I continue to bet on Cloud Computing (I am not referring to the horse that won the Preakness Stakes ahead of ‘Classic Empire’) but as I place that bet … my assumption … is that the various major industry players will continue to work together in a meaningful way toward the progressive standardization of cloud technologies.
Not too long ago (well … it feels that way at least ..), I was at the Red Hat Summit event in Boston and I was reflecting on the complex network of alliances, partnerships and relationships that have shaped the evolution of the IT landscape for decades. Customer demand has often driven unlikely alliances among rivals that had to cooperate to meet the needs of their customers.
Cloud is no exception. As cloud native applications continue to proliferate, a common fabric is required to ensure interoperability across multicloud environments. With the introduction of containers, tangible progress has been made in this direction. For example, the Open Container Initiative intends to create ‘open industry standards around container formats and runtime’. More notably, organizations like the Cloud Native Computing Foundation want to “create and drive the adoption of a new computing paradigm that is optimized for modern distributed systems environments capable of scaling to tens of thousands of self-healing multi-tenant nodes.” And OpenStack has been promoting ‘wide adoption of an open-source, open-standards cloud’ for quite some time.
However, most of you would agree that we are still far from what can be characterized as truly open, standards-based and interoperable multicloud environments. It will take time, but for cloud to continue to sustain its growth trajectory, this level of cooperation is an important requirement in my mind. This is also why we continue to be actively involved in many of these initiatives along with our partners.
And this is also why one of the key tenets of our cloud strategy and portfolio relies on our partner ecosystem.
There are at least a couple of facets associated with our partner ecosystem:
- A set of technology partnerships to help drive standards, innovation and ultimately value for the entire industry. Think of our collaboration with INTEL, Docker, Red Hat, NetApp, Microsoft, SAP and countless other vendors equally important to our customers’ success
- A broader, potentially more distributed and complex network of collaborators who can help us deliver complete solutions to our customers across the globe. Think of our partners holding the Master Cloud Builder qualification, or our partners part of the Cloud and Managed Services Program able to offer hundreds of Cisco-Powered cloud services today.
While I was giving presentations at the Red Hat Summit in the Cisco and INTEL booths -reviewing some of our Cisco Cloud and OpenStack related offerings – and even before then while co-hosting a webcast with INTEL representatives about our Cisco Business Cloud Advisor framework, I have been able to experience (once again) the critical importance that our partner ecosystem continues to have to help our customers retain control and choice.
And a distributed, rich and vibrant partner ecosystem is extremely important and not only from a pure technological point of view. For example, we know that one of the major barriers that IT leaders face as they try to improve the business impact of cloud adoption in their organizations is tied to skills. In fact, there is a major talent gap that separates those organizations that have been able to maximize their cloud benefits from those still attempting to do that. Most of the emerging technologies – be that containers, microservices architectures – and even OpenStack continue to be characterized by a significant shortage of expertise. Ironically, that ‘vendor lock-in’ avoidance that prompted organizations to embrace many of these technologies reincarnates into another form of ‘lock-in.’ Entire IT organizations can become overly dependent on the skillsets that only a handful of their employees possess. What happens when they leave? And more importantly to what extent do you want to invest in these technologies and the human capital required to make them fully operational in your environments?
Ultimately, you may want the option to ‘partner’ with other vendors who can help you manage your risk and help you make more efficient use of your capital. And this is exactly why Cisco and its vast partner ecosystem represent a formidable asset that can extend your IT value chain. Our partners can help you complement your existing skillsets, guide your multicloud journey and ultimately allow you to determine on a case by case basis if you want to rely on your internal capabilities or find alternative ways to meet your needs. As you routinely evaluate your vendors, please add this element to your selection process.