Are we too focused on vendors?

This week is AWS re: Invent in Las Vegas (better called “cloud computing Woodstock”). The crowd grows yearly, and it’s a “must-attend” event for the cloud computing crowd.

I typically avoid these. You can get the same information remotely these days, and you can see all of the event online; it’s a better approach if you’re trying to get the complete picture. However, attending in person does let you feel the excitement, which is why these events exist, which are mostly loss leaders for the cloud and technology providers.

Focusing too much on the tech?

Are we too vendor-focused in the cloud computing market? A better question is, are vendors leading us down the wrong paths? Indeed, instead of tackling the core problems at hand, we’re distracted by the new features and the excellent new tools that are, if we’re honest, more fun to look at than solving actual problems.

“But Dave, we need the technology to solve the problems. We’re solving the issues by focusing on the tech.” Somewhat true.

Don’t get me wrong, cloud providers and technology vendors do play a pivotal role in advancing the cloud computing industry. They drive innovation and provide comprehensive solutions to different technical and business needs.

I wonder if the cloud computing industry would be as advanced as it is now if it weren’t for AWS, Google, Microsoft, IBM, and all the other companies that invested in this innovation. They have invested heavily on an infrastructure that runs well into the billions of dollars just for the buy-in.

What concerns me now is that we’re at least 15 years into cloud computing and the focus is still on specific technologies—in many cases, at the expense of understanding the core business and technical problems we’re looking to solve.

In many instances, we’re building suboptimized solutions. We’re not considering the proper best-of-breed solutions, but rather chasing what’s popular. In many instances, this costs the business as much as 10 times more than nearly fully optimized solutions. This is so common that it’s expected that four out of five cloud solutions are grossly misdesigned, costing their businesses dearly in lost value. In most instances, companies don’t know it’s occurring.

Value lies in the bigger picture

Healthier conversations are occurring now, which is promising. There is a focus on optimization, at least conceptually. This is mostly thanks to finops, but it is leaking into design decisions and a willingness to consider all solutions, not just the ones that have big conferences.

However, most conversations are around optimization within a specific cloud provider. Companies are only using native tools for their particular cloud provider and limiting themselves to its walled garden. Of course, true optimization is technology-agnostic and often spans all solutions, including cloud-based, on-premises, edge, and technology providers big and small. At the same time, multicloud is usually organically built around best-of-breed technology and the value it offers.

Thus, while optimizing in the narrow (systems within a single cloud provider), we’re not optimizing in the wide (looking beyond a small cadre of better-known technology providers with large marketing budgets). We’re missing the bigger picture, where the actual value exists.

A more balanced approach

Back in the day, vendor conferences were secondary to conferences put on by standards organizations and media companies, which didn’t focus on just a single set of technology. Although those events are largely nonexistent now, there is a continued focus on open-source consortiums that take a more balanced approach.

Industry consortiums and standardization bodies are pivotal in fostering interoperability and ensuring fair competition in the cloud computing market. By developing and promoting open standards, these organizations facilitate seamless integration between different cloud platforms, empowering consumers with greater flexibility and control over their cloud deployments. However, they don’t have the billion-dollar marketing power of the hyperscalers.

For change to occur, technology consumers, meaning enterprises, need to send a clear message that they are interested in solutions for the business problems at hand, using whatever technology creates the most value. In most cases, it will be a mix of technology vendors and cloud providers, all knitted together into a bespoke solution that can return the maximum value to the business.

Sadly, if you can’t get those enterprises’ IT leaders on the phone, chances are they are at another mega cloud provider conference. Let’s be a bit smarter here, people.

Copyright © 2023 IDG Communications, Inc.


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