Is the public cloud really your best option? Before following the crowd, do your homework.
There are thousands of reasons why entrepreneurs start their own businesses. Ultimately, though, those myriad motivators boil down to one thing: the desire to create something of value. Your definition of “value” will largely depend on your company’s objective; it might be marketability, sustainability, innovation, or — in many cases — profitability. Once you’ve established your business goal, everything you do should be in service to that goal, which takes money, time, and people.
This all sounds relatively obvious on paper, but in practice, many companies aren’t evaluating whether every business decision they make serves their ultimate goal. Take IT spending, for instance. For many, the IT department is seen as a cost center, a necessary expense to keep the business running. It’s the same for the public cloud — everyone else is using it, so it must be part of the cost of doing business, right? But what is actually the business value of cloud computing? If you haven’t asked yourself that question before, it’s time to take a step back and reassess.
Do You Really Know the Value of Cloud Computing?
Any business trying to compete in the modern marketplace needs a comprehensive IT infrastructure in place. When the public cloud is viewed as just another necessary cost of this infrastructure, executives and IT professionals often neglect to reassess its value, even as the company grows and evolves. In some cases, otherwise savvy businesses are wasting up to 50% of their IT infrastructure budget by treating these costs as a foregone conclusion.
There are three factors that contribute to this mentality: the ease of maintaining the status quo, an aversion to risk, and a herd mentality that’s all too common in the technology industry.
Maintaining the Status Quo
It’s not hard to see why IT professionals become comfortable with the status quo. There’s business value in saving the time, money, and personnel it would take to re-evaluate all of your current solutions. At some point, however, continuing along the same path means you’re probably leaving money on the table. Don’t over-focus on short-term results.
But what if you spend the time and effort to come up with an alternate solution and it doesn’t work? What if it adds unplanned expenses or downtime? Those are valid concerns, but they can build up into a risk-averse attitude that simply doesn’t work in cutting-edge industries. Eventually, one of your competitors is going to take those risks, leaving you behind in the process.
Following the Herd
The technology industry has a long history of herd mentality. In the past, we saw this with outsourced data centers, cryptocurrency and NFTs, the media’s “pivot to video” — none of which were proven to be sustainable over time. The latest shiny distractions are AI and cloud computing, both of which have very promising technological applications. The problem is, many companies aren’t fully evaluating those applications or the value they bring; instead, decision-makers assume that everyone who came before them has already done their due diligence, and it’s safe to walk the same path.
In the case of the public cloud, this can be an expensive assumption. Companies often turn to the public cloud to get up and running quickly; others see this immediate success and follow suit without properly doing their homework. The best solution for another company doesn’t mean it will suit your particular needs. In some cases, public cloud computing might legitimately be the best option, but how can you really know that if you haven’t evaluated its value?
Embracing Change as the Only Constant
Think about a startup with a handful of employees. It has to do a lot with very little, so many of the functions of an enterprise business — payroll, HR, and so on — are likely getting outsourced to cloud-based software solutions. In those early months and sometimes years, that makes perfect sense, but what happens when your company matures? Is it still worth it to pay those recurring infrastructure costs, or is there a better way?
To avoid getting stuck in the “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” trap, you need to accept the fact that change is inevitable. Whenever your business grows, you need to take the time to evaluate the solutions you’re using and consider whether there are better alternatives. Is the value of cloud computing the same now as it was a year ago, three years ago, five years ago? If you’re not sure of the answer, it’s time for an audit. Do your research, weigh your choices, and only after you’ve established which option provides the most value, make a choice — but understand that choice isn’t permanent. In another three to five years, it might be time for another audit. That doesn’t mean you made the wrong choice; it just means that change has come once again. Don’t fear it. Embrace it.
Roundstone Gets Business Value
At Roundstone, evaluating the available solutions and making the best choice for a particular set of circumstances is our specialty. Whether you’re struggling to find the right cloud strategy, attempting to modernize existing architecture, or hoping to find ways to stretch your resources further, Roundstone Solutions can help. We work with best-in-class vendors and create efficient solutions designed with your needs in mind. To learn more, get in touch.
Companies and governments are investing heavily to build AI, but many don’t know what they’re buying — or how to use it
The sky is falling for anyone not getting into artificial intelligence (AI) immediately. If you build AI for your business, you’re going to revolutionize the industry by saving huge amounts of time, boosting efficiency, and raising productivity, and it’s only going to get better over time. Just look at how good ChatGPT is now: You give it a prompt, and it spits out 700 words like it’s nothing. Evangelists spread this gospel from every corner. Businesses and governments alike see dollar signs.
