Rackspace CTO: Stop Investing In Last-Gen Systems

Cloud Expo West

To set the stage, Engates laid out the difference a decade makes. In 2001, Windows XP 2001 launched, broadband was slow; Wi-Fi wasn't trusted; there were no iPhones, smartphones, tablets or 4G; Twitter and Facebook were non-existent; and a user only had about a half-dozen programs on a PC.

"It's a very different world from the Windows XP desktop," Engates said, noting that cloud computing introduces a new environment of computing where capacity is instant and available with the click of a button and compute power can be turned off and on at will. He said tablets and smartphones -- "the first cloud devices" -- dominate. And software that showed up in a box and took weeks to be installed has given way to instant SaaS consumable through a browser.

All that, Engates said, is pointing to a future of an "all cloud enterprise," though that vision is in the distant future.

Engates warned that while it may be easy to assume that SaaS is the way to go, he said that's not exactly the case.

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"Software-as-a-Service is for everyone, not for everything," he said, noting that some apps should be left on-premise and various cloud options, including public, private, hybrid, open and others can be the bridge to next generation systems.

"Don't be an early adopter too early," he cautioned, adding that due diligence is a necessity when evaluating cloud and SaaS vendors to ensure they're stable and reputable. "Just because it has a cloud stamp on it, doesn't mean it's something you have to do," he added.

Engates suggested companies take baby steps to the cloud.

"If you're just starting out, don’t' believe the hype that you have to move everything all at once," he said.

Still, Engates said, it's important to start weaning off of on-premise and legacy hardware and software investments and take baby steps into the cloud now. He advised that companies don't build any more applications on last-generation systems.

"Don't keep piling money onto old systems," he said, adding that playing golf with the software company CEO may be a bad idea if that company is still hawking legacy software and doesn't have a vision for cloud.

Additionally, he advised against signing up for long-term software and hardware contracts, as the true era of cloud is just around the corner and being locked into out-dated systems could slow innovation.

Companies should also plan to live with the data centers and the applications they already have without funneling new dollars into them in a bid to "buy time" before cutting over to cloud. Same goes for servers, including virtual machines, he warned.

"If you have a data center, try your best to not do major upgrades … because the cloud is right over the horizon," he said. Later, he added: "You have to run out the cloud so you're at the advantage."