Welcome!

Cloud Expo Authors: Jason Bloomberg, Pat Romanski, Kevin Jackson, Carmen Gonzalez, David Skok

Related Topics: Cloud Expo, SOA & WOA, Virtualization, Web 2.0

Cloud Expo: Blog Feed Post

Cloud Brokerage: The Immovable Asset Becomes Movable

Cloud brokering has little to do with technology

This is Part IV in a series by 6fusion Co-founder and CEO John Cowan on the emerging trend of Cloud Brokerage and the impact it will have on the technology industry and markets. Be sure to check out Part I of the series here, Part II here, and Part III here.

The IT industry to me looks a lot like the commercial airline industry did many years ago and I think the latter is rife with lessons about the power of a true commodity market.

For those of you keeping score, late last year American Airlines’ parent AMR declared bankruptcy.  The Chapter 11 filing of the once largest airline in the world brought to a conclusion the era of disintegration for the legacy commercial airline market.  You can argue about the principal cause for the airline industry’s demise, but ultimately it came down to the fact that the market leaders in the industry refused to adapt to the changes going on around it while others embraced it and found creative ways to rise to the top.

Flying around on airplanes became a mass-market product over the last 40 years.  And with a mass market product comes mass market demands – particularly around pricing.   Incumbent airlines had the benefit of established market share but the trouble of managing a return on investment in infrastructure in a changing financial dynamic.  The signs were there in the 1990’s but the dramatic collapse really took place over the last 10 years or so, which I will come back to later.

The cloud computing industry is structured and organized very much like the airline industry in the years leading up to its rapid disintegration.  There are a handful of incumbents that some say are untouchable and then there’s everybody else in the market.

Amazon Web Services (AWS) is one such incumbent.

Competitors to AWS are really not unlike the competitors in the airline industry.    Competition centers on squeezing more value into the same dollar with hopes of swaying customer loyalty.   This is further compounded by the arrival of new entrants aggressively positioned to challenge the market leaders.  I see no difference between the airline that boasts three extra inches of legroom in coach and the cloud operator that boasts an extra 9 on an SLA.  This is simply the nature of an increasingly competitive market.

Let me get back to the dramatic collapse of the airline industry for a moment.

After careful examination of the commodity market demand, Southwest Airlines determined the answer to challenging its industry peers had little to do with product innovation.  Instead, it had much more to do with financial innovation.   How did they do this?  Among some other things, they began a sophisticated program to hedge their projected jet fuel consumption.   Hedging jet fuel was nothing new to the industry, but Southwest made it the centerpiece of an operating strategy.  If you want, you can read an extended analysis of the Southwest case study here.  In short, their strategy allowed them to accurately forecast their future costs, and hence offer aggressive pricing to undercut the market, whilst remaining profitable in a market forcibly applying downward pricing pressure.  It was a commodity market that allowed Southwest to give the market what it wanted – a low cost, no frills flying experience.

For an airline, Southwest’s strategy is about as radical as it gets.

It is telling at this point to illustrate the reaction of the incumbent vendors in the industry when Southwest made its move.   “I don’t think any sensible airline believes that by hedging it saves on its fuel bills,” they said.

As history proved, they totally missed the point.

Southwest had worked out that it could employ hedging strategies to make the derivatives market for jet fuel work in its favor.  They dramatically reorganized their financial operation in order to turn the process of commoditization into a dangerous market weapon.

Which brings me back to the subject of compute, network and storage resources.   If a derivatives market for jet fuel could underpin the upheaval of the airline business, could the same thing be possible in the market for cloud computing?  Not only do I think it possible, I believe it is going to happen.

Not too long ago I was chatting with Joe Weinman, author of Cloudonomics, in his Manhattan office.  As I explained my perspective on the industry we both spend a lot of our time thinking about he interrupted me to ask if I had ever heard of Dr. James Mitchell.  I hadn’t.  James, as it turns out, is a former Morgan Stanley commodities trader who now runs what would appear to be the world’s first “cloud broker-dealer”.

Something James is not is a “technology guy”.  Doctorate in physics, yes – IT background, not so much.  As far as he is concerned, cloud computing infrastructure as a service is just another commodity like electricity, coal, oil or potatoes, and should be treated as such.

Sound familiar?  In Part II: The Cloud Vendor and the Agnostic Intermediary I characterized the evolution of the cloud brokerage model as one that would see two distinct groups playing a role: Those that dealt with the business of compute and those that dealt with the technical organization of compute.

When I met him he expressed his frustration at having to trade compute, network and storage resources in an inefficient manner because each providers’ cloud offering was separated by qualitative differentiation.  You trade a “barrel of oil”, a “kWh of electricity” or a “kilogram of coal”.  “So what is the unit of cloud computing?” he asked.  He made the reverse of the usual analogy between electricity and cloud computing.  He said, “can you imagine letting your electricity supplier bill you for your electricity using a measurement that they have made, using a meter that they invented, and then quoting it to you in a unit that they have pulled out of thin air, that cannot be compared to their competitors?  Ridiculous!”

