There are a few ways to approach the question of whether your favorite platform vendor should become your cloud vendor – or whether you should prefer a separate company. The first has to do with economic incentives. The second, with tactical considerations. The third, with core competencies.
But, before I launch into those 3, let me give credence to the opposing view. As with any dominant platform (apple, your car, etc.), the vendor will tell you that buying everything from them directly simplifies things, ensures maximum compatibility, and looks darned pretty because the shade of white is all the same. There is a legitimate argument there, but I still bought my car charger from Kensington – and the Apple brand one wasn’t any easier or cheaper to upgrade to a lightning adapter.
So, back to the 3 reasons:
While I’d like to think of corporations as altruistic purveyors of superior goods for the moral benefit of mankind, most are actually interested in profit. If the bulk of your profit comes from a certain line of business (namely, the platform), you will be strongly motivated to continue to extract a large and growing amount of profit from that same product, at least until the balance shifts. Not surprising.
But, management, on top of the platform, is thus relegated to second fiddle. Not just a second fiddle, but a fiddle necessarily playing the role of bolstering the first fiddle’s profitability. All the normal incentives therefore apply – from the honorable “make the thing work better so people buy more” to the less honorable “don’t support anything else well” and “do things to make switching more painful.” That’s pretty much Econ 101 – and my iTunes library is a testament to its success as a business model.
You may look upon your vast datacenter, breathing in the sweet smell of silicon and think to yourself “my, this is homogeneous ” Or, if you’re like most of us, you silently think “holy cheese, this place needs a map.” Usually, what you have – whether built over time or inherited through acquisition or mysteriously spawned from some nefarious server buying – is a hodge podge.
So, today – even today – you aren’t entirely on the single platform. In fact, you have the data center equivalent of a bunch of ripped DVDs of Bob Marley and the Beatles, some music you recorded in your basement with your band, and $1000 worth of impulsive downloads, including that Katy Perry song you swear was your daughter’s fault.
Which means, your clean white shiny integrated end to end single platform is already mythical. Now, as you let go of that dream, launch yourself backwards to 2005, when your DVD collection was still growing. People bought DVDs then because it was the pinnacle of longevity in media storage. Beauty and the Beast would never degrade. Funny, right? But, the same is true for your data center. Your favorite shiny new platform with pseudo-homogeneity is not forever. So you you can’t build your empire on DVD players.. you need a flexible media environment.
My third argument is more organizational. If you are an expert – a brilliant expert – in optical mice. Or flexible keyboard technologies. or dongles (I want to meet a dongle expert) – do you go work for a company for which you are a “peripheral” or do you go find Logitech, where you’ll be able to really hone your craft?
For my money, all the great optical mouse experts are at Logitech. They aren’t relegated to some ancillary department that handles “add ons to things we actually make lots of money on.” The same is true in cloud. Management experts don’t flock to platform companies to do their magic. Would you?
Of course, I love a good debate. So debate me. @lilacschoenbeck on the twitters – or #bmccloud