Cloud for the Agile Enterprise 2.0

An ‘agile enterprise’ seizes the opportunities that cloud computing creates to transform business models, value chains and customer and supplier interactions. The heart of an agile enterprise is based on an open cloud architecture that includes both the IaaS, PaaS and SaaS layers. Developments are fast, but open cloud architecture is not yet an accepted reality.

In 1947 Ole Kirk Christiansen started producing plastic building blocks from his company Lego: blocks with round nubs and hollow at the top, so that the blocks could be connected to each other. In 1957 Lego patented an important improvement: by placing tubes in the underside of the stones, they could be connected in more ways. That became the LEGO stone as we know it today. Who has not grown up in his younger years?

Actually, in the course of the years, not much changed the Lego products. Nobody else could manufacture and market Lego-like stones. Even when the patent expired after twenty years, there was no competition, nor of any product innovation.

When Lego felt the hot breath of the Canadian competitor Mega Brands in 1999, Lego appealed to European trademark law. But according to the European judge, something that has a technical function, such as a building block, can not be a protected brand. And that cleared the way; Mega Brands was allowed to bring similar building blocks onto the market that also fit the ‘real’ Lego bricks. And Lego itself? They started new product innovations such as Lego-Technic, Mindstorms, Friends, Star Wars, Ninjago, Harry Potter, Belville and so on.

Innovation

What is the now message? Actually a very simple one: open standards ensure interoperability and stimulate innovation. And that fact also applies to cloud computing. Cloud computing creates exceptional opportunities for organizations to transform business models, value chains and customer and supplier interactions. Success of organizations is increasingly dependent on the ability to take the opportunities offered by this, and of course to do that faster than the competitors. In this case one also speaks of an ‘agile enterprise’.

The heart of an agile enterprise is based on the rapidly developing open cloud architecture. This architecture was initially developed as a result of technological advances, improved integration and standardization of virtualization and automated management. Recently, this development has gained an accelerating impulse as a result of business requirements that call for radical improvements in data center operations, in productivity of developers and in agility of application life cycles.

As defined by the National Institute of Standards & Technology (NIST), IaaS includes the ability to manage all infrastructure resources in a resource pool, with self-provisioning, rapid elasticity and measuring used resources. Virtualization is an essential building block, but no more than that. Once all infrastructure resources can be automatically provisioned and managed as services, the datacenter can be converted into a ‘software defined environment’ (SDE). This abstracts networking, storage and computing power into an infrastructure service. In order to achieve interoperability, portability and service integration across SDE’s, use must use (formal but also implicit) standards.

Conculsion

Interestingly, the above paragraphs are taken from the blog post Open, open, open it should be! I wrote back in 2013 together with Marc Steenbergen. Yes, five years ago. What can we learn from this? Portability, interoperability and service integration are still key topics on the agenda of organizations moving to cloud. However, what has changed is the technical implementation, primarily that of portability.

Where five years back the holy grale of portabilty was thought to be open source IaaS components, this has drastically shifted ‘one level up’ to container technology such as Kubernetes. Sure still many workloads are much easier to migrate using services such as VMware on Cloud. However, for all newly developed cloud native applications containers are now the common standard to implement portability.

Interested to see where we’ll stand five years from now on the other two hot topics; interoperability and service integration.

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