There is an old Chinese proverb, attributed to Lao Tzu, about fishing. You probably know it well.
If you give a man a fish, you feed him once / If you take a man fishing, you feed him for a week / If you teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime.
Personally, I like to eat fish. I don’t like fishing. It’s not the patience it takes to catch the fish that turns me off, it’s the handling of the fish once it’s caught. I am happy to sit for hours until I feel a fish nibble on the line, then yank on the rod and reel it in. And then… Well let’s say it’s hard to differentiate which is flopping about more- the fish out of water, or me trying to avoid said fish out of water…
Now, it should be stated that should the zombie apocalypse be underway, I guarantee you I won’t be worried about the squeamish nature of fishing. I know what I will need to do to survive, and will fish, gut, and filet forever if need be.
Going back to the proverb…
It would seem leading the man to the fishing hole with the intention of teaching him how to fish is relatively simple enough. However, there are many questions that come to mind. For example: how does the man get to the water to begin with? Is the man looking to feed himself, or is he fishing to feed his entire village? On his way to the fishing hole, what obstacles did he have to overcome? Is he catching fish merely to meet his own minimal subsistence requirements, or is he adding to his inventory enough stock to deal with the possible arrival of his deplorable in-laws, who if they do indeed visit may want to feast on his food until they consume the entire stock? There are dozens more questions that could be asked.
At this point you are saying ‘huh? What’s fishing got to do with cloud?’, or something remotely similar. Fair enough questioning on your part. Here’s the connection. Instead of being the fisherperson (political correctness here people), you are the IT decision person for your company. For years the industry has given you storage, and initially you were happy to only feed yourself, satisfying your hunger pangs (we gave you all the storage you needed, you did not ask many questions). In other words, we gave you fish.
As your business grew, and as more complexities were introduced into the development of your service and product offerings, you were invited to ride along with a specific supplier as you investigated how to proactively run the business from the infrastructure perspective. You made guesstimate decisions about how fast things had to be, and how much you needed to meet growth demands. You hoped you were reasonably close to your predictions, otherwise your environment was over/under utilized for the requirements placed upon it by the business (and you hoped the boss did not question why you purchased the equivalent analogy of many crates of freshwater salmon that are now sitting in the basement freezer waiting for the day when you decide to thaw and poach with a pinch of salt). In other words, we took you fishing with us, and you worried only about whether you had too little / too much fish to satisfy your needs.
Oh-oh. The boss is asking you to meet him at the corner of ReamOut and HelpMe. The guesstimates have proven wrong (good news- business is better than ever), but it seems you are always scrambling to purchase new capacity and compute power, and this conflicts with the stakeholders that are looking for better bottom-line returns. The boss tells you that you are now the VP of Infrastructure for the company, and now you need to not only understand how an storage framework is architected, but you need to understand predictive capital / operational expenditures, corrective measures, macro- and micro-economic fluctuations, sustainability models, line-of-business performance requirements, and more. Gulp- time to learn to fish. You have been tasked with learning how to fish on behalf of the organization so that going forward it will satisfy its hunger pangs for the rest of its going concern.
So, what do you do? The road to the ‘fish pond’ is not that clear; it’s a trek full of uncertainty, self-doubt, and leads you to ask if your organization is ready for survival in the new, agile and digitally transforming world. Can you meet the ask of stakeholders to show better margin and revenue while meeting the consumer demand of multiple enhancements to your offerings, while internally the developers are asking for a standardized platform that meets their availability and performance requirements?
Here’s an idea… become skilled in the art of fishing but (dramatic twist from the proverb) avoid the heavy lifting. Look like a hero to your boss, your stakeholders, your customers. Rather than having an inventory waiting to be consumed, or not having enough inventory to meet demand, satiate the appetite with what you actually need. Create a proposal that uses phrases like “Cloud consumption” and “Elasticity”. Use those phrases in your business case.
What does this really mean?
Leverage a model that allows you to meet workload demands but not worry about managing the underlying infrastructure. You retain ownership of the workload, but can decide whether you want to retain the capital costs of hosting some, or all, of this workload. Most importantly, when asked if you are meeting business required SLAs for provisioning, performance, uptime, and or CAPEX/OPEX expectations, you can say yes. ‘YES – I have deployed a model that will help the business meet its requirements, using a predictive monthly cost model that ensures I only pay based on actual consumption rates, and I don’t have to burden the business with significant triennial / quadrennial (or similar) capital spend’. Not only have you leaned to fish, you are efficiently using time and resources to reel in massive amounts of fish that will always be consumed, never wasted.
Long after the zombies get me (and only me, apparently), the business is still able to move forward using a predictable, elastic ‘pay-as-you-catch’ model, and ultimately this means better services, products, and bottom line results. Moreover, you don’t have to worry about how silly you look dancing about, avoiding a small, innocuous rainbow trout that you reeled in. It’s no longer a relevant issue. And I beg of you… please don’t mention the worms picked up early this morning on the way to local pond…