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.
Q: Is this a private cloud? AWS said it doesn't believe in private clouds.
A: Yes, despite AWS' protests to the contrary, this is a private cloud. According to the documents that have thus far been made public from this proposal, the CIA is looking for a cloud service (an Infrastructure as a Service) offered on a dedicated set of resources isolated to a specific customer and deployed on CIA-owned resources from within a government owned and operated facility.
Q: Would this be AWS' first private cloud?
A: Yes and no. Yes, it would be the first implementation of the AWS services atop a customer-owned infrastructure and facility asset base. But no, it would not be the first time AWS has delivered an isolated environment offering its services. AWS's GovCloud is also a private cloud for the greater US Government. FedCloud is operated from an AWS-owned facility on AWS owned assets.
Q: Is this a community cloud? What's the difference between that and a private cloud?
Back in October 2011, Microsoft named the initiative to introduce Windows Azure cloud platform into the Chinese market “Moon Cake,” which represents harmony and happiness in Chinese culture. On May 23, 2013, Microsoft made the announcement in Shanghai that Windows Azure will be available in Chinese market starting on June 6 — almost half a year after its agreement with Shanghai government and 21ViaNet to operate Windows Azure together last November. Chinese customers will finally be able to “taste” this foreign moon cake.
I believe that a new chapter of cloud is going to be written by a new ecosystem in China market, and Microsoft will be the leader of this disruption. My reasons:
The cloud market in China will be more disrupted. Due to the regulatory limitations on data center and related telecom value-added services operations for foreign players, the cloud market for both infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) and platform-as-a-service (PaaS) has been an easy battlefield for local players, such as Alibaba/HiChina. Microsoft’s innovative way working with both government and local service partners to break through this “great wall” shows all of the major global giants, such as Amazon.com, the great opportunity from this approach to the Chinese market. We can anticipate that they will also enter the Chinese market in the coming six to 18 months.
Software AG today announced its cloud strategy. It is based on services that are already available, one that will soon be available (H2 2013), as well as a service planned for Q1 2014.
Journalists have already been in touch with me, asking the following question: Is this an overdue “coming out” after many competitors have already announced or offered extensive cloud strategies — or is this a courageous act from a leading technology firm demonstrating its strength in innovation?
I've known Software AG quite well for many years and believe that today’s announcement marks the next stage in a 10-year corporate turnaround strategy. I well remember the time before Karl-Heinz Streibich took over a nearly bankrupt software vendor 10 years ago. Since then, the firm has been through a financial stabilization phase, which saw both a spending and innovation freeze in many areas. Then, Software AG started to renovate its existing products to stabilize its market share, innovating both carefully and cost-effectively. The third phase saw its acquisition of webMethods and IDS Scheer, which brought the firm sufficient scale in both current products and consulting services. For more details, see my earlier blog post.
We all know the conventional wisdom about cloud computing: it's cheap, fast and easy. But is it really that much cheaper? Or is it simply optics that make it appear cheaper?
Optics can absolutely change your perception of the cost of something. Just think about your morning jolt of coffee. $3.50 for a no-foam, half-caf, sugar-free vanilla latte doesn't seem that expensive. It's a small daily expense when viewed by the drink. It appears even cheaper if you pay for it with a loyalty card where you don't even have to fork over the dough and the vanilla shot is free. But what if you bought coffee like IT buys technology? You would pay for it on an annual basis. That $3.50 latte would now be about $900/year. For coffee? How many of you would go for that deal? That's optics and it plays right into the marketing hands of the public cloud services your business is consuming today.
But optics aside, is that $99/month per user SaaS application just another $20,000 per year enterprise application? Is that $0.25 per hour virtual machine just another $85 per year hosted VM? No, it's not the same. Because the pricing models are not just optics but an indication of the buying pattern that is possible. If you buy it the same way you do traditional IT, then yes, the math says, there's little difference here. The key to cloud economics is to not buy the cloud service the same way you do traditional IT. The key to taking advantage is to not statically and rotely consume the cloud. Instead, consume only what you need when you need it — and be diligent about turning off when you aren't.
Forrester cloud computing expert James Staten recently published 10 Cloud Predictions For 2013 with contributions from nine other analysts, including myself. The prediction that is near and dear to my heart is #10: "Developers will awaken to: development isn't all that different in the cloud," That's right, it ain't different. Not much anyway. Sure. It can be single-click-easy to provision infrastructure, spin up an application platform stack, and deploy your code. Cloud is great for developers. And Forrester's cloud developer survey shows that the majority of programming languages, frameworks, and development methodologies used for enterprise application development are also used in the cloud.
Forget Programming Language Charlatans
Forget the vendors and programming language charlatans that want you to think the cloud development is different. You already have the skills and design sensibility to make it work. In some cases, you may have to learn some new APIs just like you have had to for years. As James aptly points out in the post: "What's different isn't the coding but the services orientation and the need to configure the application to provide its own availability and performance. And, frankly this isn't all that new either. Developers had to worry about these aspects with websites since 2000." The best cloud vendors make your life easier, not different.
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.
James Staten and I wrote this vision of the future of cloud computing. The full report is available to Forrester clients at this link. The research is part of Forrester’s playbook to advise CIOs on productive use of cloud computing and is relevant to application development and delivery leaders as well.
This research charts the shifts taking place in the market as indicated by the most advanced cloud developers and consumers. In the future, look for the popular software-as-a-service (SaaS) and infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) models to become much more flexible by allowing greater customization and integration. Look for more pragmatic cloud development platforms that cross the traditional cloud service boundaries of SaaS, platform-as-a-service (PaaS), and IaaS. And look for good private and public cloud options — and simpler ways of integrating private-public hybrids.
The key takeaways from this research are:
IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS boundaries will fall. In the future, no cloud will be an island. SaaS, PaaS, and IaaS will remain distinct but expand to anchor cloud platform ecosystems that weave together application, development platform, and infrastructure services. Business services built in these ecosystems will be easier to develop, better performing, more secure, and more cost-efficient.