Exactly.

James and I agree on two fundamental principles on which the future of the cloud industry will be based.

The first is that cloud brokering has little to do with technology.  Let’s consider an illustration of my point (techie readers, you might want to tune out for a moment). Provided that there is an independent third party who is able to measure what gets consumed on various different cloud providers, then it is possible to calculate a reference price for a reference quantity.  Even if what a customer actually uses is different from the standard measurement, this does not matter as the variation in the different pricing between a “special” cloud infrastructure and a “standard” cloud infrastructure will vary slowly compared to the price for the “standard” cloud infrastructure.  This is akin to proxy hedging a particular type of coal with a financial settlement on an API-2 index price for standard coal delivered in, say, Amsterdam (to give a very specific analogy).

The second is that the capability to trade cloud like a real commodity will create a world where the immovable IT asset can become movable for the first time in history.  IT is arguably among the single biggest sunk cost in any modern enterprise and the albatross that hobbles disrupters from challenging market incumbents in the emerging cloud computing industry.  As I illustrated in Part III: The Market Unified, more than $1 Trillion is spent every year on compute, network and storage resources.  Nearly all of this spend is done in a fixed capitalization structure that sits on the balance sheet for years.

Every business that consumes a significant commodity resource speculates and hedges its overall position.   It is clear to me that if the opportunity to establish liquidity in IT becomes real for the modern enterprise and market brokers, compute, network and storage resources will become to the emerging service provider what jet fuel is to an airline operator.   And when that happens, you will want to be Southwest, not AMR.  This is a reality that few cloud incumbents see coming and, like the once powerful commercial airliners, a dynamic few will choose to embrace.

A commodity exchange cannot exist without transaction velocity and price volatility, and brokers do just that in any other example.   This is precisely why the role of “cloud broker” will become so important in the years ahead.  This is why, as I’ve stated so often in the past, “the future of the cloud brokerage belongs to a new cadre of agnostic intermediaries that will enable a true utility computing marketplace to flourish.”  And when the modern enterprise or resource supplier can apply the principles of financial trading to the IT industry we are going to see a force capable of completely redefining everything we currently think we know about the business of technology delivery.

Considering that new thinkers like Dr. James Mitchell are already on the scene I wouldn’t go making any bets that what we see is merely a distant future.

The post The Immovable Asset Becomes Movable appeared first on 6fusion.

More Stories By John Cowan

John Cowan is co-founder and CEO of 6fusion. John is credited as 6fusion's business model visionary, bridging concepts and services behind cloud computing to the IT Service channel. In 2008, he along with his 6fusion collaborators successfully launched the industry's first single unit of meausurement for x86 computing, known as the Workload Allocation Cube (WAC). John is a 12 year veteran of business and product development within the IT and Telecommunications sectors and a graduate of Queen's University at Kingston.

