Welcome!

API Journal Authors: Pat Romanski, Flint Brenton, Carmen Gonzalez, Elizabeth White, Liz McMillan

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
As data explodes in quantity, importance and from new sources, the need for managing and protecting data residing across physical, virtual, and cloud environments grow with it. Managing data includes protecting it, indexing and classifying it for true, long-term management, compliance and E-Discovery. Commvault can ensure this with a single pane of glass solution – whether in a private cloud, a Service Provider delivered public cloud or a hybrid cloud environment – across the heterogeneous enter...
"IoT is going to be a huge industry with a lot of value for end users, for industries, for consumers, for manufacturers. How can we use cloud to effectively manage IoT applications," stated Ian Khan, Innovation & Marketing Manager at Solgeniakhela, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held November 3-5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Today we can collect lots and lots of performance data. We build beautiful dashboards and even have fancy query languages to access and transform the data. Still performance data is a secret language only a couple of people understand. The more business becomes digital the more stakeholders are interested in this data including how it relates to business. Some of these people have never used a monitoring tool before. They have a question on their mind like “How is my application doing” but no id...
@GonzalezCarmen has been ranked the Number One Influencer and @ThingsExpo has been named the Number One Brand in the “M2M 2016: Top 100 Influencers and Brands” by Onalytica. Onalytica analyzed tweets over the last 6 months mentioning the keywords M2M OR “Machine to Machine.” They then identified the top 100 most influential brands and individuals leading the discussion on Twitter.
Information technology is an industry that has always experienced change, and the dramatic change sweeping across the industry today could not be truthfully described as the first time we've seen such widespread change impacting customer investments. However, the rate of the change, and the potential outcomes from today's digital transformation has the distinct potential to separate the industry into two camps: Organizations that see the change coming, embrace it, and successful leverage it; and...
The Internet of Things (IoT) promises to simplify and streamline our lives by automating routine tasks that distract us from our goals. This promise is based on the ubiquitous deployment of smart, connected devices that link everything from industrial control systems to automobiles to refrigerators. Unfortunately, comparatively few of the devices currently deployed have been developed with an eye toward security, and as the DDoS attacks of late October 2016 have demonstrated, this oversight can ...
Extracting business value from Internet of Things (IoT) data doesn’t happen overnight. There are several requirements that must be satisfied, including IoT device enablement, data analysis, real-time detection of complex events and automated orchestration of actions. Unfortunately, too many companies fall short in achieving their business goals by implementing incomplete solutions or not focusing on tangible use cases. In his general session at @ThingsExpo, Dave McCarthy, Director of Products...
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 impr...
More and more brands have jumped on the IoT bandwagon. We have an excess of wearables – activity trackers, smartwatches, smart glasses and sneakers, and more that track seemingly endless datapoints. However, most consumers have no idea what “IoT” means. Creating more wearables that track data shouldn't be the aim of brands; delivering meaningful, tangible relevance to their users should be. We're in a period in which the IoT pendulum is still swinging. Initially, it swung toward "smart for smar...
20th Cloud Expo, taking place June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, 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.
Businesses and business units of all sizes can benefit from cloud computing, but many don't want the cost, performance and security concerns of public cloud nor the complexity of building their own private clouds. Today, some cloud vendors are using artificial intelligence (AI) to simplify cloud deployment and management. In his session at 20th Cloud Expo, Ajay Gulati, Co-founder and CEO of ZeroStack, will discuss how AI can simplify cloud operations. He will cover the following topics: why clou...
Internet of @ThingsExpo, taking place June 6-8, 2017 at the Javits Center in New York City, New York, is co-located with the 20th International Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. @ThingsExpo New York Call for Papers is now open.
"ReadyTalk is an audio and web video conferencing provider. We've really come to embrace WebRTC as the platform for our future of technology," explained Dan Cunningham, CTO of ReadyTalk, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at WebRTC Summit at 19th Cloud Expo, held November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Successful digital transformation requires new organizational competencies and capabilities. Research tells us that the biggest impediment to successful transformation is human; consequently, the biggest enabler is a properly skilled and empowered workforce. In the digital age, new individual and collective competencies are required. In his session at 19th Cloud Expo, Bob Newhouse, CEO and founder of Agilitiv, drew together recent research and lessons learned from emerging and established compa...
Data is the fuel that drives the machine learning algorithmic engines and ultimately provides the business value. In his session at Cloud Expo, Ed Featherston, a director and senior enterprise architect at Collaborative Consulting, discussed the key considerations around quality, volume, timeliness, and pedigree that must be dealt with in order to properly fuel that engine.
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...
We are always online. We access our data, our finances, work, and various services on the Internet. But we live in a congested world of information in which the roads were built two decades ago. The quest for better, faster Internet routing has been around for a decade, but nobody solved this problem. We’ve seen band-aid approaches like CDNs that attack a niche's slice of static content part of the Internet, but that’s it. It does not address the dynamic services-based Internet of today. It does...
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...
Bert Loomis was a visionary. This general session will highlight how Bert Loomis and people like him inspire us to build great things with small inventions. In their general session at 19th Cloud Expo, Harold Hannon, Architect at IBM Bluemix, and Michael O'Neill, Strategic Business Development at Nvidia, discussed the accelerating pace of AI development and how IBM Cloud and NVIDIA are partnering to bring AI capabilities to "every day," on-demand. They also reviewed two "free infrastructure" pr...