The year 2012 brought a significant amount of growth in enterprise use of cloud services but did it fulfill our expectations? With just five weeks left in the year, it’s time to reflect on our predictions for this market in 2012. Back in November 2011 we said that the cloud market was entering a period of rebellion, defiance, exploration, and growth, not unlike the awkward teenage years of a person’s life. The market certainly showed signs of teen-like behavior in 2012, but many of the changes we foresaw, it appears, will take several years to play out.
Out of all the inquiries I get from Forrester enterprise clients, the above question is by far the most common these days. However, the question shows that we have a lot to learn about true public cloud environments.
I know I sound like a broken record when I say this, but public clouds are not traditional hosting environments, and thus you can't just put any app that can be virtualized into the cloud and expect the same performance and resiliency. Apps in the cloud need to adapt to the cloud - not the other way around (at least not today). This means you shouldn't be thinking about what applications you can migrate to the cloud. That isn't the path to lower costs and greater flexibility. Instead, you should be thinking about how your company can best leverage cloud platforms to enable new capabilities. Then create those new capabilities as enhancements to your existing applications.
This advice should sound familiar if you have been in the IT business for more than a decade. Back in 1999 we did the same thing. As the Web was emerging, we didn't pick up our UNIX applications and move them to the web. We instead built new web capabilities and put them in front of the legacy systems (green screen scrapers, anyone?). The new web apps were built in a new way - using the LAMP stack, scaling out, and being geographically dispersed through hosting providers and content delivery networks. We learned new programming architectures, languages, and techniques for availability and performance. Cloud platforms require the same kind of thinking.
If you have dismissed Microsoft as a cloud platform player up to now, you might want to rethink that notion. With the latest release of Windows Azure here at Build, Microsoft’s premier developer shindig, this cloud service has become a serious contender for the top spot in cloud platforms. And all the old excuses that may have kept you away are quickly being eliminated.
In typical Microsoft fashion, the Redmond, Washington giant is attacking the cloud platform market with a competitive furor that can only be described as faster follower. In 2008, Microsoft quickly saw the disruptive change that Amazon Web Services (AWS) represented and accelerated its own lab project centered around delivering Windows as a cloud platform. Version 1.0 of Azure was decidedly different and immature and thus struggled to establish its place in the market. But with each iteration, Microsoft has expanded Azure’s applicability, appeal, and maturity. And the pace of change for Windows Azure has accelerated dramatically under the new leadership of Satya Nadella. He came over from the consumer Internet services side of Microsoft, where new features and capabilities are normally released every two weeks — not every two years, as had been the norm in the server and tools business prior to his arrival.
Well if you're going to make a dramatic about face from total dismissal of cloud computing, this is a relatively credible way to do it. Following up on its announcement of a serious cloud future at Oracle Open World 2011, the company delivered new cloud services with some credibility at this last week's show. It's a strategy with laser focus on selling to Oracle's own installed base and all guns aimed at Salesforce.com. While the promise from last year was a homegrown cloud strategy, most of this year's execution has been bought. The strategy is essentially to deliver enterprise-class applications and middleware any way you want it - on-premise, hosted and managed or true cloud. A quick look at where they are and how they got here:
The long-rumored changing of the guard at VMware finally took place last week and with it came down a stubborn strategic stance that was a big client dis-satisfier. Out went the ex-Microsoft visionary who dreamed of delivering a new "cloud OS" that would replace Windows Server as the corporate standard and in came a pragmatic refocusing on infrastructure transformation that acknowledges the heterogeneous reality of today's data center.
Paul Maritz will move into a technology strategy role at EMC where he can focus on how the greater EMC company can raise its relevance with developers. Clearly, EMC needs developer influence and application-level expertise, and from a stronger, full-portfolio perspective. Here, his experience can be more greatly applied -- and we expect Paul to shine in this role. However, I wouldn't look to see him re-emerge as CEO of a new spin out of these assets. At heart, Paul is more a natural technologist and it's not clear all these assets would move out as one anyway.
On July 11, 2012, SingTel launched its PowerON Compute cloud service in Hong Kong. While certainly interesting on its own, I believe this announcement is particularly noteworthy as a harbinger of things to come.
Some key points to consider:
As a hybrid offering, PowerON Compute is a dynamic infrastructure services solution hosted in SingTel’s data centers in Singapore, Australia, and now Hong Kong. The computing resources (e.g., CPU, memory, storage) can be accessed either via a public Internet connection or a private secured network.
This announcement confirms the findings of my February 2012 report, “Sizing the Cloud Markets in Asia Pacific”: that market demand for cloud-based computing resources in Asia Pacific (AP) will rapidly shift from infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) to dynamic infrastructure services.
In typical Microsoft fashion, they don't catch a new trend right with the first iteration but they keep at it and eventually strike the right tone and in more cases than not, get good enough. And often good enough wins. That seems the be the pattern playing out with Windows Azure, its cloud platform.
As developers, we often ask for more resources from the infrastructure & operations (I&O) teams than we really need so we don't have to go back later and ask for more - too painful and time consuming. We also often don't know how many resources our code might need, so we might as well take as much as we can get. But do we ever give it back when we learn it is more than we need?
On the other hand, I&O often isn't any better. The first rule we learned about capacity planning was that it's more expensive to underestimate resource needs and be wrong than to overestimate, and we always seem to consume more resources eventually.
If you wanted to see the full spectrum of cloud choices that are coming to market today you only have to look at these two efforts as they are starting to evolve. They represent the extremes. And ironically both held analyst events this week.
OpenStack is clearly an effort by a vendor (Rackspace) to launch a community to help advance technology and drive innovation around a framework that multiple vendors can use to bring myriad cloud services to market and deliver differentiated values. Whereas Oracle, who gave analysts a brief look inside its public cloud efforts this week, is taking a completely closed and self-built approach that looks to fulfill all cloud values from top to bottom.