Adapting To The Era Of Big Data And Cloud Requires New Partnerships

These newer vendors, such as Pivotal and Amazon Web Services, offer you the ability to make significant margin if you can break the tie to traditional vendors.

Pivotal Labs is bringing together multiple components that have been acquired over time by EMC and VMware, such as GemFire, Greenplum, SpringSource and Cloud Foundry. If you look at these components, what you see is mostly in memory-based applications, which decouples the software further from hardware vendors. This is actually more like grid computing, which is a federation of resources from multiple servers and or locations to enable a common goal.

Grid computing can be considered something like RAID on a storage array. You have multiple servers all functioning as one compute unit, and if a server goes down, there is a reduction in the pool of resources, but the data, memory and processes continue to function. Just like one hard drive can't take down your storage, the loss of a single server or site lowers capacity but does not impact computing.

As Pivotal Labs CEO Paul Maritz has described it, Pivotal's technology is an "operating system for the cloud age" that abstracts the underlying cloud implementation so that cloud choice becomes "a deployment decision instead of an architectural decision." This shows that hardware is no longer a driver for the operating system and vendors such as VMware (with its vCloud Hybrid Service), Amazon, Rackspace, Verizon and AT&T are the new "hardware suppliers."

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At the core of Pivotal is a data-centric model designed to ingest large amounts of data and leverage it for automated business and IT decisions. Pivotal HD leverages HAWQ technology to enable massively parallel querying of HDFS data using familiar and standardized SQL queries. With this data, automation and orchestration decisions can be easily made by the application layer.

It's interesting to note that the team building the integration between HAWQ and HDFS were also responsible for the "Borg Project" at Google. This team was adamant that a cloud service can never go down for any reason. The philosophy of the team was to "eliminate the human and ruthlessly automate" for any conceivable scenario.

Now let's look at Amazon as compared to Pivotal. You will see that Amazon has had most of the features and capabilities that Pivotal is advertising except they are tied to its platform. One major difference is that when you consume resources from Amazon, you are at this point locked in and need to continue to consume resources from only Amazon's platform.

While Amazon has become a heavyweight player in the cloud era, HP is determined to remain relevant. At the HP Discover user conference, HP announced HP Cloud OS, which is the culmination of a number of acquisitions the company has made over the years. HP executives described Cloud OS as its internal OpenStack distribution with a set of additional functionality to provide infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) for its private and public clouds. Saar Gillai, HP senior vice president and general manager of the converged cloud, was quoted as saying Cloud OS bridges the gap between private and public clouds.

This is the same message that Pivotal has with one major difference: HP is making Cloud OS platform specific and tying it to buying its hardware. HP is trying to create a value chain that allows it to sell hardware to service providers such as Verizon, AT&T and Rackspace while continuing to drive some on-premise sales when the customer has concerns about moving its "crown jewels" to the cloud.

Keep in mind, you will still sell hardware for specific, purpose-built internal applications, but betting on hardware sales and long-term contracts could bring a quick demise to your business. You should also work on understanding and building relationships with the newer vendors in order to help your customers make informed and accurate decisions about where and how to deliver their services. You should also develop strategies that allow you to "broker" cloud services to your customers. Finally, look at compensation programs and align your business more toward the concept of a recurring revenue model, because in the near future, you will all be selling services rather than hardware.

John Ross is an IT consultant building new service offerings for channel-focused customers and partners. John holds positions with several leading manufacturer advisory councils and regularly works with IT analysts to help define major paradigm shifts in the technology industry. He previously was CTO of Kittery, Maine-based GreenPages Technology Solutions.