The Riverbed Blog (testing)

A blog in search of a tagline

Cloudy Coffee? Really?

Posted by riverbedtest on March 1, 2011

Today's guest blogger is Thomas Bakewell, Riverbed's Chief Information Officer since 2008.  Tom oversees our internal IT, and he is not shy to talk about how he uses our own technology (he calls it "drinking our own wine") to make his job easier.

Foamy-coffee-and-cakeOnce a day I try to make the trip downstairs in my office building to our local coffee house.  I always ask for a very large, bone-dry cappuccino.  For those of you who’ve not had this pleasure, it’s essentially three shots of espresso with a lot of foam on top.  They’ve nicknamed this drink for me as “cloudy coffee”.  Really?  I can’t get away from the cloud, even when I get my morning coffee.  But what CIO can get away from the cloud?  Between TV commercials, magazine ads and every vendor you know, apparently all there is i1973 carly simon youre so vains clouds, and they are pervasive.  Questions and debates abound around clouds; what are they, where are they, do they represent the end of IT as we know it today, or the beginning of something new?

No wonder I like my coffee.

To be sure though, the cloud is an important component of IT.  I would argue that it is important to  every IT organization.  It is the next logical extension of IT.  We are in a unique position at this point in time, one might say it’s the perfect storm – but those are different clouds.  We have endured a long and difficult recession that has caused us all to make the best choices we can given the limitations of funding.  And the state of technology that exists today offers us the ability to do more with the same.  Notice I didn’t say do more with less, that’s almost impossible.  We can, however do more with the same given the right technologies and deployments.  Match both of the above with an ever-increasing demand from our users and we’re in a position to go to the cloud.

Thinkingcapwhoa_color So how do clouds actually help?  Well, since I’m in IT I need an acronym to explain it.  I’ve thought long and hard on this, although that might not be readily apparent.  But here is the newest cloud-speak.  “Cloud as a Service” or CaaS.  So why is that so important?  Well, that’s the answer; you get to define the service.   For me I’ve defined the cloud to mean many things, extensible and elastic storage and compute resources, DR, collaboration and most importantly consolidation.  All of these have allowed my organization to deliver robust business solutions at dramatically lower operating costs while implementing sooner than traditional models.  Oh I have those too, and they play a critical role in the overall service catalog I provide.  The cloud-based services, as I defined them for Riverbed work.  They work fast, they work simply, and they match the current needs of our business.  As the needs change, I’ll change my cloud models and deployments.

Is it really that easy?  Yes and no.  Yes it can be done well and done quickly.  Current technologies allow for consolidated, virtual computing.  That said there are models and partners that must be understood and selected.  There are issues that must be addressed.  Let’s start with the model.  The basic differentiator is public, private or hybrid.  They all serve a purpose.  As I have defined the cloud at Riverbed, I use all three models:

  • Public clouds are easy to implement and take down.  They’re great for elastic or burstable needs whether that be backups or a new portal for our customers. 
  • Private clouds serve as my consolidated data center
  • My hybrid cloud is the co-managed home to my DR data center.  

This footprint or cloudscape is right for us at this time.  Will it change over time?  Yes.  I will define the new cloud deployments shortly before I need them.  Another component of our cloud strategy is partnership.  Having partners host and in some cases co-manage with me has been a key ingredient to the success of the model.  And finally the issues, or those things we just don’t like to think about with clouds, security and performance.  Models and partners are necessary but insufficient to ensure a successful deployment.  Maintaining the information assets of your business must be in the forefront of your thinking.  And performance and usability for the business must be the same no matter where the cloud resides.  As you can imagine, I have an inside track on getting and keeping high performance in my clouds!

Just remember one thing, the cloud is yours to define.  You know your business, you know your constraints.  You can use the cloud; just make sure your vendors understand your definition of the cloud.  They must play in your cloud, not the other way around, after all it is your cloud.

As I wrap this up, I’m looking out my office window in San Francisco.  It’s a really overcast afternoon, or is it cloudy?  Maybe I’ll head downstairs and get a cup of coffee.

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