Q&A with Paul Strong: Part 2

March 10, 2015
Q&A with Paul Strong: Part 2

Cloud Expo Europe is about to kick off and VMware’s Paul Strong will take to the stage this week (March 12, Keynote Theatre, 12pm) to discuss “The Grand Challenge – Simplifying IT to Unleash Innovation”. We caught up with him in our previous blog post to find out what he’ll be discussing in his keynote. In the second part of our Q&A, Paul takes a closer look at how and why businesses should look at simplifying their IT.

1. With new and emerging technologies, isn’t IT in fact getting more complicated?  How easy is it to simplify? Where do companies get started?

Is IT getting more complicated?  Yes and no!  Certainly the technology underpinning IT is getting more complicated.  But that complexity doesn’t have to be exposed to the consumers of applications or services.  Think about your smartphone.  Do you care what scale process was used to fabricate the processor inside it?  Or how many cores it has?  Or what types of antenna it includes?  Probably not!  You don’t need to understand any of these in order to get the value of the device – i.e. you can make and receive calls, and access the applications.  Of course some geeks, myself included, do like to know.  But the point is that we don’t have to, in order to get the most value from the smartphone.

So how do we make IT simpler? Well there are two core areas of the strategy:

1. Make the delivery of non-differentiating IT a commodity, and someone else’s problem.

2. Separate the applications that are left, from the infrastructure and automate their management.

The first area is really about leveraging the cloud and cloud providers to source non-differentiating IT, i.e. infrastructure, platforms and software, as a commodity.  Few enterprises are differentiated through owning infrastructure.  We just have it through habit (legacy) and because we don’t yet trust our data to be somewhere else.  So really we want to get out of the business of having to buy software and hardware that doesn’t support business differentiation, and we want to avoid hiring the armies of curators required to make it all work.

The second is about automation.  If we can automate the life-cycle of applications and services, then we can make their delivery and management much more reliable, and much more rapid, as well as cheaper.  Automating application portfolios is hard.  Historically the average large enterprise has thousands of applications.  Each has to be purchased or created, architected, integrated, tested (again and again), installed, monitored, managed, and backed up, etc.  And you need people, processes and tools to do all of this.  It basically does not scale.  But if you can separate your applications from the infrastructure, and put them into a container (or a small number of types of container), such as a Virtual Machine, Virtual Network or Linux Container, then you can automate the life-cycle of that container. By automating the life-cycle of the container, you effectively automate the lifecycle of all of the applications you could ever put in that container. This is the basis of the Software Defined Data Center (SDDC).

2. Where do you see the world of cloud in the next five years? What will be the biggest changes to affect the IT industry?

For the IT industry at large, IT will shift from being a supporting function to being an enabling function.  For years CIOs have needed to speak the language of the business they are a part of.  Going forward, business leaders will need to at least understand the role of technology at the heart of their business, because if they don’t they’re exposed.

I expect to see enormous disruption due to the inherent asymmetry I mentioned before.  The essentially friction-free access to technology means that technology can be used as a weapon to drive disruption; a weapon of mass disruption if you like.   The brave will use technology to question the underlying assumptions of existing business models.  If they succeed, then they will change industries, one at a time.  We’ve already seen it in retail, in media, and in IT itself.  Disruption is coming to an enterprise near you, sometime soon!  Well, eventually.  These shifts are of course attenuated by local geo-political and legal considerations.

3. Is this the year of the hybrid cloud?

Yes.  IT is already an on-prem and off-prem portfolio play, whether that is with respect to infrastructure, platforms or software.  What we now see is a maturing landscape that is enabling organizations to have a real choice about how they deliver and consume IT.

From an infrastructure perspective, once you separate applications from the underlying infrastructure, through virtualization at one layer of the stack or other, you now have a choice about where to put those applications, how to provide business continuity for them etc.  This is the underlying premise of the Software Defined Data Center, as I mentioned earlier.  Of course the great opportunity is that once you’ve decoupled your applications, you now have a choice about where to run them – in your own SDDC, i.e. in a private Cloud, or in a public Cloud, thus VMware’s SDDCs, through vCloud Air, and in our service provider partners’ SDDCs, through the vCloud Air Network.  From a VMware perspective our goal is to enable our customers to take full advantage of the capabilities that the SDDC and that Cloud provides, all whilst leveraging their existing investment in VMware technology, people with VMware skills and processes.   We call this the hybrid Cloud, because it leverages both public and private Cloud services.  We’ve been steadily rolling out more vCloud Air locations and expanding our vCloud Air Network partner ecosystem steadily, and I think we provide an excellent, and ever growing, set of choices for our customers.

4. Living in the US, do you see any big differences in the conversations you are having with clients about their IT transformation, or are they pretty universal?

The conversations are universal.  What varies are the starting points, destinations, and attenuation, which vary by enterprise, industry and legal domain.  Change won’t always appear to occur quickly, but when we look back it will feel almost instantaneous.

We’ll be at Cloud Expo later this week, and will be covering all of the main announcements on our blog and on Twitter, so stay tuned!

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