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


@CloudExpo Stories
“DevOps is really about the business. The business is under pressure today, competitively in the marketplace to respond to the expectations of the customer. The business is driving IT and the problem is that IT isn't responding fast enough," explained Mark Levy, Senior Product Marketing Manager at Serena Software, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at DevOps Summit, held Nov 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
DevOps Summit 2015 New York, co-located with the 16th International Cloud Expo - to be held June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY - announces that it is now accepting Keynote Proposals. The widespread success of cloud computing is driving the DevOps revolution in enterprise IT. Now as never before, development teams must communicate and collaborate in a dynamic, 24/7/365 environment. There is no time to wait for long development cycles that produce software that is obsolete...
“We help people build clusters, in the classical sense of the cluster. We help people put a full stack on top of every single one of those machines. We do the full bare metal install," explained Greg Bruno, Vice President of Engineering and co-founder of StackIQ, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 15th Cloud Expo, held Nov 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
The cloud is becoming the de-facto way for enterprises to leverage common infrastructure while innovating and one of the biggest obstacles facing public cloud computing is security. In his session at 15th Cloud Expo, Jeff Aliber, a global marketing executive at Verizon, discussed how the best place for web security is in the cloud. Benefits include: Functions as the first layer of defense Easy operation –CNAME change Implement an integrated solution Best architecture for addressing network-l...
Mobile commerce traffic is surpassing desktop, yet less than 20% of sales in the U.S. are mobile commerce sales. In his session at 15th Cloud Expo, Dan Franklin, Segment Manager, Commerce, at Verizon Digital Media Services, defined mobile devices and discussed how next generation means simplification. It means taking your digital content and turning it into instantly gratifying experiences.
“In the past year we've seen a lot of stabilization of WebRTC. You can now use it in production with a far greater degree of certainty. A lot of the real developments in the past year have been in things like the data channel, which will enable a whole new type of application," explained Peter Dunkley, Technical Director at Acision, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held Nov 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Windstream, a leading provider of advanced network and cloud communications, has been named “Silver Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 9–11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York, NY. Windstream (Nasdaq: WIN), a FORTUNE 500 and S&P 500 company, is a leading provider of advanced network communications, including cloud computing and managed services, to businesses nationwide. The company also offers broadband, p...
The major cloud platforms defy a simple, side-by-side analysis. Each of the major IaaS public-cloud platforms offers their own unique strengths and functionality. Options for on-site private cloud are diverse as well, and must be designed and deployed while taking existing legacy architecture and infrastructure into account. Then the reality is that most enterprises are embarking on a hybrid cloud strategy and programs. In this Power Panel at 15th Cloud Expo (http://www.CloudComputingExpo.com...
Verizon Enterprise Solutions is simplifying the cloud-purchasing experience for its clients, with the launch of Verizon Cloud Marketplace, a key foundational component of the company's robust ecosystem of enterprise-class technologies. The online storefront will initially feature pre-built cloud-based services from AppDynamics, Hitachi Data Systems, Juniper Networks, PfSense and Tervela. Available globally to enterprises using Verizon Cloud, Verizon Cloud Marketplace provides a one-stop shop fo...
Leysin American School is an exclusive, private boarding school located in Leysin, Switzerland. Leysin selected an OpenStack-powered, private cloud as a service to manage multiple applications and provide development environments for students across the institution. Seeking to meet rigid data sovereignty and data integrity requirements while offering flexible, on-demand cloud resources to users, Leysin identified OpenStack as the clear choice to round out the school's cloud strategy. Additional...
The Internet of Things is not new. Historically, smart businesses have used its basic concept of leveraging data to drive better decision making and have capitalized on those insights to realize additional revenue opportunities. So, what has changed to make the Internet of Things one of the hottest topics in tech? In his session at @ThingsExpo, Chris Gray, Director, Embedded and Internet of Things, discussed the underlying factors that are driving the economics of intelligent systems. Discover ...
"Our premise is Docker is not enough. That's not a bad thing - we actually love Docker. At ActiveState all our products are based on open source technology and Docker is an up-and-coming piece of open source technology," explained Bart Copeland, President & CEO of ActiveState Software, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at DevOps Summit at Cloud Expo®, held Nov 4-6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
"BSQUARE is in the business of selling software solutions for smart connected devices. It's obvious that IoT has moved from being a technology to being a fundamental part of business, and in the last 18 months people have said let's figure out how to do it and let's put some focus on it, " explained Dave Wagstaff, VP & Chief Architect, at BSQUARE Corporation, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held Nov 4-6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
The move in recent years to cloud computing services and architectures has added significant pace to the application development and deployment environment. When enterprise IT can spin up large computing instances in just minutes, developers can also design and deploy in small time frames that were unimaginable a few years ago. The consequent move toward lean, agile, and fast development leads to the need for the development and operations sides to work very closely together. Thus, DevOps become...

ARMONK, N.Y., Nov. 20, 2014 /PRNewswire/ --  IBM (NYSE: IBM) today announced that it is bringing a greater level of control, security and flexibility to cloud-based application development and delivery with a single-tenant version of Bluemix, IBM's

SYS-CON Events announced today that AIC, a leading provider of OEM/ODM server and storage solutions, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. AIC is a leading provider of both standard OTS, off-the-shelf, and OEM/ODM server and storage solutions. With expert in-house design capabilities, validation, manufacturing and production, AIC's broad selection of products are highly flexible and are conf...
SYS-CON Events announced today that IDenticard will exhibit at SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. IDenticard™ is the security division of Brady Corp (NYSE: BRC), a $1.5 billion manufacturer of identification products. We have small-company values with the strength and stability of a major corporation. IDenticard offers local sales, support and service to our customers across the United States and Canada...
"People are a lot more knowledgeable about APIs now. There are two types of people who work with APIs - IT people who want to use APIs for something internal and the product managers who want to do something outside APIs for people to connect to them," explained Roberto Medrano, Executive Vice President at SOA Software, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at Cloud Expo, held Nov 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
“We are a managed services company. We have taken the key aspects of the cloud and the purposed data center and merged the two together and launched the Purposed Cloud about 18–24 months ago," explained Chetan Patwardhan, CEO of Stratogent, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 15th Cloud Expo, held Nov 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
The Internet of Things is a misnomer. That implies that everything is on the Internet, and that simply should not be - especially for things that are blurring the line between medical devices that stimulate like a pacemaker and quantified self-sensors like a pedometer or pulse tracker. The mesh of things that we manage must be segmented into zones of trust for sensing data, transmitting data, receiving command and control administrative changes, and peer-to-peer mesh messaging. In his session a...