Having attended the OpenStack Design Summit this week and at the same time fielding calls from Forrester clients affected by the Amazon Web Services (AWS) outage, an interesting contrast in approaches bore out. You could boil it down to closed versus open but there’s more to this contrast that should be part of your consideration when selecting your Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) providers.
The obvious comparison is that AWS’ architecture and operational procedures are very much their own and few outside the company know how it works. Not even close partners like RightScale or those behind the open source derivative Eucalyptus know it well enough to do more than deduce what happened based on their experience and what they could observe. OpenStack, on the other hand, is fully open source so if you want to know how it works you can download the code. At the Design Summit here in Santa Clara, Calif. this week, developers and infrastructure & operations professionals had ample opportunity to dig into the design and suggest and submit changes right there. And there were plenty of conversations this week about how CloudFiles and other storage services worked and how to ensure an AWS Elastic Block Store (EBS) mirror storm could be avoided.
It seems that during every major shift in the telecommunications, service provider or hosting market there is a string of moves like these as players attempt to capitalize on the change to gain greater market position. And there are plenty of investors caught up in the opportunity who are willing to lend a few bucks. In the dot.com period, through 2000s, we saw major shifts in the service provider landscape as colo/hosting giants were created such as Cable & Wireless and Equinix.
But what does this mean for infrastructure & operations professionals looking to select a hosting or Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) cloud provider? The key is in determining if 1 + 1 actually equals anything greater than 2.
Cloud infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) is a hot market. Amazon Web Services, now five years old, drives a lot of attention and customer volume, but the vendor strategists at enterprise-facing providers such as IBM, HP, AT&T and Verizon have been building and delivering IaaS offerings. As I’ve studied the market, I’ve heard wildly different types of requirements from buyers and quite a range of offerings from service providers. Yet much of the industry dialogue is about one central idea of what IaaS is – think that’s wrong headed. I found that there were really two buyer types: 1) informal buyers outside of the IT operations/data center manager organizations, such as engineers, scientists, marketing executives, and developers, and 2) formal buyers, the IT operations and data center managers responsible for operating applications and maintaining infrastructure.
With this idea in mind, I set out to test the views of IT infrastructure buyers in the Forrsights Hardware Survey, Q3 2010 and learned that:
After 2+ years of cloud hype, only 6% of enterprises IT infrastructure respondents report using IaaS, with another 7% planning to implement by Q3, 2012. After flat adoption from 2008 to 2009, this represents an approximate doubling from 2009, off a very small base.
Almost two thirds of IT infrastructure buyers themselves don’t believe they are the primary buyer of cloud IaaS! We asked them which groups in their company are using or most interested in cloud IaaS. Only 36% of IT infrastructure buyers listed themselves, while 7% didn’t know. The rest, 58% said that IT developers, Web site owners, business unit owners of batch compute intensive apps, and other business unit developers were more interested in using IaaS than themselves.
Pop Quiz: What’s the fastest way to build a credible, enterprise-relevant and highly profitable cloud computing services practice? Buy one that already is. That’s exactly what Verizon did last week when it pushed $1.4B across the table to Terremark. Despite its internal efforts to build an infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) business over the last two years, Verizon simply couldn’t learn the best practices fast enough to have matched the gains in the market it received through this move. Terremark has one of the strongest IaaS hosting businesses in the market and perhaps the best enterprise mix in its customer base of the top tier providers. It also has a significant presence with government clients including the United States’ Government Services Agency (GSA) which has production systems running in a hybrid mode between Terremark’s IaaS and traditional managed hosting services.
Confidential Forrester client inquiries have shown struggles by Verizon to win competitive IaaS bids with its computing-as-a-service (CaaS) offering, often losing to Terremark. This led to Verizon reselling the Terremark solution (its CaaS for SMB) so they could try before the buy.
Forrester’s survey and inquiry research shows that, when it comes to cloud computing choices, our enterprise customers are more interested in infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) than platform-as-a-service (PaaS) despite the fact that PaaS is simpler to use. Well, this line is beginning to blur thanks to new offerings from Amazon Web Services LLC and upstart Standing Cloud.
