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.
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.
I've always liked the approach Dimdim took in offering web conferencing services. The pillars of the business model, which I profiled last year, were lean operations, smart viral marketing and technology partnerships with larger companies like Novell and Nortel CVAS. The technology they built emphasized ease of use, providing an audio/video/web conferencing experience through the browser, allowing information workers access to a web meeting regardless of the device or operating system they were using. So it was not surprising when software vendors looking for conferencing capabilities started sniffing around Dimdim as an acquisition target. It was even less surprising when Salesforce.com picked up the company for $31 million yesterday.
For Salesforce, this was a straight technology acquisition, as evidenced by the seemingly near total shutdown of Dimdim's website: Monthly accounts cease on March 15 and annual accounts will be allowed to complete their term but will not be able to renew. While the rapid sunsetting of the Dimdim brand probably won't make Salesforce any friends in the Dimdim user base -- reportedly north of 5 million -- it should provide some interesting new services for Salesforce CRM and Force.com customers. Why? Dimdim's real-time communications technology fleshes out the collaboration story Salesforce began with its social offering, Chatter, last year. This blending of tools will boost the collaborative power of some key Chatter features:
On September 15th between 11am-12pm EDT Forrester held an interactive TweetJam on the future of cloud computing including Forrester analysts Jennifer Belissent, Mike Cansfield, Pascal Matzke, Stefan Ried, Peter O’Neill , myself and many other experts and interested participants. Using the hashtag #cloudjam (use this tag to search for the results in Twitter), we asked a variety of questions.
We had a great turnout, with more than 400 tweets (at last count) from over 40 unique Tweeter’s. A high level overview of the key words and topics that were mentioned during the TweetJam is visualized in the attached graphic using the ManyEyes data visualization tool.
Below you will find a short summary of some key takeaways and quotes from the TweetJam:
1. What really is cloud computing? Let’s get rid of 'cloud washing!'
Have questions about cloud computing and the top challenges and opportunities it presents to vendors and users? Then join us for an interactive Tweet Jam on Twitter about the future of cloud computing on Wednesday, September 15th, 2010 from 11:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. EDT (17:00 – 18:00 CEST) using the Twitter hashtag #cloudjam. Joining me (@hkisker) will be my analyst colleagues Mike Cansfield (@mikecansfield), Pascal Matzke (@pascalmatzke), Thomas Mendel (@drthomasmendel), and Stefan Ried (@stefanried). We’ll share the results of our recent research on the long term future of cloud computing and discuss how it will change the way tech vendors engage with customers.
Looking through the current industry hype around the cloud, Forrester believes cloud computing is a sustainable, long-term IT paradigm. Underpinned by both technology and economic disruptions, we think the cloud will fundamentally change the way technology providers engage with business customers and individual users. However, many customers are suffering from "cloud confusion" as vendors' marketing stretches cloud across a wide variety of capabilities.
To help, we recently developed a new taxonomy of the cloud computing markets (see graphic) to give vendors and customers clear definitions and labels for cloud capabilities. With this segmentation in hand, cloud vendors and users can better discuss the challenges and benefits of cloud computing today and in the future.
In discussions on cloud computing, I often talk to architects who have been told to create a "cloud strategy." This sounds appropriate enough, but there’s a devil in the details: When the task is "create a Technology X strategy," people often center strategy on the technology. With cloud, they aim to get a good definition of pure cloud and then find places where it makes sense to use it. The result is a technology strategy silo where cloud is placed at the center and usage scenarios are arranged around it. The problem with this is three-fold:
Considering the full business dynamics of any given usage scenario, there is a wide continuum of often strongly competing alternatives to pure cloud (including cloud-like and traditional options).
The rapid pace of market development means that business value equations along this continuum of options will keep changing.
Your business needs integrated strategy for many technologies, not simply a siloed cloud strategy.
Today, Google announced Google App Engine for Business, and integration with VMware’s SpringSource offerings. On Monday, we got a preview of the news from David Glazer, Engineering Director at Google, and Jerry Chen, Senior Director Cloud Services at VMware.
For tech industry strategists, this is another step in the development of cloud platform-as-a-service (PaaS). Java Spring developers now have a full platform-as-a-service host offering in Google App Engine for Business, the previously announced VMforce offering from salesforce.com, plus the options of running their own platform and OS stacks on premise or in virtual machines at service providers supporting vCloud Express, such as Terremark.
What’s next? IBM and Oracle have yet to put up full Java PaaS offerings, so I expect that to show up sometime soon – feels late already for them to put up some kind of early developer version. And SAP is also likely to create their own PaaS offering. But it’s not clear if any of them will put the same emphasis on portability and flexible, rich Web-facing apps that Google and VMware are.
So Google aims to expand into enterprise support – but will need more than the planned SQL support, SSL, and SLAs they are adding this year. They'll also need to figure out how to fully integrate into corporate networks, the way that CloudSwitch aims to do.
Larry Ellison angrily dismisses suggestions that Oracle’s business will be harmed by the rise of cloud computing. Many misinterpret Ellison’s remarks to mean he (and by extension Oracle) thinks cloud computing is a dumb idea that Oracle won’t pursue. We are now learning that Oracle does, in fact, intend to pursue cloud computing. But we're also learning that Oracle's strategy is more limited than those of IBM and Microsoft, its large-vendor competitors.