In 2014 I wrote about Microsoft and Dell’s joint Cloud Platform System offering, Microsoft’s initial foray into an “Azure-Like” experience in the enterprise data center. While not a complete or totally transparent Azure experience, it was a definite stake in the ground around Microsoft’s intentions to provide enterprise Azure with hybrid on-premise and public cloud (Azure) interoperability.
I got it wrong about other partners – as far as I know, Dell is the only hardware partner to offer Microsoft CPS – but it looks like my idiot-proof guess that CPS was a stepping stone toward a true on premise Azure was correct, with Microsoft today announcing its technology preview of Azure Stack, the first iteration of a true enterprise Azure offering with hybrid on-prem and public cloud interoperability.
Azure Stack is in some ways a parallel offering to the existing Windows Server/Systems Center and Azure Pack offering, and I believe it represents Microsoft’s long-term vision for enterprise IT, although Microsoft will do nothing to compromise the millions of legacy environments who want to incremental enhance their Windows environment. But for those looking to embrace a more complete cloud experience, Azure Stack is just what the doctor ordered – an Azure environment that can run in the enterprise that has seamless access to the immense Azure public cloud environment.
On the partner front, this time Microsoft will be introducing this as a pure software that can run on one or more standard x86 servers, no special integration required, although I’m sure there will be many bundled offerings of Azure Stack and integration services from partners.
Whether it’s the growth of service providers transitioning to offer services, the emergence of Containers within Hyperconverged solutions, or the potential emergence of Google succeeding, the public cloud is set for a year of “hyper-growth”! That said we have to sort through the FUD (Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt), especially in security, to determine the appropriateness of public cloud for your organization.
Is the low hanging cloud fruit eaten?
The rush to cloud to date has clearly been within “systems of innovation,” applications geared mostly to customer engagement (so-called “systems of engagement”). Enterprises leveraging public cloud are looking to get new innovative applications and services rapidly to market. These applications have been primarily driving customer acquisition and then fostering customer loyalty. These initiatives represent just the tip of the iceberg, the real opportunity is in moving “systems of record”, or everyday work to the public cloud.
First we need to define what we mean by “enterprise cloud”. For this definition, the minimal criteria set includes: robust security, reliable performance, disaster recovery, growing set of services, constantly investing and a great and growing ecosystem of partners. Based on this definition (along with the tremendous growth in public cloud), then all of the public cloud leaders are indeed “Enterprise-class”. In short, the term "Enterprise-class" is fundamentally a term targeted to allay the cloud fears of enterprise technology managers.
Providers are adapting to offer managed services for the megaclouds.
You have all heard the success stories of Uber and Airbnb as they leverage technology to disrupt existing business norms in the taxi and hotel businesses. Digital business successes such as these are pressuring traditional enterprises to focus on differentiation in business models, customer intimacy and velocity as they look to not only preserve market share, but – more importantly – to grow it! This is what Forrester calls the business technology (BT) agenda – technology investments that help your business win, serve, and retain customers.
Additionally, as an I&O professional you cannot ignore the investments, and success, with public cloud. For instance, public cloud providers like Amazon Web Services drive and deliver systems of innovation to create velocity both in new business ventures and traditional enterprises, especially in fueling mobility and web services. The investments to date are supporting the ability of the Public Cloud to support and drive innovation. Additionally, these solutions now raise the possibility of the cloud’s suitability for the next phase, transition of systems of record. This is one of the predictions in our Forrester “Predictions 2016: The Cloud Accelerates” which articulates 11 key developments for Cloud and what I&O professionals should do about them.
The “low hanging fruit” is gone – now it’s time to reach higher
The adoption of public cloud for production workloads continues to grow. Plenty of evidence exists to support this trend, including Forrester’s Business Technographics® data. A poll of attendees on day 2 at the recent ISACA EuroCACS conference in Copenhagen identified that almost 36% of respondents are using public cloud for production workloads.
ISACA EuroCACS Polling Question
Are you using public cloud for production workload?
The hordes gathered in Las Vegas this week, for Amazon's latest re:Invent show. Over 18,000 individuals queued to get into sessions, jostled to reach the Oreo Cookie Popcorn (yes, really), and dodged casino-goers to hear from AWS, its partners and its customers. Las Vegas may figure nowhere on my list of favourite places, but the programme of Analyst sessions AWS laid on for earlier in the week definitely justified this trip.
