How working in the hospitality industry prepared me for the cloud

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When I started working in hospitality, clouds were only in the sky and architects designed hotels. I never imagined that my experience with food service, event planning and security would help me explain some of the most important concepts in cloud computing.

In 1986 I was attending college, learning about hospitality management and looking forward to an exciting career traveling across Canada. After graduating from college I worked in Alberta and British Columbia during ski season, and back east in St. Andrews, New Brunswick, in the summer. I continued this for 10 years, meeting interesting people and learning lots about the business, until I got married and my wife encouraged me to follow my true passion, technology. I was surprised to discover that I could apply a lot of what I had already learned to my new work in cloud computing.

Here are some of the lessons I learned during my years in the hospitality industry:

  • People don’t like cold food.
  • Always be ready to sell more or less food and beverages than you planned for.
  • The size of the banquet hall is important.
  • How you prepare for a public event is different than how you prepare for a private event.
  • Crashing a private party is bad for business.

How did these help me understand cloud?

Time to delivery matters

People don’t like cold food. How many times have you waited too long for your food only to have it turn up cold? Was it a good experience? Timeliness is critical in food service, but it does take longer for that soufflé to be prepared, so we need to make sure it’s hot when the customer gets it.

Likewise, time to delivery is important in cloud computing. This is true only to a point, because while it’s important to get workloads in a timely manner sometimes it’s worth the wait for a better product. Improving time to delivery in cloud could mean including high availability (HA) or disaster recovery (DR) as part of your cloud services, both of which are available as options on IBM cloud computing offerings.

Scalability is important

In the hospitality industry you have to always be ready for changes in the numbers. You may be able to sell more food and beverage if demand is high, or may need to send people home early if demand is lighter than expected—all with the goal of increasing revenue. 

As your business looks to cloud, consider how scalable your cloud service is. Is there a possibility you’ll need to burst to accommodate increased demand, and how much will that cost? Or, alternately, can you reduce your capacity to save costs and improve cash flow? This is now possible because cloud services move capital expenses to operational expenses, allowing businesses to save where they couldn’t before.

Understand capacity planning

The size of the banquet hall is important. Having 500 people in a room designed for 50 is a problem, and 50 people in a room for 500 is just as bad.

In cloud computing, getting the right size container for your workload can save you money, and having the analytics to make that happen is critical. This right sizing approach provides savings from both infrastructure costs and the licensing of middleware and applications. Using products like CiRBA Control Console can provide an easy-to-use visual overview of capacity management.

Private versus public

Preparing for public events is different than preparing for private ones, and letting the public into a private event never impresses the hosts. 

Similarly, some business processes and services should be privately hosted for better control or audit requirements. Others can be public, usually resulting in lower costs but less flexibility. Workloads like web services are ideal for public clouds. New approaches using graphics processing units (GPUs—instead of central processing units, CPUs) or bare metal options available in some clouds allow more intense workloads, which was previously a barrier in public clouds. This is a trend that is sure to continue, allowing more diverse workloads to sit on public clouds.

Don’t forget security

When people crash a private party it’s bad for business, and having good security on all the doors is a good idea for both private and public events, to keep people safe.

Understanding the level of security offered is a must in cloud computing too. Depending on your industry you may require different levels of security, such as the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) or Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). These security requirements go beyond the standard physical and operational security that most public cloud offerings have. This is less of an issue in private cloud implementations, as almost any requirements can be added, for a cost. As cloud offerings mature we are seeing a more secure environment to layer your critical business application. This is due to the automation and standardization that is inherent by design in cloud.

These are just some of my experiences that crossed over from my past to the present. Did a previous career you had help you understand or explain cloud better? Please post your comments below and follow me on Twitter @jmbone.

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