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The oldest T-shirt in my collection bears the phrase “The Journey is the Destination”. It has been five years since I started working on cloud automation software for Private and Hybrid clouds, and while we have seen an increasing acceleration of technologies in play, operating models, consolidation and innovation, the customers I’ve had the most pleasure interacting with – the most successful customers I work with – still focus on the Journey. These successful cloud builders also concentrate on a few key topics in their journey, which I will tease out in this blog. Check your T-shirt collection folks, there might just be some nuggets of inspiration awaiting you…

It has been around a year since I last blogged about our management software and partner integrations at VMware. Since then I have been focusing on the cloud automation space and our new release: vRealize Automation 7.0. My work at VMware (the industry leader in cloud automation for enterprises) and working closely with many successful (and a few less successful deployments) over the years has given me valuable insights for success in the next generation of hybrid cloud. Below is an account of some of these insights.

Many years ago I noticed that successful cloud deployments depended strongly on the automation software, but also had these characteristics in common: a pragmatic/agile approach to their journey, a roadmap of their cloud instance capabilities, an appreciation of the management of change involved in moving their organization to the new model, a very strong cloud architect, and finally, a service-centric approach. Looking back on these, I believe we would all agree that they still hold true and form the basis of a philosophy for success. Beware the IT shop that does not address each of these items in a mindful manner…

I also noticed that many successful clouds had IT teams with several characteristics in common. These organizations invested in training, and did not entirely rely on vendors or third party service firms to build and maintain their cloud platforms. They also evolved their organizations to have new roles (and incentives) such as Program Manager, Cloud Architect, Service Designer, Workflow/Extensibility authors, and technology stack Architect/Engineer. They identified an Executive Sponsor who drove results fast, getting the cloud into production as soon as possible; sacrificing some functionality and features for speed. This pipeline of cloud functionality is pushed through development, testing, staging and production much like the application developers do with their code and applications. I have monthly meetings with many of these stakeholders and we often talk of the next steps in their cloud roadmap, such as how to engage developers more, leverage virtual networking, and have a true hybrid cloud across many cloud providers.

On the flip side, I have talked to some IT shops who have missed dates, tried to build fifteen integrations during VM provisioning, declared their choice of a cloud vendor a failure, never really got their lines of business to use their internal private cloud, and eventually never convinced the business and their VP that they got the value out of that investment.

How can two golfers walk off the same course with completely different scores and experiences? Could it be just the rub of the green? Or is their choice of club manufacturer, which club they choose, how much they practice, who they watch on TV, how risky they are in their shot (threading the trees or chipping out…) or was it their philosophy and what they optimized for? Many of these analogies have serious implications for cloud builders…

If I look out for key themes in the next two years for Private and Hybrid clouds, I see the following as essential areas of focus that cloud builders must get right:

The 5 Themes for Success in the Next Era of Hybrid Cloud:

5) “Know and engage your developers/lines-of-business.”  

I have observed an increasing push by hybrid cloud builders to focus more intensely on their lines-of-business. Those developers in the next building have increasingly more to say about what the hybrid cloud should look like, and if they aren’t heard, will take complete control of their destiny. We must increase focus on the APIs, the ontology, structure, and granularity. Those nouns and verbs are critical to adoption. Developers in many use cases will use the API, but they will also want a catalog of services, IaaS, IaaS ++, middleware as a service, branch office in a box, clinical trial in a box. Both the APIs and Catalog are based upon the right set of transportable blueprints. My “crystal ball” tells me that we will be defining an application blueprint by a set of metadata that will control placement, policy and optimization of the application under stress, and recover of resources when not in use. Not only will the hybrid cloud builder need to focus on provisioning for a variety of operational use cases dev/test, application operation, DevOps, but they will also need to heavily integrate with the application develop/test pipeline. Let also not forget about have a container and micro-service management capability in your cloud.

4) “Which Hybrid Cloud do you dream about?”

I am starting to hear about two key philosophies: 1) Normalized behavior across multiple vendors, and 2) Deep value from the service offers of just a few vendors. All too often I hear of hybrid cloud builders in the early phases of their cloud journey asking about workload migration. Migration of a running workload across clouds and compute, network, storage and security context is the Holy Grail. It is also a few years off of appearing in vendor offerings without a ton of professional services building brittle solutions. Going back to option 1, where you define a set of common behaviors for standardization, placement, and mobility while at the same time sacrificing some advanced capabilities. All cars have four wheels and a steering wheel – works well, but is perhaps a little monotonous. Alternatively… you could pick two of your favorite vendors and highly leverage all they have to offer, sacrificing mobility and standardization.  Makes for a more interesting life, at the expense of less standardization….

3) Guard, protect and make sure your metadata is mobile!

Customers from large and small companies are increasingly concerned about vendor lock in. No one wants their data to be held hostage. I do notice that while people want interoperability and portability, they don’t want to sacrifice capabilities. It’s a challenge for a cloud automation software team to provide their differentiation in capabilities, and at the same time make it portable. For Hybrid clouds, items like templates, workflows, catalog configuration and machine and application blueprints are needed to be portable between environments, between editions, and ultimately across different vendor solutions. Being able to import/export metadata and on board brownfield workloads is key. Standards such as Tosca can help.

2) Understand where your organization’s distinctive value is. Is it core capabilities or content?

When you assess and build cloud services for your customers, what is your value add? Are you engaging your customers – the lines-of-business? Are you engaging the customers of your customers? Are you providing commodity services or are you truly designing services that provide immediate value to the CEO of your company? How long do your users have to wait to get what they really want in the catalog? How many releases away is that? Most importantly, what is your philosophy for handing special “one-offs”? Do you have a pluggable service framework to accelerate those requests?

1) The Cloud Management Platform (CMP) should make your cloud admin’s job easy.

This past year with our vRealize Suite, we have been talking a lot about our CMP and how it is a game changer for cloud builders. I often refer to it as the ERP system for your cloud. In many ways it is a good analogy. ERP systems really run corporations’ business. A key concern is increasing the time to value of the CMP. The desire for an easy to use “cloud router” that automates and optimizes everything for the cloud admin and their customers in the business implies a lot of capabilities provided in an easy to deploy, manage and operate the platform. ERP systems also integrate to many other systems. So do CMPs. We want the “make it easy” button, but the more we bring forward our traditional processes and procedures, the harder the job for the cloud admin. We also expect the CMP to handle placement of workloads and ongoing optimization of them. The lines of business experience a well-run operation, providing the capabilities they need at the speed they demand.

For more information on our Cloud Management Platform, please check out our Management blog.