The headline items (the Internet of Things, Business Intelligence, and a Snowball chucked straight at the 'hell' that is the enterprise data centre (think about it)) are much-discussed, but in many ways the more interesting stuff was AWS' continued - quiet, methodical, inexorable - improvement of its current offerings. One by one, enterprise 'reasons' to avoid AWS or its public cloud competitors are being systematically demolished.
Get ready for AWS business intelligence (BI): it's real and it packs a punch!
Today’s BI market is like a perpetual motion machine — an unstoppable engine that never seems to run out of steam. Forrester currently tracks more than 50 BI vendors, and not a month goes by without a software vendor or startup with tangential BI capabilities trying to take advantage of the craze for BI, analytics, and big data. This month is no exception: On October 7, Amazon crashed the party by announcing QuickSight, a new BI and analytics data management platform. BI pros will need to pay close attention, because this new platform is inexpensive, highly scalable, and has the potential to disrupt the BI vendor landscape. QuickSight is based on AWS’s cloud infrastructure, so it shares AWS characteristics like elasticity, abstracted complexity, and a pay-per-use consumption model. Specifically, the new QuickSight platform provides
New ways to get terabytes of data into AWS
Automatic enrichment of AWS metadata for more effective BI
An in-memory accelerator (SPICE) to speed up big data analytics
An industrial grade data analysis and visualization platform (QuickSight), including mobile clients
The cloud market in China is changing fast. The official launch of the commercial operations of Microsoft Azure (Azure) earlier this year started a new chapter (as detailed in my March blog post), while last weekend’s Amazon Web Services (AWS) summit was held in China for the first time and announced the third episode of this war. AWS is speeding up building its ecosystem and starting to challenge both Microsoft’s early-mover advantage and the market share of other global and local players.
To help CIOs and enterprise architects set up their hybrid cloud strategy in the region, we’ve put together a brief comparison of the Azure and AWS offerings and ecosystems in China:
Operations.Microsoft made Azure available for preview in China on June 6, 2013 and announced its commercial launch on March 25, 2014, stating that it would be operated by 21ViaNet and have a service-level agreement (SLA) of 99.95%. It has two dedicated data centers in Beijing and Shanghai. AWS announced the availability of its “Beijing region” in China on December 18, 2013, but it still hasn’t announced its official commercial launch, other than a partnership with Cloud Valley. Currently, AWS has only one data center in Ningxia province.
Offerings.Azure offerings cover services for compute (VM, websites, cloud services, etc.); data (storage, SQL database, HDInsight, backup, etc.); applications (service bus, Active Directory, CDN, media services, notification services, etc.); and networking (virtual network, Traffic Manager, etc.). Azure also provides other solutions, such as infrastructure services, data management, and application development and deployment.
On Monday Microsoft officially announced the launch of two Azure Data Centers in Australia. This is big news for the many Australia-based organizations concerned about data sovereignty, as well as those who simply equate on-shore data residency with increased security and control.
Announced as part of TechEd 2014 in Sydney, Microsoft specifically called out Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Google as it’s key competition. In fact, Microsoft has gone to great lengths over the past year plus to consistently position these two companies as the only other viable longterm cloud providers. This is based on three cloud provider capabilities identified by Microsoft as critical: hyper-scale, enterprise-grade, and hybrid.
Overall it’s a good angle for Microsoft. All three players operate at hyper-scale as public cloud providers. All three also offer enterprise-grade services, (although this definition varies based on workload). Most importantly for Microsoft, neither AWS nor Google have a primary focus on enabling hybrid cloud services.
In contrast, all traditional large infrastructure vendors (Fujitsu, HP, IBM, VMware, etc.), system integrators (Dimension Data, NTT, etc.), and telco’s (Telstra) focus squarely on enterprise-grade services and hybrid cloud enablement. Rackspace, IBM and HP also have Australia-based data centers. But all these providers lack hyper-scale.
On October 20 at TechEd, Microsoft quietly slipped in what looks like a potential game-changing announcement in the private/hybrid cloud world when they rolled out Microsoft Cloud Platform System (CPS), an integrated hardware/software system that combines an Azure-consistent on premise cloud with an optimized hardware stack from Dell.