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Enterprise Cloud Adoption Framework

An interview with Brett Adam, CTO of rPath

"We're actually very bullish about PaaS as the architecture for a lot of next generation apps," noted Brett Adam, Chief Technology Officer at rPath, in this exclusive Q&A. "But," he continued, "we see true PaaS as it's been popularized in the market - you may think of it as "Silicon Valley PaaS" - is too constraining for the types of applications that enterprises depend upon today."

Q: Tell me about the Enterprise Cloud Adoption Framework (ECAF). What inspired it?

Brett Adam: We're seeing enterprise IT and traditional service providers under extraordinary pressure to transform to cloud-based delivery and business models, but there are few reliable resources to guide what is a fairly massive architectural transformation. Despite substantial opinions about how to adopt cloud, the issue of standardization wasn't getting the attention it deserved. We believe standardization is absolutely crucial. Uniquely, this framework looks at the cloud transformation through the lens of standardization as the driver and enabler for achieving on-demand, elastic IT.

Q: What do you mean by standardization?

Brett Adam: Standardization is about consolidating and normalizing compute, network and storage infrastructure and operating systems and other middleware platforms from unmanageable diversity-so called, "rats and mice"-to a simplified, standardized set of offerings. The goal is to drive economies of scale for cost reduction and to simplify environments so automation and policies can replace human labor as the basis for how systems are provisioned, maintained and scaled. You can't achieve an agile IT model without standardization behind it. Infrastructure and platform diversity is the mortal enemy of cloud delivery models.

Q: You talk a lot about manufacturing as an analogy for cloud. Say more about that.

Brett Adam: Modern manufacturing practices are extraordinarily agile and efficient because of deep automation of highly standardized parts, processes and policy. You simply couldn't have the sort of scale production at the cost and quality we see today without deep automation-and you couldn't have that degree of automation without deep standardization. It's an important symbiotic relationship that needs to be understood as IT providers make the shift to cloud architectures.

Q: Talk about the framework itself. How does it help cloud builders guide their initiatives?

Brett Adam: The framework explores two key dimensions: Infrastructure, which includes compute, network and storage capacity; and platforms, which are the operating systems and other middleware that enable applications. It tracks the evolution of these two dimensions through a continuum of diverse, standard, and elastic-helping strategists and architects to think about the tradeoffs at each point in this journey. It recommends marching forward with parallel investments in both infrastructure and platform maturity. Cloud projects are too often constrained to infrastructure thinking, but it's platforms that enable applications-and, ultimately, it's applications that customers and users care about. So, the framework tries to maintain a balance between each of these dimensions so cloud builders can maintain a trajectory that satisfies what customers care about. Additionally, it highlights the architectural patterns-and traps-at the intersection of these two dimensions, which really helps to create a context for understanding the implications of certain cloud investments.

Q: One of these so-called traps seems to be PaaS. Why is this a risk?

Brett Adam: We're actually very bullish about PaaS as the architecture for a lot of next generation apps. But we see true PaaS as it's been popularized in the market - you may think of it as "Silicon Valley PaaS" - is too constraining for the types of applications that enterprises depend upon today. PaaS provides a single, simple interface for deploying apps, but it dictates highly constrained requirements. PaaS dictates extreme standardization and the reality is that the vast majority of large companies have complex and diverse application requirements. That's why, while standardization is the fundamental driver for cloud, we don't see the cloud transformation as an all-in proposition. Standardization should be a mandate that's implemented over a period of time. I wouldn't be surprised if the majority of enterprise applications are running on true PaaS platforms in a decade. But that's a long time and we can't wait that long to deliver the speed and efficiency customers and business lines demand.

Q: What do you mean by "Enterprise PaaS"?

Brett Adam: Enterprise PaaS is a way of delivering much of the agility and economics of PaaS without full platform standardization and consolidation. It's a practice that focuses on introducing some degree of standardization and allowing OS and middleware stacks of a variety of flavors to be provisioned on demand. It's a more pragmatic alternative for the typical enterprise environment.

Q: So, what's the alternative to this sort of model? What's the "as-is" to the "to-be" you're proposing?

Brett Adam: Today, there's a lot of confusion about what should come first, second and last in a cloud project. Cloud builders are inundated by vendor messages and, frankly, uniformed opinions about where to start. I think it's going to lead to a lot of failed first-generation projects or completed cloud projects that are wholly incomplete because they've failed to think past infrastructure. I'm a strong believer that Amazon is setting the pace and expectation for IT organizations and they need to make aggressive, but thoughtful investments in delivering their own cloud services. Our goal is to help cloud builders cut through the noise and think analytically about their cloud projects.

Q: How can readers learn more about the Enterprise Cloud Adoption Framework?

Brett Adam: Visit You can download the framework itself, a simplified poster and to view webinars that put the framework into an actionable context. If you want to get involved as a participant in the movement, send e-mail to [email protected].

More Stories By Jeremy Geelan

Jeremy Geelan is Chairman & CEO of the 21st Century Internet Group, Inc. and an Executive Academy Member of the International Academy of Digital Arts & Sciences. Formerly he was President & COO at Cloud Expo, Inc. and Conference Chair of the worldwide Cloud Expo series. He appears regularly at conferences and trade shows, speaking to technology audiences across six continents. You can follow him on twitter: @jg21.

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