For years, people have talked about the different generations that make-up the digital world. There is the Baby Boom Generation, Generation X, Generation Y, and the Millennials. At some point, the concept of the digital native was introduced. Depending on who you talk to, digital natives typically start somewhere in the Generation Y generation.
I am a Generation Xer. I am not a “digital native” by anyone’s definition. I may be an early adopter from Generation X, but no matter how well I adapt to the changing technology, I am not a digital native. I still remember using rotary phones and a time when the most advanced technology in the home was the television sitting on the floor.
The same division can be made with technology companies. There are many different generations. There is the Mainframe Generation, the Enterprise Generation (the client-server), and the Cloud Generation. In software there is also a strong DNA strain of Open Source, though those vendors can still be categorized in specific generations.
As a rule, vendors born of one generation have a tough time migrating to the next. If they succeed, and many do, they still have to work to overcome their roots. DNA is very strong in technology companies. It is in their code, their financial models, and in the visions that their founders established.
Unlike previous generations where market disruptions occurred after the founder had died, in the technology sector the truly disruptive technologies come at a rapid pace.
Take IBM. They are leaders from the Mainframe Generation. IBM did a good job finding a place in the Enterprise Generation, but their position at the top slipped. Their current position is from ground that they have re-gained.
Oracle, EMC, Microsoft and Hyland are from the Enterprise Generation. Alfresco and Nuxeo are as well though their DNA is as much Open Source as it is Enterprise.
Box, Dropbox, and Zendesk are from the Cloud Generation.
DNA is hard to change. Just ask IBM. They had to fight and scratch to leave their mainframe roots behind. Their efforts to become more of a solutions company is something that will help make the next transition to the cloud age.
Are the Enterprise Vendors doomed?
The simple answer is that they aren’t all doomed. Some are making solid strides at entering the world of the cloud.
That doesn’t make them Cloud Vendors. They are Enterprise Vendors with cloud solutions.
Cloud Vendors are cloud down to their DNA. They were born in the cloud and they think of no other way of life. “Hybrid” is a dirty word to them.
Of course, not being a cloud vendor doesn’t mean that an Enterprise Vendor are incapable of delivering good solutions via the cloud. Enterprise Vendors are distinctly different, and that difference can be a good thing if used properly.
Enterprise Vendors understand the realities that companies face day to day because they’ve been living it since the Cloud Vendor founders still in puberty. Information Governance is not a foreign concept to them. The solutions that they place in the cloud are typically more mature from a feature perspective than the ones the Cloud Vendors deploy. Though the may carry many of the perceived flaws of enterprise software into the cloud with them.
The Cloud is the future and the Cloud Vendors are going to lead the way by showing us new ways of doing things.
Not being a Cloud Vendor isn’t a bad thing. It is a recognition of your DNA. The key for vendors is to recognize their roots. If they do that, they can embrace the good, leave the bad, and focus on becoming a force for good in the world of the cloud.
2 thoughts on “Cloud Native or Cloud Migrant?”
Lawrence, very good post and observations. Let me add that mainframe and enterprise aren’t so different as you say, plus they are not markets, but mindsets that are hard to change. But the change is not so hard at the vendor side it is much harder at the customer side. Yes, Cloud is also a mindset but the customers were primarily consumers and not enterprises. Cloud applications are primarily point solutions and it is the vendor who has to offer the integration of various Cloud services. Cloud Mashups are still a risky game lacking stable interfaces and clear costs. Vendors frequently change APIs creating instability. Security is nowhere near enterprise standards. Integrating enterprise quality information systems with the Mobile Social Cloud is not a simple step for an enterprise and it is not something they can do simply.
A system of engagement (SOE) installed as an Enterprise solution is already a huge step from standalone CRM, ECM, BPM systems. Enterprise IT is not ready to change yet. Creating an SOE from Cloud components and then integrating it enterprise IS is a long way off and even further from being acceptable to enterprises. It will happen eventually, but it is not the vendors choice. One huge issue is the jurisdiction of where the Cloud services actually reside.
Many business simply can’t allow uncontrolled cross border data traffic. A law change in another country could invalidate any kind of Cloud service contract. Take for example the requirement to record consumer data traffic in Europe. That is like a law to record all telephone calls just in case some police force may want to access them …
So it is not just an issue of vendor DNA. The command and control mindset of corporations and the growing nanny state mindset around the world are at least as relevant.
I see the Mobile Social Cloud as mostly consumer and some SMB empowerment. Large scale enterprise use will remain small for some time to come.
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