The concern about PaaS lies around lock-in, as developers and infrastructure and operations professionals fear that by writing to the PaaS layer’s services their application will lose portability (this concern has long been a middleware concern — PaaS or otherwise). As a result, IaaS platforms that let you control the deployment model down to middleware, OS and VM resource choice are more open and portable. The tradeoff though, is that developer autonomy comes with a degree of complexity. As the below figure shows, there is a direct correlation between the degree of abstraction a cloud service provides and the skill set required by the customer. If your development skills are limited to scripting, web page design and form creation, most SaaS platforms provide the right abstraction for you to be productive. If you are a true coder with skills around Java, C# or other languages, PaaS offerings let you build more complex applications and integrations without you having to manage middleware, OS or infrastructure configuration. The PaaS services take care of this. IaaS, however, requires you to know this stuff. As a result, cloud services have an inverse pyramid of potential customers. Despite the fact that IaaS is more appealing to enterprise customers, it is the hardest to use.
Over the course of this year, I’ve spoken with many organizations that are continuing to expand their usage of information-as-a-service (sometimes called data services) to support new business requirements such as self-service customer portals, real-time BI, and single-version-of-the-truth. With the growing complexity of data, increasing volume of data, and exploding security challenges all driving demand, IaaS is poised to grow significantly in the coming years, especially as existing integration technologies are failing to meet these new requirements. What we see is that most organizations that have embraced an IaaS strategy over the years aren’t looking back; they’re continuing to expand its usage to support more requirements such as real-time data, creating data domains, improving the ability to securely deliver information, integration with unstructured data and external sources, various Web portals, and enterprise search.
Recently, my colleague Gene Leganza, who serves Enterprise Architecture Professionals, compiled the top 15 technology trends EA should watch over the next three years . One of the trends Gene highlighted is that information-as-a-service (IaaS) is finding a broader audience. I see more organizations continuing to show strong interest in IaaS, as evidenced by increasing inquiries, to help with growing data integration challenges that traditional solutions are not addressing. IaaS can significantly alter IT’s approach to its data management strategy and delivers a flexible framework to support transactional, BI, and real-time data.
Here are my top predictions for 2011 related to IaaS:
With its latest public cloud offering, T-Systems not only comes close to Amazon’s EC2 pricing, it might even be cheaper than Amazon. The €4 billion, German headquartered IT services firm announced today a public beta running from November 2010 to February 2011.
Although Amazon recently made a time-bombed version of its EC2 available for free, a real, unlimited service still costs in the range of $0.095 per hour for a small server of one core with 1.7 GB RAM in Europe. Last week, Forrester had the chance to look at a beta version of T-Systems’ public cloud offering. Although no pricing has been announced officially, the beta showed the price for a virtual machine of a similar size to the aforementioned Amazon machine starting at €0.2/hour. T-Systems inidcated that they even like to go below the Amazon pricing! T-Systems has been working for more than a year with cloud provisioning tools from Zimory to manage the virtualization of larger-scale server and landscape compositions. Leveraging this experience, T-Systems manages to drive efficiency even further than the current economies of scale, which makes this aggressive move possible.
Is T-Systems planning to seriously compete with Amazon in the future and does it make sense for a traditional large enterprise IT services and hosting firm to compete with low-price public cloud offerings?
T-Systems’ public cloud beta shows a continuous memory sizing in a state-of-the-art self-service portal.
At its Professional Developers Conference this week, Microsoft made the long-awaited debut of its Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) solution, under the guise of the “VM-role” putting the service in direct competition with Amazon Web Services’ Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) and other IaaS competitors. But before you paint its offering as a "me too," (and yes, there is plenty of fast-follower behavior in today’s announcements), this move is a differentiator for Microsoft as much of its platform as a service (PaaS) value carries down to this new role, resulting in more of a blended offering that may be a better fit with many modern applications.
This week Amazon Web Services announced a new pricing tier for its Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) service and in doing so has differentiated its offering even further. At first blush the free tier sounds like a free trial, which isn't anything new in cloud computing. True, the free tier is time-limited, but you get 12 months, and capacity limited, along multiple dimensions. But it's also a new pricing band. And for three of its services, SimpleDB, Simple Queueing Service (SQS), and Simple Notification Service (SNS) the free tier is indefinite. Look for Amazon to lift the 12 month limit on this service next October, because the free tier will drive revenues for AWS long term. Here's why:
A few weeks back I posted a story about how one of our clients has been turning cloud economics to their advantage by flipping the concept of capacity planning on its head. Their strategy was to concentrate not on how much capacity they would need when their application got hot, but on how they could reduce its capacity footprint when it wasn't. As small as they could get it, they couldn't shrink it to the point where they incurred no cost at all; they were left with at least a storage and a caching bill. Now with the free tier, they can achieve a no-cost footprint.