Editor’s note: Need help in migrating to the cloud? Is your company looking to optimize its IT infrastructure spend in private data centers and public cloud providers? John Cowan, co-founder and CEO of 6fusion, explains the trends in how software and services are addressing these cloud challenges.
SandHill.com: There are increasingly new products and services that help companies migrate to the cloud with less risk and complexity. What trends has 6fusion noted in this area?
John Cowan: This space is obviously moving incredibly fast, but there are some very cool things emerging to help companies migrate to the cloud. One of the categories of technology in particular that seems to be getting a lot of attention these days is the physical movement of workloads between sets of infrastructure, whether on-premises to cloud or cloud to cloud. There are a growing number of companies focused on delivering this capability through software and services.
However, the biggest issue we see is the assumption that the customer is, in fact, going to use cloud resources. We believe a critical first step in moving to the cloud is first getting a clear understanding of what you are running in your existing infrastructure, how efficiently you are running those workloads, and how that compares to your options in the cloud.
The key to being able to answer these questions is using a common framework for evaluating IT consumption across on-premises and cloud environments. 6fusion is helping customers answer these questions with a combination of metering technology and advisory services for evaluating metering data.
SandHill.com: 2012 was the year of the cloud broker. Since we can’t really compare cloud services on an apples-to-apples basis, how is this impacting the market? Do you think cloud brokers will have a prominent role in the market two or three years from now?
John Cowan: It’s an interesting question because cloud brokers, as they’ve been categorized by most analysts, are not actually brokers; they are resellers, integrators or aggregators. There is absolutely a market need for what these companies are doing, but it’s a misnomer to call them brokers because brokers take on structural and financial risk in a marketplace.
There are true cloud brokers emerging that are playing this role, companies like Strategic Blue, for example. We see a very near future where IT infrastructure becomes a tradable, fungible commodity in global marketplaces where cloud brokers are a key part of those marketplaces, providing buyers and sellers a critical path to mitigating economic risks associated with highly unpredictable needs.
SandHill.com: What are the cloud needs and concerns of existing or potential customers that 6fusion has heard over the past year that the industry needs to address?
John Cowan: One of the biggest challenges for cloud customers today is the ability to accurately compare consumption and usage across different sets of infrastructure, including public clouds and private infrastructure. Unfortunately, public clouds have so far emerged as walled gardens, with little to no ability to compare on an apples-to-apples basis.
Just take a quick look at the price lists for some of the top cloud providers. It takes a ridiculous amount of effort to get a clear comparison across IaaS services, let alone to compare any of those to what you are running internally today. This is a big reason 6fusion is laser focused on solving this problem by standardizing the economic measurement of IT infrastructure, regardless of platform, technology or vendor.
SandHIll.com: Is 6fusion helping companies resolve interoperability issues? If so, please explain how 6fusion’s capabilities differ from competitors.
John Cowan: 6fusion helps companies optimize their IT infrastructure spend across all the infrastructure they use, in private data centers and public cloud providers. With a patented algorithm that provides a single unit of measure that you can think of like the watt in electric utility consumption, we are giving organizations the ability to answer three primary questions:
- Is your IT infrastructure footprint cost efficient?
- How does your infrastructure profile and efficiency compare against a broader market?
- How can the power of your utilization data lead to perpetual cost efficiency for your infrastructure?
These are important questions to be able to answer with real data, not just estimates or projections; and they provide the foundation for real improvement.
6fusion’s value is in the ability to provide a comprehensive view into your IT infrastructure profile and, most importantly, the ability to act on what the data tells you.
SandHIll.com: What do you predict will be the biggest change in the cloud market or provider capabilities in the next two years?
John Cowan: As I mentioned earlier, this industry will see IaaS traded on global commodity exchanges in the near future. We saw this was where the market was going almost 10 years ago and have structured our business and technology platform to make this happen. In fact, in our original investor pitch in 2009 I said, “Cloud will reach its maximum potential as a new paradigm for IT delivery when it can be treated, used and traded like a commodity utility.”
This is going to fundamentally change the delivery of IT because it solves vendor lock-in and reduces risk for infrastructure buyers, delivers global demand for infrastructure suppliers, and introduces transparency to the market and process that is holding this market back.
SandHill.com: The word “commodity” in IT services often connotes services or value at the low end of the spectrum, which doesn’t seem to jive with the greater value outcomes that companies are achieving in the cloud.
John Cowan: I’ve mentioned the word commodity several times in this conversation and it’s important for SandHill readers to understand that commodity should not be a scary concept for their business. A commodity is simply a good or service with no qualitative differentiation. It doesn’t mean a race to the bottom or lack of competition; in fact, it’s just the opposite. Commoditization is the basis of all mass markets, which unlocks huge amounts of value once we get past the FUD (fear, uncertainty, doubt) that the old-guard infrastructure companies are leaning on.
Our mission is to see to a world where enterprise customers can apply the same economic principals to IT that they adhere to for other commodities. I’ve written about this in my blog, and you can get more detail on this topic at 6fusion.com.
6fusion is a collaborator in the 2013 Future of Cloud survey hosted by North Bridge Venture Partners, 451 Research and GigaOM.
Click here to take the survey and share your opinions on the future of cloud computing.
John Cowan is co-founder and CEO of 6fusion and co-inventor of 6fusion’s WAC algorithm. He is regarded as the company’s business model visionary. In addition to 6fusion’s day-to-day management responsibilities, John is responsible for the overall strategic vision and commercial direction of 6fusion. A 12-year veteran of business and product development within IT and Telecommunications, he successfully created new business during the period of telecommunications deregulation and developed and launched new technology products and services globally. Follow John on Twitter @cownet or @6fusion.
Kathleen Goolsby is managing editor of SandHill.com.