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Mass TLC Cloud Summit: Top 10 Key Points from Keynotes

The Mass TLC Cloud Summit, “Doing the Cloud Right:  From the Real Practitioners,” was held on October 8.   A central theme echoed by each of the three keynote speakers was the extent to which cloud computing empowers business users to operate with the speed and agility they need, sometimes in spite of their colleagues in IT.  Here is a summary of each presenter’s discussion, a link to their presentations, and my Top 10 list of their key points:

Ariel Tseitlin, Director of Cloud Services for Netflix, led off the session.  Netflix uses an Amazon based public cloud to deliver 1 billion hours of content per month to 38 million viewers in 40 countries.  Netflix has built a highly scalable and available platform as a service to run this network, and has open sourced it as Netflix OSS.

Netflix is committed to moving all of its corporate systems to SaaS.  Email now runs on Google, instead of Exchange.  Expense management runs on Workday, instead of Concur.  Document sharing runs on Box, instead of on file servers.  Credit card and big data analytics will be the next to move.  Netflix’s reliance on SaaS and open sourcing of their OSS indicate their focus on their core business.  Their core competence is not in operating networks or running applications, but in delivering content.  And now, having made history as the first non-TV network to win an Emmy award (for “House of Cards” director David Fincher), Netflix can also add content creation as a strength.

Here are some of the key points from Ariel’s presentation.

  1. Prevent application failures by designing them right.  With a highly available architecture providing redundancy at multiple levels, Ariel focuses on the high probability failure modes.   Application failures are at the top of the list.  Ariel’s approach to reducing the likelihood of application failures is to ensure that developers run the applications they write, and take responsibility for any failures.   After a few wake-up calls in the middle of the night, application developers learn how to write more robust applications.
  2. Find problems and fix them fast.  Since Netflix has content as its core competence, not network operations, they don’t want to have to scale their 120 member operations team linearly as their service grows.  Pay people to build very smart alerts, not to monitor screens.  Build redundancy into the underlying infrastructure, so you can monitor services, not instances.
  3. Raise efficiency by using batch processing in low  resource consumption periods.   Netflix accounts for 1/3 of all North American peak period downstream internet traffic.  Peaks are about 10 times the trough.  Netflix uses Amazon reserved instances for base footprint and augments with bursting as needed.  They fill the troughs with batch loading.

Allison Mnookin, VP & General Manager of Intuit QuickBase, was next to take the stage at the Mass TLC Cloud Summit.  She discussed how cloud computing empowers business users to respond to customers by doing custom application development on their own, rather than having to rely on IT.   Her presentation built on the concepts of such business users, which Gartner refers to as  “citizen developers,” and Forrester calls “HEROs” (Highly Empowered and Resourceful Operatives).

In her presentation, Allison shared the results of Intuit QuickBase’s survey of 903 information workers in firms with more than 100 employees.

  1. 50% are acting on their own to build their own business applications, up from 33% in 2009.  Those feeling empowered by doing so grew directly from a reduction on those formerly feeling disenfranchised.
  2. Employees would consider switching jobs to find an environment with more freedom to develop.  28% of all employees would consider switching jobs, and 50% of so-called “rogue” employees would.
  3. Do-it-yourself (DIY) custom app development is significantly faster that relying on IT.  68% of DIYers take less than a week to design a custom web app, whereas 72% say it would take more than a month if they were to rely on an internal development team.

Michael Skok, General Partner, North Bridge Venture Partners was the last speaker to take the Mass TLC Cloud Summit stage.  His presentation covered results from the North Bridge 2013 Future of Cloud Computing Survey, conducted with GigaOM Research.

  1. The three drivers of overall cloud adoption, scalability, agility, and cost, remain consistent relative to last year’s survey.  There ARE differences, depending on the type of cloud service.  Organizations focused on agility and innovation are respectively 5x and 4x more likely to invest in SaaS than in legacy infrastructure.  For IaaS, those focused on shifting CAPEX to OPEX are 2.5x more likely to adopt IaaS than to invest in legacy infrastructure.
  2. As for inhibitors to cloud adoption, security concerns are easing (46% vs 55%), but cost concerns are growing (28% vs 20%).  The key concern is total cost of ownership, not just conversion of infrastructure CAPEX to OPEX.   68% say cloud has about the same or better TCO than traditional IT infrastructure, with the cloud advantage being predictability of spend, not necessarily the straight cost advantage.
  3. Cloud is currently used more extensively for business activities than IT activities.   At least 50% of respondents use four business applications (file sharing, business productivity, CRM, social) in a SaaS model.  No single SaaS IT application (backup, security, systems mgmt, help desk) was used by at least 50% of business respondents.  But this is trend will change, as six of the seven highest growing SaaS applications are in the IT area (big data, mobile, systems mgmt, back-up/DR/BC, help desk, security).
  4. The PaaS market is getting squeezed from above by SaaS players and from below by IaaS players as each build APIs to extend the capabilities of their offers.  This trend is consistent with the focus on APIs by both Intuit and Netflix.

What do you think?  Check out the presentations.   If you attended the MassTLC Cloud Summit, did you come away with different key points?  Let me know what you think.

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