Top 5 questions for the titans of cloud


If you had one question to pose to the executives running the biggest cloud implementations in the world, what would it be? It’ snot really an idle question. Next month in San Francisco, the cloud chiefs from Amazon(s amzn), Google(s goog), HP(s hpq), IBM(s ibm), Rackspace(s rax), Red Hat(s rhat) and VMware(s vmw) will be on stage at Structure June 18-19. So after a highly unscientific query — on Twitter, on Facebook, via email and phone with industry sources  — here’s the list:

 1: When will all the major clouds support the same set of APIs?

2: When will they support migration of data/workloads from one cloud to another natively?

3: What comes after the race to the bottom in cloud storage prices plays out?

4: When will we see a true cloud exchange? 

5: How can we be sure our data is safe in your cloud from prying eyes?

If there’s a thread in here — other than the natural concern about data privacy post Prismgate  — it’s about portability, interoperability, cloud kumbaya sort of stuff. Things that customers want and cloud providers are probably not that happy to provide, no matter what they say about customers’ freedom to walk away.

Lance Crosby CEO of IBM's SoftLayer business.

Lance Crosby CEO of IBM’s SoftLayer business.

The status quo is that cloud companies make it as easy and fast as possible for customers to put their data and applications on their own respective clouds. When it comes to moving them off, well that’s more of a sticky wicket.

Google SVP and research fellow Urs Hölzle

Google SVP and research fellow Urs Hölzle

So those are the most popular questions from and casual survey. Two CIOs, one from of a large architectural firm and one from a collaboration and file share company separately said pretty much the same thing. When they have a big compute job, they’d like to be able to go up and price that specific job on demand across clouds and pick the option that is most cost-effective that day without locking into that provider.

Please submit your own questions in the comment section below. Be civil please.



Luke B.

Great questions, and definitely in line with what I hear from service providers, developers, and device manufacturers when “the cloud” comes up: 1) how can I be assured my data is secure? (both via encryption and increasingly region-specific storage, i.e. no NSA), and 2) what happens if I want to leave a particular vendor and go somewhere else?

The public cloud provides the building blocks, the real future is in the services that aggregate these clouds, use the best features of each, and provide the end user with the right feature set, without infrastructure vendor lock-in.

Full disclosure: I work for Bitcasa. We are built on multiple public clouds and provide solutions to exactly the issues I describe above. So perhaps my audience is biased, as they’ve already sought us out. :)

Karen Bannan

Where do you see newer cloud-based services such as IT-as-a-Service fitting into the cloud world? I’ve seen that only 10 percent or so of organizations have the ability to do department-based charge-backs. What’s holding us, as an industry, back from offering this as a wide-scale option? Once it is implemented do you think it will become more commonplace? These things seem like they really need to be part of an overall operating model transformation plan.



It would be interesting to hear what they think about the infrastructure commodity market initiatives announced by CME Group and Deutsche Borse. To your point from the 2 CIO’s: “When they have a big compute job, they’d like to be able to go up and price that specific job on demand across clouds and pick the option that is most cost-effective that day without locking into that provider.” Sounds a lot like an open marketplace.

Full disclosure: I work for 6fusion, which is working with the CME Group on an IaaS spot market.

Ré Kimz

How they earn money out of my(our) data; other words: how they use my data to earn money? To what extends they use my(our) data? Is there any boundaries on internal use of my(our) data? regulated? how is it externally assessable and auditable!?

Ré Hekimz


I would like to know how they are going to improve the energy efficiency and sustainability of their facilities, servers and software.

Barb Darrow

great question. some of these guys have not covered themselves in glory vis a vis clean energy and sustainability.


How will you deal with a solar flare and could it wipe out everything?

David Mytton

One question could be about the financial reporting. If these are such important markets and products, why is the reporting so generic? AWS don’t break out their cloud revenue and neither does Google.

Barb Darrow

yeah i would add that the other legacy IT companies don’t make cloud revenue/sales crystal clear either. great question.

Cloud Insider

I seriously doubt that interoperability is the major concern of IT (other than some fake marketing from some OpenStack vendors). No one (not just AWS/GCE – interop does not exist even amongst OpenStack vendors) offers that. Also, if interop were such a big concern then you would not have major enterprises running IBM, HP or other legacy software, none of which interoperate well. OpenStack has as much lock-in as others, so if they are looking for no lock-in they don’t have any options :-). But the bigger point is that I don’t think it is the key concern.

I think the major concern would be whether cloud is reliable and secure, and whether it can meet their business needs. So, questions such as – what are you doing to make the cloud reliable and secure, including scenarios under which even if the govt issues a subpeona, could I setup my data such that they cant view it. Whether applications can run end-end well in the cloud. And whether the costs of migrating to the cloud are worth the benefits – can these guys quantify the long term ROI after you factor in the costs of migration. I’d ask such questions.

Barb Darrow

yes clear policy (written out) re. subpoenas and information requests from govt agencies would be good. The IT pros who responded to my query all brought up interop/migration however… maybe they’ve been stung once too often by vendor lock-in?

Cloud Insider

Are these IT pros from companies that are pushing OpenStack (vendors such as HP, Cisco, IBM etc)? If not then maybe they are just influenced by the OS hype machine and marketing :-).

In my meetings with customers interop very rarely comes up as a burning need. Lots of questions though around security, reliability and compliance. And performance (and consistency of performance).

Barb Darrow

one is the CIO of a big architecture firm –30 offices and **i think** 10K employees — they use a lot of amazon storage — not sure how much compute right now — the other was with a tech vendor that still fields its own data centers but is clearly looking at moving more infra and workloads to clouds…Neither has any sort of affinity or interest in OpenStack… when they talk clouds they’re talkign public clouds — aws, goog, msft azure. Maybe outliers but after covering enterprise software for years i know lots of customers — big banks, insurance companies — who don’t want to replicate the lockin they see in their server rooms in the cloud. They’re fighitng big vendors like Oracle, red hat, msft every day.

Cloud Insider

OK, fair enough. I suppose these IT pros have been frustrated about lock-ins and are eagerly latching onto some of the OS marketing about interop, even though reality is otherwise.

I still feel that the first priority would be to ensure that a cloud meets their core business needs, even if it is just one cloud that does so. Especially since the public cloud at least does not have the issue of price lock-in (or worse, increases) that you see with on-prem hardware or software. In traditional legacy hardware/software companies pay upfront (perpetual licenses), and then even with future Moore’s law price drops they do not get the benefits. While customers get the benefit of public cloud price drops right away, as it is a pay as you go model. Further, Google and AWS are in a race to the bottom of prices.

And yes Massimo, I do work for the “bookseller cloud”. But, my opinions are my own, not necessarily in line with AWS.


I think you should also disclose (as you did on Twitter) that you work for AWS.

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