A wise man once said: “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” In the movie Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Ferris was speaking metaphorically, but now his words are literally true. His sister got a car, but he got a computer. Already, these are no longer mutually exclusive options. Many of us are already driving “connected cars,” using the cloud to offload and streamline services providing information, navigation, and in some cases (for example, with Tesla), downloadable automotive operating system upgrades, complete with release notes.

So, things are moving fast. For example, in one minute, almost 70,000 hours of entertainment is viewed on Netflix. Time travel! How will your company keep up with (and become part of) this magical compounding of time? First, get on board with virtualization, that is, the magical transformation of space.

Why platforms are the better choice

On this season of HBO’s hit comedy Silicon Valley, the characters (a group of lovable tech startup engineers) clash with their CEO over whether to deploy their technology as a physical box or a scalable platform. Even viewers with virtually no technical background intuitively understand that the platform is the better choice. Boxes are limiting by definition. To package your services as a scalable platform is to literally think outside the box.

Here’s what a platform does that a box doesn’t (from a business perspective):

  • It gives something away for free. On Silicon Valley,the fictional company of Pied Piper wants to give away middle-out file compression services to individual end users. This builds the brand and creates an army of volunteer beta testers.
  • It invites power users to pay—business users, enterprise users, users who want guaranteed services and will shell out for them.
  • A good platform always makes money for its partners. Google does this with Adwords. Pied Piper might do it by providing a marketplace for enterprise users to sell their super-compressed files.

Rethinking cloud storage

But these days, most datacenter capacity isn't used for platform deployment. It's used for storage. So let's consider how re-thinking storage can help fill each unforgiving minute with sixty seconds' worth of distance run.

In the movie Back To The Future Part II,the older version of the villain, Biff, speaks from the future year of 2015 to his younger self about where to to store a sports almanac that will be used to win millions of dollars on sports betting.

What does he say? “Get a safe.” He’s talking about a physical, metal safe. How quaint.

Who wins the World Cup in 2046?

If I was visited by my future self, and he told me who was going to win the World Cup in 2046, where would I store that information? I wouldn't want the 2016 version of a metal safe. And if I save it to a reliable cloud provider today, will that provider still be using the same setup in 30 years?

Of course not. Heck, even five years from now, the landscape of computing in general might be unrecognizable. But we no longer have to fear the future of information storage and security. For the first time in history, those things are truly scalable, not just in terms of size, but in terms of time. Your data will be there in 30 years, whether you're still with the same provider or you've moved to another.

Three key steps to digital industrialization

The key to being future-proof is to recognize that there’s a big difference betweencloud-home-digital-industrialization-1146x650_720x409_90.jpg storing your information digitally (somewhere) and storing it in the cloud. You don’t want to be a business that uses digitization. You want to be a digital business.

Consider three key steps:

  • Industrializing your cloud. Your dog should not live in a toolbox, your gardener should not live in your pool house, and your data should not live in the digital equivalent of a metal safe (or in an actual metal safe). It should live in an environment that is meant to give data a comfortable place to rest, grow, and thrive: a scalable cloud datacenter. The datacenter then becomes the core asset of the business based on standardization (unifying technical and business strategies), consolidation (pooling infrastructure resources), abstraction (implementing software-driven orchestration), automation (minimizing human intervention), and governance (delivering a tamper-proof infrastructure).
  • Realizing speed without risk. If you find yourself asking questions such as “Is it safe to deploy that quickly?” then you’re living in the past. Strive for consistent global policy and automation capabilities  that drive control at the individual component level.
  • Operationalizing innovation. The cluttered basement R&D lab is long gone (or should be). Scalable computing isn’t just used for storage and rollout; it’s part of the development process as well. Developers, designers, and content creators should all be using it. The key is to wrap your distributed applications in automation and policies to safely deploy, orchestrate, and govern your digital workloads.


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Digital Industrialization

Michael Bennett Cohn

Michael Bennett Cohn was head of digital product and revenue operations at Condé Nast, where he created the company's first dynamic system for digital audience cross-pollination. At a traditional boutique ad agency, he founded and ran the digital media buying team, during which time he planned and executed the digital ad campaign that launched the first Amazon Kindle. At Federated Media, where he was the first head of east coast operations, he developed and managed conversational marketing campaigns for top clients including Dell, American Express, and Kraft. He also has a master's degree in cinema-television from the University of Southern California. He lives in Brooklyn.

Michael Bennett Cohn