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Bringing the Cloud Closer to You

Frank Kenney
Think Tank with Frank Kenney

Welcome to Think Tank with Frank Kenney

With decades of analyst and integration industry experience, Frank Kenney is a fountain of knowledge on all things tech. Now, he aims to share that awareness with you. Come back every other Thursday for your biweekly dose of thought leadership in this blog from one of technology’s most insightful thinkers and gain perspective on a variety of topics ranging from what’s happening in integration today to what’s on the horizon, poised to disrupt the integration space going forward.

We continue to look at the cloud as something that is far away from us, happening elsewhere, out of reach. Nothing could be further from the truth because we are surrounded by the cloud, the world we live in is cloudy.

In an effort to bring companies and organizations into the next generation of computing, we have fought to convince them that they need to embrace the cloud. We have tried to convince them that there is a benefit to taking their “stuff” and putting it up somewhere. But what if we had been going about it all wrong? What if we said we wanted them to shift how they were storing their files, shift the infrastructure that was running their ERP, shift the resources responsible for managing their e-commerce?

Is that easier? Is that something that’s more consumable? Is that something that the 30 year EDI veteran would be more comfortable with?

Bringing Down the Cloud

Let’s stop the conversation about bringing people up to the cloud, and instead, let’s talk about bringing the cloud to them. Where things happen continues to be a meaningless distinction that forces us to think the way that we’ve always thought. That there is some tangible difference between their servers and mine. A more meaningful distinction is consumption. How do I consume that application or those services? And if there are services, can I genuinely consume them without knowing how they’re implemented? Do I need to know how they’re implemented? And what is the value of knowing how they’re implemented?

There are several ways that you can configure, host, execute, and govern a B2B process. I have a desk. And underneath that desk, I have a server that is running the latest version of Windows Server. Additionally, I have some software that receives all the AS2 messages coming in from my partners and suppliers. It also sends all the AS2 messages out to these partners. Every few months or so, I VNC into the server and see if there are any updates that need to be deployed.

It’s a pain but I have immediate access to the server and the software, I can reboot the server, I can quit and restart the software, and I can pull logs as needed. I know how the OS and application are configured, and I can also create, update, and remove any profiles reasonably easily. When it comes to new partners, I handle all the aspects of onboarding, specifically the exchange of digital certificates, IP information, credentials, and port numbers for connectivity. In our industry, this can be seen as:

•    On-premises (On-Prem) because the technology is all physically at my locations
•    Self-service because I am performing some of, if not all of the setup, management, and governance

Let’s take the same scenario but make it somewhat cloudy. Now the server is sitting in a room down the hallway. I still VNC into it, but now I have no access to the administrative functions of the OS, nor do I need to because the operations team is responsible. There may not even be one server as the load may be spread across multiple servers.  I can access all of the functions of the application, and I can also uninstall and reinstall the app. We call this:

•    On-prem, because the technology is still physically at my location.
•    Self-service because I’m performing some, if not all, of the setup, management, and governance of the application only.
•    The platform is being delivered as a private cloud service. It’s private because it’s not open to the rest of the world, only my organization can use it, it’s a service because I don’t know, nor care how the technology is implemented, only how it’s consumed; it’s there when you need it. And finally, cloudy because it’s elastic and scalable and accessible using Internet technologies.

Let’s alter some things here. The servers are owned by Google, and we have no idea where they are. I pay Google every month. I use my browser to access the server with limited administrative functionality (mostly around access control and functions needed by the AS2 application), and I can access all of the functions of the application, including uninstalling and reinstalling the application. We call this:

•    A private cloud service. Private because it’s not open to the rest of the world, only my organization can use it, it’s a service because I don’t know, nor care how the technology is implemented, I only care about how you consume it; that’s it’s there when you need it. And finally, cloudy because of its elastic and scalable and accessible using Internet technologies.
•    Self-service because I’m performing some, if not all, of the setup, management, and governance of the application only.

See what I did there? Same words, different deployment, but most important - the same outcomes. I’m still consuming it in the same way. The consumption is all that matters. So let’s go back to my original point. Discussions about where things happen are becoming less relevant, instead talk about my experience in consuming the service. My experience is clicking on Safari, taking a sip of coffee, clicking a link, taking another sip, entering my credentials, and doing my work. So how can we make our customer’s consumption experiences better?

About Frank Kenney

A former Gartner analyst and current market evangelist and strategy director, Frank Kenney is widely credited as the creator of the term managed file transfer (MFT), and was the first to write about and discuss its modern architecture, platform, and use cases. Previously, Frank served more than 10 years as a research director at Gartner, where he defined the MFT, B2B gateway, SOA governance, and cloud service brokerage (CSB) markets.

Before joining Cleo, Frank held leadership roles in product marketing, aligning vision and strategy with integration products, services, and messaging. As an independent IT consultant, Frank helped technology providers create, validate, and implement a variety of business strategies.

Frank holds a degree in music technology from the Center for the Media Arts, holds degrees and certifications in digital multimedia and instructional technologies, and studied English and computer science at the University of Tampa.

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