Back during the dot.com boom years, existing telcos and dozens of new network operators, especially in western Europe and North America, laid vast amounts of fiber optic networks in anticipation of rapidly rising Internet usage and traffic. When the expected volumes of Internet usage failed to materialize, they did not turn on or “light up” most (some estimate 80% and even 90% on many routes) of this fiber network capacity. This unused capacity was called “dark fiber,” and it has only been in recent years that this dark fiber has been put to use.
I am seeing early signs of something similar in the build-out of infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) cloud offerings. Of course, the data centers of servers, storage devices, and networks that IaaS vendors need can scale up in a more linear fashion (add another rack of blade servers as needed to support an new client) than the all-or-nothing build-out of fiber optic networks, so the magnitude of “dark cloud” will never reach the magnitude of “dark fiber.” Nonetheless, if current trends continue and accelerate, there is a real potential for IaaS wannabes creating a glut of “dark cloud” capacity that exceeds actual demand, with resulting downward pressure on prices and shakeouts of unsuccessful IaaS providers.
HP this week really stirred up the Converged Infrastructure world by introducing three new solution offerings, one an incremental evolution of an existing offering and the other two representing new options which will put increased pressure on competitors. The trio includes:
HP VirtualSystem - HP’s answer to vStart, Flex Pod and vBlocks, VirtualSystem is a pre-integrated stack of servers (blade and racked options), HP network switches and HP Converged Storage (3Par and Left Hand Networks iSCSI) along with software, including the relevant OS and virtualization software. Clients can choose from four scalable deployment options that support up to 750, 2500 or 6000 virtual servers or up to 3000 virtual clients. It supports Microsoft and Linux along with VMware and Citrix. Since this product is new, announced within weeks of the publication of this document, we have had limited exposure it, but HP claims that they have added significant value in terms of optimized infrastructure, automation of VM deployment, management and security. In addition, HP will be offering a variety of services and hosting options along with VirtualSystem. Forrester expects that VirtualSystem will change the existing competitive dynamics and will result in a general uptick of interest it similar solutions. HP is positioning VirtualSystem as a growth path to CloudSystem, with what they describe as a “streamlined” upgrade path to a hybrid cloud environment.
Recent Forrester inquiries from enterprise infrastructure and operations (I&O) professionals show that there's still significant confusion between infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) private clouds and server virtualization environments. As a result, there are a lot of misperceptions about what it takes to get your private cloud investments right and drive adoption by your developers. The answers may surprise you; they may even be the opposite of what you're thinking.
From speaking with Forrester clients who have deployed successful private clouds, we've found that your cloud should be smaller than you think, priced cheaper than the ROI math would justify and actively marketed internally - no, private clouds are not a Field of Dreams. Our latest report, "Q&A: How to Get Private Cloud Right," details this unconventional thinking, and you may find that internal clouds are much easier than you think.
First and foremost, if you think the way you operate your server virtualization environment today is good enough to call a cloud, you are probably lying to yourself. Per the Forrester definition of cloud computing, your internal cloud must be:
Highly standardized - meaning that the key operational procedures of your internal IaaS environment (provisioning, placement, patching, migration, parking and destroying) should all be documented and conducted the same way every time.
Highly automated - and to make sure the above standardized procedures are done the same time every time, you need to take these tasks out of human error and hand them over to automation software.
Is your cloud strategy centered on saving money or fueling revenue growth? Where you land on this question could determine a lot about your experience level with cloud services and what guidance you should be giving to your application developers and infrastructure & operations teams. According to our research the majority of CIOs would vote for the savings, seeing cloud computing as an evolution of outsourcing and hosting that can drive down capital and operations expenses. In some cases this is correct but in many the opposite will result. Using the cloud wrong may raise your costs.
But this isn’t a debate worth having because it’s the exploration of the use cases where it does save you money that bears the real fruit. And it’s through this experience that you can start shifting your thinking from cost savings to revenue opportunities. Forrester surveys show that the top reasons developers tap into cloud services (and the empowered non-developers in your business units) is to rapidly deploy new services and capabilities. And the drivers behind these efforts – new services, better customer experience and improved productivity. Translation: Revenues and profits.
If the cloud is bringing new money in the door, does it really matter if it’s the cheaper solution? Not at first. But over time using cloud as a revenue engine doesn’t necessarily mean high margins on that revenue. That’s where your experience with the cost advantaged uses of cloud come in.
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: