On April 23, IBM rolled out the long-awaited POWER8 CPU, the successor to POWER7+, and given the extensive pre-announcement speculation, the hardware itself was no big surprise (the details are fascinating, but not suitable for this venue), offering an estimated 30 - 50% improvement in application performance over the latest POWER7+, with potential for order of magnitude improvements with selected big data and analytics workloads. While the technology is interesting, we are pretty numb to the “bigger, better, faster” messaging that inevitably accompanies new hardware announcements, and the real impact of this announcement lies in its utility for current AIX users and IBM’s increased focus on Linux and its support of the OpenPOWER initiative.
OK, so we’re numb, but it’s still interesting. POWER8 is an entirely new processor generation implemented in 22 nm CMOS (the same geometry as Intel’s high-end CPUs). The processor features up to 12 cores, each with up to 8 threads, and a focus on not only throughput but high performance per thread and per core for low-thread-count applications. Added to the mix is up to 1 TB of memory per socket, massive PCIe 3 I/O connectivity and Coherent Accelerator Processor Interface (CAPI), IBM’s technology to deliver memory-controller-based access for accelerators and flash memory in POWER systems. CAPI figures prominently in IBM’s positioning of POWER as the ultimate analytics engine, with the announcement profiling the performance of a configuration using 40 TB of CAPI-attached flash for huge in-memory analytics at a fraction of the cost of a non-CAPI configuration.[i]
A Slam-dunk for AIX users and a new play for Linux
Microsoft is officially launching the commercial operations of its cloud offerings in China today. It’s been only nine months since Steve Ballmer, the former CEO of Microsoft, made the announcement in Shanghai that Windows Azure — now renamed Microsoft Azure — would be available for preview in the Chinese market.
I call that Episode I of the China Cloud War. In the report that I published at the time, “PaaS Market Dynamics in China, 2012 To 2017”, I made three predictions — predictions that are now being fulfilled. More global players are joining the war; customers have gotten familiar with cloud concepts and are planning hybrid cloud implementations for their businesses; and traditional IT service providers have started to transform themselves into cloud service providers.
I talked with Microsoft and Citrix last week, and I strongly believe that Episode I has ended and Episode II has just begun. In the battle for partner ecosystems and real customer business, here are the three major plots that enterprise architects and CIOs in China should watch unfold:
The thrree kingdoms will fight with the gloves off. In my blog post last year, I described three kingdoms of global vendors in Chinese cloud market: Microsoft, Amazon, and vendors behind open source technology like OpenStack and CloudStack.
Microsoft is leading the market as the first company in China to provide unified solutions for public cloud, private cloud, and hybrid cloud across infrastructure (IaaS) and middleware (PaaS). This builds on its deep understanding of enterprise requirements, its massive developer base, and the ease of use on the Windows platform.
Usually when a product or service shouts about its low pricing, that’s a bad thing but in Google’s case there’s unique value in its Sustained-use Discounts program which just might make it worth your consideration.
I know, more control is an axiom! But the above statement is more often true. When we're talking about configuration control in the public cloud it can be especially true, as control over the configuration of your application can put control in the hands of someone who knows less about the given platform and thus is more likely to get the configuration wrong. Have I fired you up yet? Then you're going to love (or loathe) my latest report, published today.
Let's look at the facts. Your base configuration of an application deployed to the cloud is likely a single VM in a single availability zone without load balancing, redundancy, DR, or a performance guarantee. That's why you demand configuration control so you can address these shortcomings. But how well do you know the cloud platform you are using? Is it better to use their autoscaling service (if they have one) or to bring your own virtual load balancers? How many instances of your VM, in which zones, is best for availability? Would it be better to configure your own database cluster or use their database as a service solution? One answer probably isn't correct — mirroring the configuration of the application as deployed in your corporate virtualization environment. Starting to see my point?
Fact is, more configuration control may just be a bad thing.
With Satya Nadella now warming the CEO seat at Microsoft, executive recruiters can shift their attention to another cloud leader — Rackspace — who bids adieu to its 14-year leader, Lanham Napier. While both companies are clearly cloud platform leaders chasing the same competitor, the similarities in the top job stop there. Rackspace's needs in a CEO center more around how it tells its story than concerns about its strategy.
