Sramana Mitra: We are actually also running a Thought Leaders in Big Data series, which is a very successful series. The big data and cloud stories are interlaced stories.
John Michelsen: Exactly. You just said better what I was trying to say. You aren’t going to think about big data as “OK, let’s go chop down a huge forest and build a huge data center of our own and start thinking about how to store our big data.” In fact, our customers are thinking, “OK, I need access to computing utility models so that I can accomplish my big data activity.” Those are just two simple examples.
SM: We also do a series called Thought Leaders in Mobile and Social. The whole mobile and social world is also colliding with the cloud. All of these trends are going at full throttle, and they are all going over one another.
JM: That is right. Recently I had a conversation about trends with a few high-level executives at one of our events. I made the point of saying, “We have to talk about cloud. Cloud is no longer a trend.” In fact, I had already introduced big data, mobility, the Internet of things, and a few other trends. So I asked, “How have we not been talking about cloud from the get-go here? In what way would we ever think about building a new mobile platform and trying to predetermine, prewire and prebuild capacity for it? Would we not just be putting an elastic cluster into Amazon or Terremark to be providing that function?” What we call trends now are just built on top of the cloud presumption.
SM: I agree with that. You have a big presence in the IT operations part of the ecosystem, is that right?
SM: Can you talk a little about what you see in that segment? Obviously IT operations’ role has changed quite a bit because of the concept of the cloud. In some cases you are talking about cloud vendors that are managing lots of servers and deliver bare services through a data center. In some cases people are managing out of their private clouds, public clouds or hybrid clouds situation. What are you seeing in that practice that is interesting?
JM: It is nothing less than a renaissance. Just three or four years ago we thought of traditional IT operations and management. It is completely different now. There has been a heavy commoditization of the low level of bare metal provisioning, basic monitoring, and all of the simple tasks we used to be so worried about. This is what we would traditionally consider to be runbook automation. That is now all passé. That is not the challenge going forward. That stuff is now commodity and it is easy and baked in to the virtualization platform or the cloud provider itself.
What is interesting now are our customers’ composite applications are spamming all infrastructures. It is not that they are turning off their private data centers; rather, they are doing the new things in new infrastructures and they are letting most of the growth go into a wide variety. From an IT management point of view, we now have to be able to manage, monitor, and secure applications across an Amazon, Terremark, a private hyper-V based or VMware-based environment. It is one logical service or application we are monitoring and managing. It is a fantastic new problem space, and we are the leader in this space. It is for us to solve. This is the challenge we need to take to the market, and we are working hard on it and we have customers whom we are taking with us – those early adopters who embrace this heterogeneous hybrid IT world.
It is a fine time to be in this space. It would have been fair to say that is was a little tired years ago, but it is an absolute renaissance now. If you think even beyond this – I mentioned security a minute ago – security is completely abandoned. Our world is shifting from an application-centric point of view to end users, who have always been around applications – whether it is mobile or browser based. But more and more of the IT challenge to build, deliver, and maintain these applications is around APIs. Think about the evolution of Salesforce.com, selling a CRM application into a platform and a series of APIs that developers now use to create applications and include CRM functionality. That is a revolutionary movement that has caused APIs to be a first-class citizen on the Internet, and it has caused the security of APIs to become a critical thing.
The whole notion of how to build, deploy and promote applications is now a huge space. What used to be the case – and again we are talking only a few years ago – is that we built an application in development within our customer base, fully aware of what the target platform was, where it was, who in the data center would be managing it, etc. Today, this highly composite nature and the ability to move workloads from one to another in such an easy fashion create a space around automated release. Therefore, I have to be able to provide an application release automation capability. We call this continuous delivery. Then you need the ability to create technology for customers to do that as opposed to assuming it is just a simple task. It is now itself a complex and heterogeneous cross-platform – a hybrid of public and private cloud. There are lots of areas of opportunity open for us as a vendor to deliver tremendous value to customers.