit spending on colocation services.

Complicating matters further, even for the most aggressive enterprises, the preparation can take months and the migrations years in the making. Moving a data center is not a trivial exercise and often peppered with significant risk. There are applications, legacy requirements, 3rd party providers, connections, depreciation schedules, architectures, organization, process and governance changes to consider…just to name a few. In addition to the technical challenges, organizations and applications are typically not geared up to handle multi-day outages and moves of this nature. Ponder this: When was the last time your IT team moved a critical business application from one location to another? What about multiple applications? The reality is: it just doesn’t happen often…if at all.

But just because it’s hard, does not mean it should not be done. In this case, it needs to be done. At this point, every organization on the planet should have a plan for colocation and/or cloud. Of course there are exceptions and corner cases, but today they are few and shrinking.

COMPLIANCE AND REGULATORY CONCERNS

Those with compliance and regulatory requirements are moving too…and not just non-production or Disaster Recovery systems. Financial Services organizations are already moving their core banking systems into colocation. While Healthcare organizations are moving their Electronic Health Records (EHR) and Electronic Medical Record (EMR) systems into colocation…and in some cases, the cloud. This is in addition to any core legacy and greenfield applications. The compliance and regulatory requirements are an additional component to consider, not a reason to stop moving.

TIME CHANGES DATA CENTER THINKING

Just five years ago, a discussion of moving to colocation or cloud would have been far more challenging to do. Today, we are starting to see this migration happening. However, it is only happening in very small numbers of IT firms around the globe. We need to significantly increase the number of folks planning and migrating.

DATA CENTER ELASTICITY

On the downside, even if an enterprise started to build their data center strategy and roadmap today, it is unclear if adequate capacity to supply the demand will exist once they’re ready to move. Now, that’s not to say the sky is falling. But it does suggest that enterprises (in mass) need to get on the ball and start planning for death of the data center (their own). At a minimum, it would provider data center providers with greater visibility of the impending demand and timeline. In the best scenario, it provides a healthy ecosystem in the supply/ demand equation without creating a rubber-band effect where supply and demand each fluctuate toward equilibrium.

BUILDING A ROADMAP

The process starts with a vision and understanding of what is truly strategic. Recall that vitally important and strategic can be two different things. Power is vitally important to data centers, but data center providers are not building power plants next to each one.

The next step is building a roadmap that supports the vision. The roadmap includes more than just technological advancements. The biggest initial hurdles will come in the form of organization and process. In addition, a strong visionary and leader will provide the right combination skills to lead the effort and ask the right questions to achieve success.

Part of the roadmap will inevitably include an evaluation of colocation providers. Before you get started down this path, it is important to understand the differences between wholesale and retail colocation providers, what they offer and what your responsibilities are. That last step is often lost as part of the evaluation process.

Truly understand what your requirements are. Space, power and bandwidth are just scratching the surface. Take a holistic view of your environment and portfolio. Understand what and how things will change when moving to colocation. This is as much a clear snapshot of your current situation, as it is where you’re headed over time.

TIME TO GET MOVING

Moving into colocation is a great first-step for many enterprises. It gets them ‘out of the data center’ business while still maintaining their existing portfolio intact. Colocation also provides a great way to move the maturity of an organization (and portfolio) toward cloud.

The evaluation process for colocation services is much different today from just 5 years ago. Today, some of the key differentiators are geographic coverage, network and ecosystem. But a stern warning: The criteria for each enterprise will be different and unique. What applies to one does not necessarily apply to the next. It’s important to clearly understand this and how each provider matches against the requirements.

The process takes time and effort. For this and a number of other reasons, it may take months to years even for the most aggressive movers. As such, it is best to started sooner than later before the train leaves the station.

Further Reading:

Applying Cloud Computing in the Enterprise

Cloud Application Matrix

A Workload is Not a Workload, is Not a Workload

LifeSize Tech Day 2013

Video conferencing trumps audio conferencing! Why you ask? More than 80% of communication is non-verbal. So, why don’t more people use video conferencing over audio? There are a number reasons…read on.

HISTORY

While some may feel video conferencing is passé, I attended LifeSize’s TechDay in Austin, TX and now have a different perspective. Founded in 2006 and later acquired by Logitech, LifeSize is a producer of video conferencing equipment and services. Historically, video conferencing has been relegated to two extremes: 1) Personal 1:1 communications and 2) Fixed and proprietary meeting room systems. And until recently, the only option was the fixed and propriety meeting room systems. Today, 70% of all video conference calls are point-to-point (1:1 or room-to-room). The great thing about personal systems (ie: Skype, Google Hangouts or FaceTime) is the ability to use them across multiple devices in just about any location. While some provide group video conferencing, they are often not as high quality as fixed systems with high-end cameras and high-speed data connections.

INCREASING PRODUCTIVITY

As people look for ways to increase productivity, an increase in video conferencing could provide a useful tool. Picking up on the non-verbal communication helps drive clarity and highlight nuances not otherwise visible with audio conferencing. Plus, we know that team interaction provides a greater opportunity for collaboration and team building. Video conferencing, while not exactly the same as being in the same room as other people, is coming very close. Even mobile solutions are providing an interesting spin on the ability to video conference from just about anywhere. By bridging the gap between the fixed systems and the personal systems, users can start up a video conference as easily as they would with a phone call.