There’s just one problem: Many of the leaders at these organizations don’t actually understand AI. The hype around the technology has them exploring how to build AI rather than how to use it in practical ways. By failing to cover their fundamentals, these leaders risk burning time and cash on AI investments that don’t pan out. So, in the interest of saving both, let’s take a deep breath and a deeper look at what AI is and what it can do for us.
What Is AI?
Underneath the shiny, marketing-buffed exterior, AI is an application like anything else. That means it takes servers, data, networking, and software to build AI successfully.
Let’s take ChatGPT as an example. This bot works by crawling the internet to index the contents — just as Google Search does — and then store huge chunks of it on developer OpenAI’s servers. The bot then examines all that language to learn syntax, usage, and facts that help it mimic human writing. When you prompt ChatGPT, it accesses those servers, chews through a bunch of data, and returns it to you as a big block of text.
The classic components of an application are all there. Servers host ChatGPT’s data, networks connect those servers, and software pulls it all together into text for users to read and use. That makes it fundamentally the same as your human resources or payroll apps. The only difference is in its workload.
How to Build AI Infrastructure
At this juncture, business leaders need to look past the hype around AI and treat it like any other application. The apps may do some of the work for you, but if you plan to integrate an AI solution, you will need to invest in infrastructure.
Outsourcing vs. Going In-House
Whether it’s storage, cybersecurity, or AI, implementing a new solution means examining whether or not to outsource its infrastructure. In each case, a business has to answer for itself by evaluating the expected return on investment of either option. When it comes to storage and cybersecurity, we have an ocean of data to pore through about how to provision infrastructure. We have a strong sense of what benefits and drawbacks we can expect from different deployment methods. That leads to smarter business decisions and more efficient operations.
AI is a different story. Its use cases in business are still nascent. As a result, we simply don’t have the data we need to determine whether it’s more cost-effective to build AI infrastructure in-house or to rent it from tech giants like Google. Moreover, it will be a long time before we have that data. And there’s going to be a lot of money burned between now and then.
The Case for Letting Others Lead
Despite the enthusiasm for impressive AI deployments like ChatGPT, it’s still not clear exactly how this technology will unlock the efficiency gains executives are looking for. That won’t stop them from looking. Lots of people have lots of ideas about how AI can save time and money, but they know very little for sure. Leaders in the space will likely spend billions of dollars and make tons of mistakes before they perfect the formula for AI deployment. For giant corporations, that kind of investment may be worthwhile. But for most businesses, it will prove much more cost-effective to adopt a wait-and-see approach.
Imagine a banking giant like Wells Fargo, for example. It could spend $1 billion on AI just to see $100 million of value. That return may grow over time, but the initial costs would be ruinous for a smaller company. It’s far more efficient for that smaller company to wait until the use cases have become clear and begun to demonstrate value. That way, they can invest less upfront and still see similar returns.
Think of AI like a bridge under construction via trial and error. Deep-pocketed interests can afford to send their goods across the bridge over and over despite the risk of a bridge collapse. If a collapse comes, they can eat the cost of lost goods and then use what they learned to make the bridge a little better. Over a long enough timeline — and with sufficient lost goods — they’ll come up with a great bridge. But in the meantime, it makes more sense for the rest of us to head downstream to the ford. It may take a little longer, but it’s significantly safer. Then, once the infrastructure is in place, we can swoop in and benefit from their investments at a lower cost.
How to Plan for the Future
Even if you’re not investing in AI immediately, there are still ways you can prepare for its widespread adoption. The most important thing you can do right now is consider what, specifically, you want AI to do for your business. What are the processes that seem ripe for efficiency gains? Where are the simple, repetitive tasks that could be handled by AI? Create a plan for how you might integrate AI technology. In each case, be sure to clearly outline how it will deliver increased business value. By doing so, you can position yourself as the smart money coming to capitalize on AI.
Build Efficiency Through Modernization
For many businesses, AI’s promise lies in its ability to increase efficiency. Budgets are stretched thin, and organizations of all sizes are looking to do more with less. While you wait for AI to realize that promise, there are plenty of ways to up efficiency. From Hybrid Cloud Infrastructure to Unified Communications as a Service, Roundstone Solutions can put you in touch with best-in-class vendors ready to get you the biggest return on every dollar spent. Contact us today to learn more.
From the well-known to the highly rated, these are the partners you need to know about
As many are discovering, the time to migrate to hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) is now.
I’ve written before about the benefits of HCI. Put simply, no one is in the business of owning technology for the sake of owning technology. If you’re going to own tech, it should be beneficial to your business. HCI benefits businesses by offering an efficient entry to the latest infrastructure tech that will save you money.
