Saturday, April 02, 2011

The commoditization of scalability

Last week, I had an interesting discussion with a product owner at an ISV. We discussed his offering; it was core plumbing-middleware-kind-of-stuff. When I asked about how he differentiated his offering from others on the market the answer was that they scale better. Our discussion moved from what he was doing to what I was up to and without trying to be coy I said, "We enable the commoditization of scalability". What I mean by this is that we help our customers adopt public and private clouds that know how to auto scale applications (and much more).

Of course, ISV's have always used non-functional attributes like availability, scalability and security as competitive differentiators in their offering. These capabilities are now being provided as features in the IaaS fabric. The next generation products coming from ISV's will need to redesign their solution on top of cloud infrastructures like Amazon, Eucalyptus, vCloud Director,, OpenStack and Nimbula. It will no longer be acceptable for an ISV to march into a customer and demand a block of servers to run their proprietary clusters. They will be expected to be able to allocate computer resources from the IaaS common pool. In addition, the ISV's will need to differentiate on attributes other than those provided by the IaaS fabric.

This change will affect the corporate I.T software development department as well. I've witnessed several I.T. groups design highly scalable architectures. Usually, the I.T. personnel aren't educated to perform this kind of work and either the project fails or delivery costs are very high. I believe that the I.T. departments that invest in IaaS will be able to significantly reduce the cost to design, deploy and operate highly scalable systems. It might be premature to declare the commoditization of scalability, but I truly believe we are witnessing the most significant step towards that goal in my 20 year career.

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