Welcome!

Containers Expo Blog Authors: Dana Gardner, Liz McMillan, Pat Romanski, Elizabeth White, Flint Brenton

Related Topics: @CloudExpo, Microservices Expo, Containers Expo Blog, Agile Computing

@CloudExpo: 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.


@ThingsExpo Stories
In his keynote at 18th Cloud Expo, Andrew Keys, Co-Founder of ConsenSys Enterprise, provided an overview of the evolution of the Internet and the Database and the future of their combination – the Blockchain. Andrew Keys is Co-Founder of ConsenSys Enterprise. He comes to ConsenSys Enterprise with capital markets, technology and entrepreneurial experience. Previously, he worked for UBS investment bank in equities analysis. Later, he was responsible for the creation and distribution of life sett...
There are several IoTs: the Industrial Internet, Consumer Wearables, Wearables and Healthcare, Supply Chains, and the movement toward Smart Grids, Cities, Regions, and Nations. There are competing communications standards every step of the way, a bewildering array of sensors and devices, and an entire world of competing data analytics platforms. To some this appears to be chaos. In this power panel at @ThingsExpo, moderated by Conference Chair Roger Strukhoff, Bradley Holt, Developer Advocate a...
Cognitive Computing is becoming the foundation for a new generation of solutions that have the potential to transform business. Unlike traditional approaches to building solutions, a cognitive computing approach allows the data to help determine the way applications are designed. This contrasts with conventional software development that begins with defining logic based on the current way a business operates. In her session at 18th Cloud Expo, Judith S. Hurwitz, President and CEO of Hurwitz & ...
In his general session at 18th Cloud Expo, Lee Atchison, Principal Cloud Architect and Advocate at New Relic, discussed cloud as a ‘better data center’ and how it adds new capacity (faster) and improves application availability (redundancy). The cloud is a ‘Dynamic Tool for Dynamic Apps’ and resource allocation is an integral part of your application architecture, so use only the resources you need and allocate /de-allocate resources on the fly.
A strange thing is happening along the way to the Internet of Things, namely far too many devices to work with and manage. It has become clear that we'll need much higher efficiency user experiences that can allow us to more easily and scalably work with the thousands of devices that will soon be in each of our lives. Enter the conversational interface revolution, combining bots we can literally talk with, gesture to, and even direct with our thoughts, with embedded artificial intelligence, wh...
19th Cloud Expo, taking place November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. Cloud computing is now being embraced by a majority of enterprises of all sizes. Yesterday's debate about public vs. private has transformed into the reality of hybrid cloud: a recent survey shows that 74% of enterprises have a hybrid cloud strategy. Meanwhile, 94% of enterpri...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Bsquare has been named “Silver Sponsor” of SYS-CON's @ThingsExpo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. For more than two decades, Bsquare has helped its customers extract business value from a broad array of physical assets by making them intelligent, connecting them, and using the data they generate to optimize business processes.
Internet of @ThingsExpo, taking place November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, is co-located with 19th Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. The Internet of Things (IoT) is the most profound change in personal and enterprise IT since the creation of the Worldwide Web more than 20 years ago. All major researchers estimate there will be tens of billions devices - comp...
Machine Learning helps make complex systems more efficient. By applying advanced Machine Learning techniques such as Cognitive Fingerprinting, wind project operators can utilize these tools to learn from collected data, detect regular patterns, and optimize their own operations. In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, Stuart Gillen, Director of Business Development at SparkCognition, discussed how research has demonstrated the value of Machine Learning in delivering next generation analytics to imp...
There is little doubt that Big Data solutions will have an increasing role in the Enterprise IT mainstream over time. Big Data at Cloud Expo - to be held November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA - has announced its Call for Papers is open. Cloud computing is being adopted in one form or another by 94% of enterprises today. Tens of billions of new devices are being connected to The Internet of Things. And Big Data is driving this bus. An exponential increase is...
The 19th International Cloud Expo has announced that its Call for Papers is open. Cloud Expo, to be held November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, brings together Cloud Computing, Big Data, Internet of Things, DevOps, Digital Transformation, Microservices and WebRTC to one location. With cloud computing driving a higher percentage of enterprise IT budgets every year, it becomes increasingly important to plant your flag in this fast-expanding business opportuni...
Cloud computing is being adopted in one form or another by 94% of enterprises today. Tens of billions of new devices are being connected to The Internet of Things. And Big Data is driving this bus. An exponential increase is expected in the amount of information being processed, managed, analyzed, and acted upon by enterprise IT. This amazing is not part of some distant future - it is happening today. One report shows a 650% increase in enterprise data by 2020. Other estimates are even higher....
The cloud market growth today is largely in public clouds. While there is a lot of spend in IT departments in virtualization, these aren’t yet translating into a true “cloud” experience within the enterprise. What is stopping the growth of the “private cloud” market? In his general session at 18th Cloud Expo, Nara Rajagopalan, CEO of Accelerite, explored the challenges in deploying, managing, and getting adoption for a private cloud within an enterprise. What are the key differences between wh...
Internet of @ThingsExpo, taking place November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, is co-located with the 19th International Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world and ThingsExpo Silicon Valley Call for Papers is now open.
It is one thing to build single industrial IoT applications, but what will it take to build the Smart Cities and truly society changing applications of the future? The technology won’t be the problem, it will be the number of parties that need to work together and be aligned in their motivation to succeed. In his Day 2 Keynote at @ThingsExpo, Henrik Kenani Dahlgren, Portfolio Marketing Manager at Ericsson, discussed how to plan to cooperate, partner, and form lasting all-star teams to change t...
Connected devices and the industrial internet are growing exponentially every year with Cisco expecting 50 billion devices to be in operation by 2020. In this period of growth, location-based insights are becoming invaluable to many businesses as they adopt new connected technologies. Knowing when and where these devices connect from is critical for a number of scenarios in supply chain management, disaster management, emergency response, M2M, location marketing and more. In his session at @Th...
SYS-CON Events announced today that ReadyTalk, a leading provider of online conferencing and webinar services, has been named Vendor Presentation Sponsor at the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. ReadyTalk delivers audio and web conferencing services that inspire collaboration and enable the Future of Work for today’s increasingly digital and mobile workforce. By combining intuitive, innovative tec...
Amazon has gradually rolled out parts of its IoT offerings, but these are just the tip of the iceberg. In addition to optimizing their backend AWS offerings, Amazon is laying the ground work to be a major force in IoT - especially in the connected home and office. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Chris Kocher, founder and managing director of Grey Heron, explained how Amazon is extending its reach to become a major force in IoT by building on its dominant cloud IoT platform, its Dash Button strat...
industrial company for a multi-year contract initially valued at over $4.0 million. In addition to DataV software, Bsquare will also provide comprehensive systems integration, support and maintenance services. DataV leverages advanced data analytics, predictive reasoning, data-driven diagnostics, and automated orchestration of remediation actions in order to improve asset uptime while reducing service and warranty costs.
Vidyo, Inc., has joined the Alliance for Open Media. The Alliance for Open Media is a non-profit organization working to define and develop media technologies that address the need for an open standard for video compression and delivery over the web. As a member of the Alliance, Vidyo will collaborate with industry leaders in pursuit of an open and royalty-free AOMedia Video codec, AV1. Vidyo’s contributions to the organization will bring to bear its long history of expertise in codec technolo...