Don’t just take my word for it. Public cloud solutions are taking up a lot of bandwidth lately, with many businesses following the herd to the cloud without giving a lot of thought to why or what other solutions might be available. But here’s a secret: public cloud providers and other hyperscalers use HCI. In fact, one of our top HCI vendors was created by people who built the infrastructure for one of the largest current public cloud providers.
HCI offers an evolution of traditional server architecture by automating and moving tasks to software. It provides the simplicity of a one-touch experience in a scalable solution for any enterprise user.
Here are the top 5 hyperconverged infrastructure vendors I think you should know about.
Top 5 HCI Vendors
There are a variety of HCI vendors out there. Most of them are good. Some are great. Which HCI vendor is right for you can depend on your needs and budget.
These are the HCI vendors that would be a good fit for almost any enterprise or small business. Starting at the top, with the HCI vendor I recommend more than any other.
Nutanix was founded in 2009 by engineers who worked at Google creating the Google file system, including a man known as the “Father of Hyperconvergence,” Mohit Aron. Google was one of the earliest pioneers of HCI. The company, in its goal to create a scalable architecture, moved many processes into automation through software. This helped streamline operations and allowed for faster data access.
Aron was on the team that created the file system for managing all of that data, which Google still uses to this day. Believing more companies could benefit from HCI technology, Aron left Google and co-founded Nutanix. The company achieved “unicorn” status in 2013 as a startup with a valuation of over $1 billion and went public in 2016. Today, the company is worth over $8 billion.
Nutanix was the first in the HCI space and is still one of the best. It created a simple-to-use service with the power of a file system created for a hyper-scaler.
To me, Nutanix is the industry’s best-kept secret. A lot of people haven’t heard of it, but those who know, know.
Net Promoter Score (NPS) is a survey that asks responders a single question: how likely are you to recommend this product or service? Respondents answer with a number from 0-10. Numbers 0-6 are considered “detractors,” 7 and 8 are considered “passives,” and 9 and 10 are considered “promoters.” The percentage of detractors is then subtracted from the percentage of promoters, and the result is a number between -100 and 100, which is a company’s NPS.
Nutanix’s NPS is 90+ and has been for six years. That is unheard of. Compare that to Amazon Web Services (AWS) at 59, Google Cloud Platform at 45, and Microsoft at 40. People who use Nutanix love Nutanix.
SimpliVity was also founded in 2009 and was acquired by HPE in 2017.
HPE has since bolted SimpliVity onto its offerings as its native HCI solution. Unfortunately, SimpliVity has always had hardware dependencies. It is not a full software solution like Nutanix. And, now that it is a part of HPE, it is wholly dependent on HPE equipment. So if you buy SimpliVity, you’re buying HPE equipment.
The other side of that coin is that it makes HPE a one-stop shop. You can actually buy hardware from them to go with your HCI solution.
Dell’s solution is novel in that it didn’t purchase a separate HCI company, it created its own out of pre-existing parts. But unlike Nutanix, the Dell VxRail solution is not built from the ground up for HCI, it is cobbled together out of existing Dell infrastructure solutions. The result, while it functions adequately, is not as elegant or efficient a solution as Nutanix.
VxRail, like Simplivity, also eliminates choice. You’ll be running Vmware whether you want Vmware or not. You will also be tethered to Dell hardware. The upside of these dependencies is they take the guesswork out of choosing virtualization and hardware. Plus, as with SimpliVity, you can at least buy hardware from Dell.
Hyperflex was created by Cisco in partnership with Springpath in 2016. Cisco then acquired Springpath in 2017 for $320 million.
The main benefit of Hyperflex was the Cisco brand name, but given that Cisco is mainly a networking company and has no stake in the storage market, its value as an HCI solution is questionable. Hyperflex was mainly used by Cisco to seed its server business with a proprietary HCI solution, but in August of 2023, Cisco announced a partnership with Nutanix to offer a wholly new HCI solution for Cisco server equipment. Hyperflex has since been discontinued.
Scale Computing is the smallest of the top 5 HCI vendors. Scale was founded in 2008 and launched its HCI solution in 2012.
Scale is a solid solution for SMBs, but it shouldn’t be considered enterprise class. If you have small workloads and a solution like Nutanix is too expensive, Scale is a solid choice. Otherwise, I’d stick with one of the other vendors.
Migrating to HCI doesn’t have to be complicated. Roundstone can walk you through the process and talk you through your options to find the solution that’s best for you. Whether that’s one of the five HCI vendors listed here or something entirely different. To get started with your HCI migration and to learn more about how Roundstone can help you with your technology needs, contact us today.
Tim Joyce, Founder, Roundstone Solutions