SPECTRUM OF SOLUTIONS

Video conferencing sits within a spectrum of communication solutions and alone is a $3b market with a number of different solutions. The different solutions within the spectrum of communications are:

- Audio Conferencing: Commonly used for group meetings, but lacks the video interaction. Audio is easy to access and only requires a telephone to use. All of the backend infrastructure is hosted.

- Web Conferencing: Web conferencing offers the ability to share screens and present documents in a one-to-many fashion. Some audio collaboration may exist, but only limited video or sharing bi-directional.

- Video Conferencing: Provides the ability to interact with both audio and video. It provides attendees to interact with each other visually. Video conferencing itself spans a wide range of needs from 1:1 personal video conferencing to high quality video required when connecting meeting rooms together.

- Telepresence: Similar to Video Conferencing, telepresence provide a very high quality way for multiple rooms to participate in meetings. Telepresence carries a hefty price tag and is best geared for connecting entire rooms of people together.

LIFESIZE PORTFOLIO

The LifeSize product portfolio covers a wide space from their smaller Passport Series that supports a single high-definition (HD) display to their flagship Icon series which supports Dual HD displays along with a myriad of other features. LifeSize even offers a video Softphone solution too. While many of the solutions require infrastructure on premises to support video calls, LifeSize is starting to offer a Hosted Infrastructure option.

Many of the existing solutions on the market today may use standards to communicate between end points, but they don’t integrate well with competing solutions. That becomes evident if you want to start a video conference session between companies that may have standardized on different solutions. LifeSize has taken a different path by leveraging standards to provide interoperability with other competing solutions.

Two factors govern the success of any given solution:

1)     Interoperability: How well does the solution interact with other devices, solutions and products? Not only is it standards based, but how accessible is the solution to use?

2)     Critical Mass: Unlike the fixed systems of years past, newer systems need a critical mass of users to function well. Think Metcalfe’s Law here: The utility of a network increases at the square of the number of nodes within it. The more users using the system, the more valuable it becomes.

WEBRTC

An alternative and simple option would be to launch a video conferencing session in a browser. Google and others are working on that via the WebRTC movement. Today, the browser of choice for WebRTC is Google Chrome. But hopefully that will span out to include other browsers like Internet Explorer, Firefox and Safari. Will WebRTC replace video conferencing? Probably not as it is not able to “ring” someone.

HOSTED SOLUTIONS

It was a bit disappointing that LifeSize’s efforts are not centered around their hosted offering. At least not yet. We know that the market is moving away from on-premises equipment and my point of view is that LifeSize should move full-steam in that direction too.

Another opportunity might be for service providers to host the solution for small medium business (SMB) clients. It could provide an interesting market to help augment LifeSize’s existing hosted offering. However, at this time, LifeSize explicitly forbids multi-tenant use of their solution.

IN SUMMARY

While video conferencing may have been around for some time, I believe we are just starting a to see its mass adoption. It is in the relatively early stages as behaviors change to accept starting a video call just like one would an audio call. The adoption of personal solutions will help change this behavior and in turn help open up video conferencing more broadly in the workplace.

Today, LifeSize offers a great portfolio of solutions with both good quality at an interesting price point. As their hosted solution develops further, it will be interesting to see LifeSize’s adoption in the marketplace.

The Plumbing of Cloud Computing

Over the past several years, the conversation about cloud computing inevitably comes back to the technology and connections between systems. It includes the systems, storage, network and interconnection components that make up the cloud environment. In essence, the ‘plumbing’ of cloud computing.

If we use the analogy of plumbers and water systems to cloud computing, the pictures becomes a bit clearer. The pipes and water systems that carry the water from the reservoirs that store, carry and deliver the water to homes and businesses are analogous to data centers, systems, storage and networking solutions.

The water itself with its quality, temperature, mineral content and such are analogous to the applications and services that leverage cloud computing as their delivery mechanism.

Do users care about the pipes that carry the water? No. They care about the quality and attributes of the water.

The users who benefit from the applications and services delivered via cloud computing care little about this plumbing. Why? They’re far removed from how the applications and services relate to the individual nuances between solutions.

There are those that believe users should understand more about the underlying technology. That’s like saying that a consumer of water should understand the differences between a 45 degree bend, nipple, pressure regulator and the rest. The consumer doesn’t want or need to know the differences. There are specialists that understand what the consumer wants and knows how to deliver it. They don’t burden the consumer with having to understand the backend.

Even with cloud computing there is a concept of service providers. Sure, the water systems that we plug our homes and businesses into are service providers. In the water industry, it includes those that deliver bottled water to our homes and businesses. Turn on the service when we need it, turn it off when we don’t. Vary the volume, number of instances and locations we want the service to best meet the consumer’s demand. But that doesn’t mean that the consumer has to understand how the water got from the ground (in the case of spring water) and into the bottle sitting in their home/ business.

The bottom line is that we need to separate the different roles focus on the end product. In the case of water, it’s the quality and attributes of the water. In the case of cloud computing, it’s the applications and services that the consumer accesses. Leave the plumbing details behind the scenes to the experts in their field and don’t confuse the roles.

Thanks to Tom Lounibos (@lounibos) and Jake Kaldenbaugh (@jakewk) for the inspiration for this post.