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OpenStack Summit 2013: OpenStack Back to the Enterprise, Keep Calm and Boldly Go On

This is a session titled “OpenStack Back to the Enterprise: Keep Calm and Boldly Go.” The session is led by Florian Otel (@florianotel on Twitter), with HP Cloud Services in EMEA. The purpose of this talk is to share some of the “lessons learned” in how to position OpenStack to enterprise customers and overcome their objections.

Florian starts out the presentation with a slide that says, “This is a business, not a science project.” He re-iterates that this session is about making business sense. He also assures us that this presentation won’t be a glitzy marketing session, either—it will be real, nitty gritty, “in the trenches” knowledge learned when positioning OpenStack to enterprise customers. Finally, Florian acknowledges that his presentation will probably be a bit biased toward service provider-type use cases.

The presentation goes on to display a picture of Geoffrey Moore, who wrote a book titled “Crossing the Chasm”. Florian ties this to the adoption curves of various technologies and Moore’s assertion in his book that “we need to very mindful of the customers in the market”. Specifically, marketing to the early adopters (on the left edge of the bell curve) and the mainstream (the bulge of the bell curve) is very different.

Next, the presenter shows us a picture of Clayton Christiansen, who wrote (among other books) “The Innovator’s Dilemma.” The conclusion drawn in the book is that there are two types of innovation: sustaining innovation and disruptive innovation.

Florian ties these two thoughts together in a chart the combines the adoption curve with the adoption/evolution of OpenStack as a disruptive innovation.

So how does one pitch OpenStack to an enterprise organization? Florian shares this quote: “Never try to sell a meteor to a dinosaur. It wastes your time and annoys the dinosaur.”

If that’s not the right way, then what is? Florian makes the “dreaded Linux-OpenStack comparison,” combining it with models and charts from Moore’s “Crossing the Chasm.” Florian posits that a key adoption point is that the underlying platform—be it Linux or OpenStack—must “become irrelevant.” He points to Comcast’s demo (which is powered by OpenStack) and asks, “Did anyone see OpenStack there?”

Florian goes to another quote from Moore stating that applications have an advantage over platforms when it comes to crossing the chasm. Moore believes that “platforms must be garbed in application clothing” in order to cross the chasm. In other words, “mind the gap” between applications and platforms.

The next slide in Florian’s presentation says this: “The more I love the idea, the less money it makes!!” The key point to take away is that as technologists we often “fall in love” with a technology/project/platform, but we need to be able to articulate the value of this technology/project/platform in some way other than “it’s a really cool technology.” This aligns very closely with my own thinking—we need to adopt some practicality if we want to see the technology/project/platform we love so much actually succeed.

Florian now moves from abstract and theoretical applications and moves into a more concrete discussion of various use cases for HPCS (HP Cloud Services). These use cases include archival, collaboration, “cloud bursting,” dev/test PaaS, and production applications. He delves in a bit deeper on one particular use case, to which he refers as “Dropbox for the enterprise.”

Next the presenter shares a warning: “All good ideas must die—so that great ideas might live.” Good use cases are going to die and pass away, but new (potentially even better) use cases will emerge. We mustn’t get “tied” to our existing use cases.

There are fundamentally three different areas where a company can focus:

  • Operational excellence

  • Product leadership

  • Customer intimacy

Florian says he believes that one lesson HP learned is that customer intimacy is critically important. He didn’t say, but I suspect that customer intimacy is important at earlier stages of market adoption (going back to the bell curve of market adoption), while other areas of focus might be more important at other stages of adoption.

According to Florian, it’s called bleeding edge for a reason. Be ready to help your customers that hurt themselves. It’s also important to “not get in your own way.” Be willing to admit when you’re wrong, press the Reset button, and press forward with customer needs in the forefront of your vision.

The secret to success is, according to Florian, simple: “Just learn to use OpenStack the way Hendrix uses his guitar.”

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