Where Microsoft is struggling to ensure its ongoing relevancy in a world that is shifting away from the desktop and the on-premise enterprise, Rackspace has strong cloud credibility. Its issues are more around the fact that it isn't a cloud pure play, isn't another managed services cloudwasher, isn't an incumbent enterprise IT supplier, and no longer runs OpenStack. So if you're looking for companies to compare it to in order to value its stock, there aren't good comparisons. And if you’re looking for metrics to use to judge its success, the ones being disclosed don't paint a rosy picture. If you want to understand Rackspace, you'll have to really understand the company and why it isn't what it isn't. So let's start there:
In 2013 enterprises got real about cloud computing. In 2014 we will integrate it into our existing IT portfolios - whether IT likes it or not. The moves by DevOps and line of business aren't going to stop and can't be ignored. So 2014 will be the year IT Ops relents, stops fighting and gets with the program formally by developing real strategies for embracing the cloud, managing cloud-based application deployments and empowering the business to keep being agile. As the Age of the Customer arrives, all the focus shifts to the Systems of Engagement and the agility in refining these critical customer tools. Cloud technologies and services represent the fastest way for the business to reach new buyers and breathe new life into aging applications. In 2014 cloud leverage will be both traditional and disruptive as the business and IT put cloud to work.
Below are the top ten cloud actions we predict will happen in enterprise IT environments in 2014. Recommendations for what Forrester clients should do about these changes can be found here. Our predictions are:
After a couple less-than-home-runs in the cloud game, it looks like CenturyLink might just have a real contender. The US midwestern telecommunications leader pulled the trigger on yet another acquisition this morning - Tier 3, a legitimate cloud platform provider. The real question is whether this is the latest in a long string of acquisitions that have failed to hit the mark, or a sign that they finally got it right.
CenturyLink is a Lego company built through a string of acquisitions all bolted together. It rolled up several telecom players to get to its current size and presence in that market. And it has bought now three cloud companies.
The classic work of Chinese historical fiction “Romance Of Three Kingdoms” describes the history of China after the Han dynasty. This work focuses on three power blocks that fought against each other in an attempt to be the dominant kingdom. After my discussions with many users and vendors at the OpenStack Summit 2013, I see an analogy between these three kingdoms and the evolution of the IaaS market in China as I described it in my report “PaaS Market Dynamics In China, 2012 To 2017” early this year.
Three categories of players are emerging in public cloud market in China, and similar to the Three Kingdoms, these players will fight against each other and collaborate at the same time, accelerating both the adoption and the maturing of cloud solutions in Chinese market.
State of Shu: Amazon Web Services. The king of Shu was the descendant of Han dynasty before the era of the Three Kingdoms; because of his “royal blood,” he had many supporters and followers to fight against the other two kingdoms.
Amazon.com is in a similar situation: It has very good reputation among architects and developers in China. However, Amazon’s promotion activities are lagging. Amazon is trying to expand its cloud territory into Chinese market by building a data center in Beijing and recruiting local personnel. However, its relationship with the government is not as good as Microsoft’s, and Amazon’s ambition to launch AWS in China has been slowed down due to local regulations.
State of Wu: Microsoft Windows Azure and its alliances. The state of Wu is competitive because it has the natural advantage of the Yangtze River, helping it defend against invasion and expand its territory.
So far the latter seems to be the prevailing trend as the majority of public cloud platforms and private cloud software solutions start with the foundation of server virtualization. The bare metal options are being positioned more for two purposes:
Auto-provisioning new nodes ofthe cloud - bare metal installation of the cloud solution and the hypervisor
New compute resource types inthe cloud - using new automation capabilities to add a complete physical server to a customer’s cloud tenancy, as if it were just another virtual machine.
Adobe Systems is a pioneer and fast mover in the public cloud and in so doing is showing that there is nothing for infrastructure & operations professionals (IT Ops) to fear about this move. Instead, as they put it, the cloud gives their systems administrators (sysadmins) super powers ala RoboCop.
This insight was provided by Fergus Hammond, a senior manager in Adobe Cloud Services, in an analyst webinar conducted by Amazon Web Services (AWS) last month. Hammond (no relation to Forrester VP and principal analyst Jeffrey Hammond) said that Adobe was live on AWS in October 2011, just 8 months after its formal internal decision to use the public cloud platform for its Adobe Creative Cloud. Prior to this there were pockets of AWS experience across various product teams but no coordinated, formal effort as large or strategic as this.