Welcome!

Containers Expo Blog Authors: Liz McMillan, XebiaLabs Blog, Elizabeth White, Gregor Petri, Pat Romanski

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
Internet-of-Things discussions can end up either going down the consumer gadget rabbit hole or focused on the sort of data logging that industrial manufacturers have been doing forever. However, in fact, companies today are already using IoT data both to optimize their operational technology and to improve the experience of customer interactions in novel ways. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Gordon Haff, Red Hat Technology Evangelist, will share examples from a wide range of industries – includin...
The WebRTC Summit New York, to be held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, announces that its Call for Papers is now open. Topics include all aspects of improving IT delivery by eliminating waste through automated business models leveraging cloud technologies. WebRTC Summit is co-located with 20th International Cloud Expo and @ThingsExpo. WebRTC is the future of browser-to-browser communications, and continues to make inroads into the traditional, difficult, plug-in web co...
"We build IoT infrastructure products - when you have to integrate different devices, different systems and cloud you have to build an application to do that but we eliminate the need to build an application. Our products can integrate any device, any system, any cloud regardless of protocol," explained Peter Jung, Chief Product Officer at Pulzze Systems, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
According to Forrester Research, every business will become either a digital predator or digital prey by 2020. To avoid demise, organizations must rapidly create new sources of value in their end-to-end customer experiences. True digital predators also must break down information and process silos and extend digital transformation initiatives to empower employees with the digital resources needed to win, serve, and retain customers.
Amazon has gradually rolled out parts of its IoT offerings in the last year, but these are just the tip of the iceberg. In addition to optimizing their back-end AWS offerings, Amazon is laying the ground work to be a major force in IoT – especially in the connected home and office. Amazon is extending its reach by building on its dominant Cloud IoT platform, its Dash Button strategy, recently announced Replenishment Services, the Echo/Alexa voice recognition control platform, the 6-7 strategic...
We're entering the post-smartphone era, where wearable gadgets from watches and fitness bands to glasses and health aids will power the next technological revolution. With mass adoption of wearable devices comes a new data ecosystem that must be protected. Wearables open new pathways that facilitate the tracking, sharing and storing of consumers’ personal health, location and daily activity data. Consumers have some idea of the data these devices capture, but most don’t realize how revealing and...
IoT solutions exploit operational data generated by Internet-connected smart “things” for the purpose of gaining operational insight and producing “better outcomes” (for example, create new business models, eliminate unscheduled maintenance, etc.). The explosive proliferation of IoT solutions will result in an exponential growth in the volume of IoT data, precipitating significant Information Governance issues: who owns the IoT data, what are the rights/duties of IoT solutions adopters towards t...
Whether your IoT service is connecting cars, homes, appliances, wearable, cameras or other devices, one question hangs in the balance – how do you actually make money from this service? The ability to turn your IoT service into profit requires the ability to create a monetization strategy that is flexible, scalable and working for you in real-time. It must be a transparent, smoothly implemented strategy that all stakeholders – from customers to the board – will be able to understand and comprehe...
Complete Internet of Things (IoT) embedded device security is not just about the device but involves the entire product’s identity, data and control integrity, and services traversing the cloud. A device can no longer be looked at as an island; it is a part of a system. In fact, given the cross-domain interactions enabled by IoT it could be a part of many systems. Also, depending on where the device is deployed, for example, in the office building versus a factory floor or oil field, security ha...
An IoT product’s log files speak volumes about what’s happening with your products in the field, pinpointing current and potential issues, and enabling you to predict failures and save millions of dollars in inventory. But until recently, no one knew how to listen. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Dan Gettens, Chief Research Officer at OnProcess, discussed recent research by Massachusetts Institute of Technology and OnProcess Technology, where MIT created a new, breakthrough analytics model for s...
In his general session at 19th Cloud Expo, Manish Dixit, VP of Product and Engineering at Dice, discussed how Dice leverages data insights and tools to help both tech professionals and recruiters better understand how skills relate to each other and which skills are in high demand using interactive visualizations and salary indicator tools to maximize earning potential. Manish Dixit is VP of Product and Engineering at Dice. As the leader of the Product, Engineering and Data Sciences team at D...
"We're a cybersecurity firm that specializes in engineering security solutions both at the software and hardware level. Security cannot be an after-the-fact afterthought, which is what it's become," stated Richard Blech, Chief Executive Officer at Secure Channels, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
In this strange new world where more and more power is drawn from business technology, companies are effectively straddling two paths on the road to innovation and transformation into digital enterprises. The first path is the heritage trail – with “legacy” technology forming the background. Here, extant technologies are transformed by core IT teams to provide more API-driven approaches. Legacy systems can restrict companies that are transitioning into digital enterprises. To truly become a lead...
Video experiences should be unique and exciting! But that doesn’t mean you need to patch all the pieces yourself. Users demand rich and engaging experiences and new ways to connect with you. But creating robust video applications at scale can be complicated, time-consuming and expensive. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Zohar Babin, Vice President of Platform, Ecosystem and Community at Kaltura, discussed how VPaaS enables you to move fast, creating scalable video experiences that reach your aud...
"Once customers get a year into their IoT deployments, they start to realize that they may have been shortsighted in the ways they built out their deployment and the key thing I see a lot of people looking at is - how can I take equipment data, pull it back in an IoT solution and show it in a dashboard," stated Dave McCarthy, Director of Products at Bsquare Corporation, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
What happens when the different parts of a vehicle become smarter than the vehicle itself? As we move toward the era of smart everything, hundreds of entities in a vehicle that communicate with each other, the vehicle and external systems create a need for identity orchestration so that all entities work as a conglomerate. Much like an orchestra without a conductor, without the ability to secure, control, and connect the link between a vehicle’s head unit, devices, and systems and to manage the ...
IoT is rapidly changing the way enterprises are using data to improve business decision-making. In order to derive business value, organizations must unlock insights from the data gathered and then act on these. In their session at @ThingsExpo, Eric Hoffman, Vice President at EastBanc Technologies, and Peter Shashkin, Head of Development Department at EastBanc Technologies, discussed how one organization leveraged IoT, cloud technology and data analysis to improve customer experiences and effici...
Everyone knows that truly innovative companies learn as they go along, pushing boundaries in response to market changes and demands. What's more of a mystery is how to balance innovation on a fresh platform built from scratch with the legacy tech stack, product suite and customers that continue to serve as the business' foundation. In his General Session at 19th Cloud Expo, Michael Chambliss, Head of Engineering at ReadyTalk, discussed why and how ReadyTalk diverted from healthy revenue and mor...
The 20th International Cloud Expo has announced that its Call for Papers is open. Cloud Expo, to be held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, brings together Cloud Computing, Big Data, Internet of Things, DevOps, Containers, 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 opportunity. Submit your speaking proposal ...
You have great SaaS business app ideas. You want to turn your idea quickly into a functional and engaging proof of concept. You need to be able to modify it to meet customers' needs, and you need to deliver a complete and secure SaaS application. How could you achieve all the above and yet avoid unforeseen IT requirements that add unnecessary cost and complexity? You also want your app to be responsive in any device at any time. In his session at 19th Cloud Expo, Mark Allen, General Manager of...