SaaS has been around for 20 years, cloud platforms nearly a decade. That must mean they’ve worked all the kinks out, right. You know better. There are wide variances in the maturity, stability and enterprise-readiness of the many cloud services categories. There are certainly differences between vendors within the same category, as demonstrated in each of our Forrester Waves, but there are significant differences between the many classes of cloud services. For example, internal private clouds are far less mature than their public counterparts and the desktop-as-a-service category continues to struggle to find its place in the market.
This is the reason Forrester created the Tech Radar. This class of report helps enterprise clients delineate between categories of services based on their maturity, adoption by other enterprise clients and helps ascertain the likely return on investment you can expect at its current level of maturity. The latest Cloud Computing Tech Radar, published this month on Forrester.com, plots each major category of cloud services along two axis:
I’ve been talking to a number of users and providers of bare-metal cloud services, and am finding the common threads among the high-profile use cases both interesting individually and starting to connect some dots in terms of common use cases for these service providers who provide the ability to provision and use dedicated physical servers with very similar semantics to the common VM IaaS cloud – servers that can be instantiated at will in the cloud, provisioned with a variety of OS images, be connected to storage and run applications. The differentiation for the customers is in behavior of the resulting images:
Deterministic performance – Your workload is running on a dedicated resource, so there is no question of any “noisy neighbor” problem, or even of sharing resources with otherwise well-behaved neighbors.
Extreme low latency – Like it or not, VMs, even lightweight ones, impose some level of additional latency compared to bare-metal OS images. Where this latency is a factor, bare-metal clouds offer a differentiated alternative.
Raw performance – Under the right conditions, a single bare-metal server can process more work than a collection of VMs, even when their nominal aggregate performance is similar. Benchmarking is always tricky, but several of the bare metal cloud vendors can show some impressive comparative benchmarks to prospective customers.
The rise of the DevOps role in the enterprise and the increasing requirements of agility beyond infrastructure and applications make the platform-as-a-service (PaaS) market one to watch for both CIOs and enterprise architecture professionals. On December 9, the membership of Cloud Foundry, a major PaaS open source project, announced the formation of the Cloud Foundry Foundation.
In my view, this is as important as the establishment of OpenStack foundation in 2012, which was a game-changing move for the cloud industry. Here’s why:
PaaS is becoming an important alternative to middleware stacks. Forrester defines PaaS as a complete application platform for multitenant cloud environments that includes development tools, runtime, and administration and management tools and services. (See our Forrester Wave evaluation for more detail on the space and its vendors.) In the cloud era, it’s a transformational alternative to established middleware stacks for the development, deployment, and administration of custom applications in a modern application platform, serving as a strategic layer between infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) and software-as-a-service (SaaS) with innovative tools.
Cloud Foundry is one major open source PaaS software. Cloud Foundry as a technology was designed and architected by Derek Collison and built in the Ruby and Go programming languages by Derek and Vadim Spivak (wiki is wrong!). VMware released it as open source in 2011 after Derek joined the company. Early adopters of Cloud Foundry include large multinationals like Verizon, SAP, NTT, and SAS, as well as Chinese Internet giants like Baidu.
At its Paris summit, the OpenStack community celebrated the 10th release of what has become the leading open source Infrastructure as a Service cloud platform software. What stood out about this latest iteration and the progress of its ever-growing ecosystem of vendors, users and service providers was the lack of excitement that comes with maturity. The Juno release addressed many challenges holding back enterprise adoption to this point and showed signs that 2015 may prove to be the year its use shifts over from mostly test & dev, to mostly production. Forrester clients will find a new Quick Take on OpenStack that analyzes the state of this platform and recommended actions here. In this blog post we look at looming questions facing the OpenStack community that could affect the pace and direction of its innovation.
My January 2013 report “PaaS Market Dynamics in China, 2012 To 2017,” forecast that China’s platform-as-a-service (PaaS) market would remain in flux until 2015. But now I think it will take even longer for the cloud landscape in China to consolidate and stabilize, for three reasons:
1. The boundary between infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) and PaaS is breaking down.
2. Emerging technologies like Docker are having an impact on technology and mindsets.
3. China has emerging startups in both the IaaS and PaaS segments.
The startups mainly focus on differentiating the cloud user experience by automating various layers to deliver unique value to potential adopters of cloud solutions. They include:
QingCloud.Founded in 2012, QingCloud raised US$20 million in Series B funding in January 2014. Its IaaS offerings for public and virtual private cloud include computing (image and instances), network (VxNet, routing, elastic IP, and load balancing), storage (volume and snapshot), database (MySQL-based, master/slave synchronization support with auto-snapshot), security (group policy and SSH key pair login), and management features (web console to deploy, manage, and monitor resources), which are billed on a per-second basis.
Practice makes perfect. In daily life, if someone has proven experience and a good reputation in specific area for relatively long time, we would normally consider them to be trustworthy. For example, if Amazon Web Services claimed that it was a trusted public cloud service provider — if not the most trusted provider — not many professionals in the US would argue against that.
However, this does not necessarily hold true in China; cloud service providers need to receive an official authorization from the government that certifies them as a provider of trusted cloud services (TRUCS). I recently attended the International Mobile and Internet Conference, where I got an update on TRUCS.
TRUCS is an official recognition of standards compliance and quality. TRUCS is issued by the trusted cloud servicesworking group of the China Academy of Telecommunications Research of the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology. The working group defined the basic principles in June 2013; earlier this year, it finalized the evaluation standards in the form of a cloud service agreement reference framework.
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.