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.
I’ve been writing about platform-as-a-service (PaaS) since the beginning of 2009, and we published our first Forrester Wave™ on the PaaS market about 18 months ago. While the lines between IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS are blurring in the minds of some end users and developers, delivering PaaS requires a lot more intellectual property on the part of the cloud provider. IaaS is “just” the offering of an industrialized infrastructure service — but full PaaS service turns the cloud provider basically into a real software vendor or VAR of a decent stack of software platform components.
The market has undergone amazing changes since 2009 and the market landscape has been shaken up considerably since the last Forrester Wave. Why? A number of vendors have joined the crowd from three different directions:
IaaS cloud providers such as Amazon are moving up the stack to PaaS. From advanced database, messaging, and parallel processing to identity management and federation services, Amazon is arming itself with a myriad of value-added PaaS services to combat margin pressure in the commoditizing pure infrastructure space. Other IaaS providers are about to follow, most by OEMing PaaS stacks like those from Cordys or LongJump, or some other PaaS stack that is available to third-party infrastructure provider models.
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.