By Stuart Boardman, KPN
On Wednesday, April 25 at The Open Group Cannes Conference, we have a whole stream of sessions that will discuss Cloud Computing. There’s a whole bunch of interesting presentations on the program but one of the things that struck me in particular is how many of them are dealing with Cloud as an ecosystem. As a member of The Open Group’s Cloud Work Group, this is not a huge surprise for me (we do tell each other what we’re working on!), but it also happens to be a major preoccupation of mine at the moment, so I tend to notice occurrences of the word “ecosystem” or of related concepts. Outside of The Open Group in the wider Enterprise Architecture community, there’s more and more being written about ecosystems. The topic was the focus of my last Open Group blog .
On Wednesday, you’ll hear Boeing’s TJ Virdi and Kevin Sevigny with Conexiam Solutions talking about ecosystems in the context of Cloud and TOGAF. They’ll be talking about “how the Cloud Ecosystem impacts Enterprise Architecture,” which will include “an overview of how to use TOGAF to develop an Enterprise Architecture for the Cloud ecosystem.” This work comes out of the Using TOGAF for Cloud Ecosystem project (TOGAF-CE), which they co-chair. Capgemini’s Mark Skilton kicks off the day with a session called “Selecting and Delivering Successful Cloud Products and Services.” If you’re wondering what that has to do with ecosystems, Mark pointed out to me that “the ecosystem in that sense is business technology dynamics and the structural, trust models that….” – well I won’t spoil it – come along and hear a nice business take on the subject. In fact, I wonder who on that Wednesday won’t be talking in one way or another about ecosystems. Take a look at the agenda for yourself.
By the way, apart from the TOGAF-CE project, several other current Open Group projects deal with ecosystems. The Cloud Interaction Ecosystem Language (CIEL) project is developing a visual language for Cloud ecosystems and then there’s the Cloud Interoperability and Portability project, which inevitably has to concern itself with ecosystems. So it’s clearly a significant concept for people to be thinking about.
In my own presentation I’ll be zooming in on Social Business as a Cloud-like phenomenon. “What has that to do with Cloud?” you might be asking. Well quite a lot actually. Technologically most social business tools have a Cloud delivery model. But far more importantly a social business involves interaction across parties who may not have any formal relationship (e.g. provider to not-yet customer or to potential partner) or where the formal aspect of their relationship doesn’t include the social business part (e.g. engaging a customer in a co-creation initiative). In some forms it’s really an extended enterprise. So even if there were no computing involved, the relationship has the same Cloud-like, loosely coupled, service oriented nature. And of course there is a lot of information technology involved. Moreover, most of the interaction takes place over Internet- based services. In a successful social business these will not be the proprietary services of the enterprise but the public services of one or more market leading provider, because that’s where your customers and partners interact. Or to put it another way, you don’t engage your customers by making them come to you but by going to them.
I don’t want to stretch this too far. The point here is not to insist that Social Business is a form of Cloud but rather that they have comparable types of ecosystem and that they are therefore amenable to similar analysis methods. There are of course essential parts of Cloud that are purely the business of the provider and are quite irrelevant to the ecosystem (the ecosystem only cares about what they deliver). Interestingly one can’t really say that about social business – that really is all about the ecosystem. It may not matter whether we think the IT underlying social business is really Cloud computing but it most certainly is part of the ecosystem.
In my presentation, I’ll be looking at techniques we can use to help us understand what’s going on in an ecosystem and how changes in one place can have unexpected effects elsewhere – if we don’t understand it properly. My focus is one part of the whole body of work that needs to be done. There is work being done on how we can capture the essence of a Cloud ecosystem (CIEL). There is work being done on how we can use TOGAF to help us describe the architecture of a Cloud ecosystem (TOGAF-CE). There is work being done on how to model ecosystem behavior in general (me and others). And there’s work being done in many places on how ecosystem participants can interoperate. At some point we’ll need to bring all this together but for now, as long as we all keep talking to each other, each of the focus areas will enrich the others. In fact I think it’s too early to try to construct some kind of grand unified theory out of it all. We’d just produce something overly complex that no one knew how to use. I hope that TOGAF Next will give us a home for some of this – not in core TOGAF but as part of the overall guidance – because enterprises are more and more drawn into and dependent upon their surrounding ecosystems and have an increasing need to understand them. And Cloud is accelerating that process.
You can expect a lot of interesting insights on Wednesday, April 25. Come along and please challenge the presenters, because we too have a lot to learn.
Stuart Boardman is a Senior Business Consultant with KPN where he co-leads the Enterprise Architecture practice as well as the Cloud Computing solutions group. He is co-lead of The Open Group Cloud Computing Work Group’s Security for the Cloud and SOA project and a founding member of both The Open Group Cloud Computing Work Group and The Open Group SOA Work Group. Stuart is the author of publications by the Information Security Platform (PvIB) in The Netherlands and of his previous employer, CGI. He is a frequent speaker at conferences on the topics of Cloud, SOA, and Identity.