Lydia Leong

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Lydia Leong
Research VP
11 years at Gartner
19 years IT industry

Lydia Leong is a research vice president in the Technology and Service Providers group at Gartner. Her primary research focus is cloud computing, together with Internet infrastructure services, such as Web hosting, content delivery networks…Read Full Bio

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Watch the rhetoric

by Lydia Leong  |  February 4, 2011  |  1 Comment

A number of years, an executive at a vendor made a very honest and very funny comment to me during a briefing. The gist of it was this: For years, they’d disdained the technologies that Generation X was interested in — Linux, open source, and so forth. They had, in fact, been generally contemptuous of them, and of the up-and-coming young’uns in corporate IT who were interested in those technologies. And then, ten years passed, and those Gen Xers that they’d been so dismissive of began getting promoted to director-level in corporate IT. And so now they were in charge of sourcing — and they hated that vendor.

That vendor ended up having to spend a lot of money on a marketing campaign that was targeted at Gen X, but I don’t think they’ve ever fully recovered from those years. Even though they’re now perfectly capable of managing the new generation of technology, they are still perceived as stodgy, and not a vendor to look to for innovation (despite actually being pretty innovative, compared to their competitors).

Over the last two years, I’ve been seeing a lot of echoes of that in my conversations with vendors, including service providers. (The naysayer rhetoric around public cloud sometimes sounds a lot like the naysayer rhetoric around Linux in the 1990s.) Cloud naysayers talk about how the enterprise will never trust outside providers or shared environments, be willing to give up most if not all customization in order to drive cost and agility, and so forth. But even if at least part of this generation of IT leadership feels that way, the next generation is highly unlikely to. Digital natives will soon reach crucial levels of IT decision-making even in the traditional enterprise, and there’s a truly cloud-native generation entering the workforce, as well, who will start exerting corporate purchasing power in a few years. The entire mindset of an organization and its approach to sourcing ultimately often hinges on individuals, and generational turnover in IT management shouldn’t be ignored.

Vendors who dismiss the significance, importance, and reality of public cloud computing risk silently alienating future IT leaders. There’s a difference between a realistic immediate approach to the market, which has to acknowledge enterprise concerns and ways of doing business and create a path to migrate to the cloud, and conveying the sense that cloud isn’t for real businesses.

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  • 1 Lori Morgan   February 4, 2011 at 12:57 pm

    Jim–As always, a good post. As I am sure you are aware, there are many large companies right now going through the exercise of determining which systems can go out to the cloud and it’s driven by the sensitivity of the data housed in the application. Today, the data we consider to be sensitive is the same information digital natives have posted and display in many public arenas…thereby making the standards for what is classified as private considerably more broad.

    The challenge for the behomoth IT groups today is determining where it makes financial sense to abandon or restructure large networks (or real pipelines) between offices in order to facilitate the move to the cloud. I don’t understand all of that yet, but from what I understand, the move will be costly in the beginning–like any other IT move–but costs less in the long run.

    I’d be interested in learning more about when it makes sense for Saas companies who deliver services via the public cloud. Right now, people (usually buyers outside IT) don’t even understand what the cloud is, so service providers are just using the word cloud to sound innovative and cool when they really aren’t hosting in a true cloud environment. How can we truly begin to determine the right time to provide services in that environment? I don’t think we are there yet.