After three days of cloudwashing, cloud-in-a-box and erector set private cloud musings at Oracle OpenWorld in San Francisco this week, CEO Larry Ellison chose day four to take the wraps off a legitimate move into cloud computing.
Oracle Public Cloud is the unification of the company's long-struggling software-as-a-service (SaaS) portfolio with its Fusion applications transformation, all atop Oracle VM and Sun hardware. While Ellison spent much of his keynote taking pot shots at his former sales executive and now SaaS nemesis, Salesforce CEO Mark Benioff, the actual solution being delivered is more of a direct competitor to Amazon Web Services than Force.com. The strongest evidence is in Oracle's stance on multitenancy. Ellison adamantly shunned a tenancy model built on shared data stores and application models, which are key to the profitability of Salesforce.com (and most true SaaS and PaaS solutions), stating that security comes only through application and database isolation and tenancy through the hypervisor. Oracle will no doubt use its own Xen-based hypervisor, OracleVM rather than the enterprise standard VMware vSphere, but converting images between these platforms is quickly proving trivial.
It was only about a year ago when Larry Ellison was confusing the OpenWorld audience with the “cloud in a box” approach, and only a very few CIOs managed to turn a large Oracle landscape into a real private cloud based on an opex model to their business units. But a lot has changed since last year.
Lack Of Infrastructure Portability Is A Showstopper For Me
Salesforce.com bills Force.com as "The leading cloud platform for business apps." It is definitely not for me, though. The showstopper: infrastructure portability. If I develop an application using the Apex programming language, I can only run in the Force.com "cloud" infrastructure.
Don't Lock Me In
Q: What is worse than being locked-in to a particular operating system?
A: Being locked-in to hardware!
In The Era Of Cloud Computing, Infrastructure Portability (IP) Is A Key Requirement For Application Developers
Unless there is a compelling reason to justify hardware lock-in, make sure you choose a cloud development platform that offers infrastructure portability; otherwise, your app will be like a one-cable-television-company town.
Bottom line: Your intellectual property (IP) should have infrastructure portability (IP).
An important prerequisite for a full cloud broker model is the technical capability of cloud bursting:
Cloud bursting is the dynamic relocation of workloads from private environments to cloud providers and vice versa. A workload can represent IT infrastructure or end-to-end business processes.
The initial meaning of cloud bursting was relatively simple. Consider this scenario: An enterprise with traditional, non-cloud infrastructure is running out of infrastructure and temporarily gets additional compute power from a cloud service provider. Many enterprises have now established private clouds, and cloud bursting fits even better here, with dynamic workload relocation between private clouds, public clouds, and the more private provider models in the middle; Forrester calls these virtual private clouds. The private cloud is literally bursting into the next cloud level at peak times.
An essential step before leveraging cloud bursting is properly classifying workloads. This involves describing the most public cloud level possible, based on technical restrictions and data privacy needs (including compliance concerns). A conservative enterprise could structure their workloads into three classes of cloud:
Productive workloads of back-office data and processes, such as financial applications or customer-related transactions:These need to remain on-premises. An example is the trading system of an investment bank.
The Nebula appliance announced today jumps right into this space and provides a standardized hardware configuration for OpenStack implementations. It offers scaled-out compute power based on commoditized x86 CPUs and standardizes a configuration of switches and other components to glue a large number of these CPUs together. The new VC-backed startup will thus compete head to head with EMC’s Vblock and Microsoft’s Azure appliance; neither of these are based on open source, and the latter isn’t really on the market yet.
But Nebula is more than just a hardware deliverable. Its mission is to transparently standardize the cloud hardware stack. Basically, it’s nothing more than the complex specification Microsoft worked out with its hardware partners (Dell, Fujitsu, and HP) to deliver the Azure appliance to local cloud providers and large-scale private clouds. However, Nebula’s openness is the differentiator; it reminds me a bit of IBM’s approach around the original personal computer back in the 1970s. Sure, it enabled hardware competitors to produce compatible PCs — but it also brought mass adoption of the PC, outperforming Apple over four decades.
If Nebula delivers a compelling price point, it has an appealing approach that could gain significant share in the growing cloud hardware market. If the new company aims to spur a revolution similar to that of the PC, its founders need to tweak their strategy soon:
Cloud computing continues to be hyped. By now, almost every ICT hardware, software, and services company has some form of cloud strategy — even if it’s just a cloud label on a traditional hosting offering — to ride this wave. This misleading vendor “cloud washing” and the complex diversity of the cloud market in general make cloud one of the most popular and yet most misunderstood topics today (for a comprehensive taxonomy of the cloud computing market, see this Forrester blog post).
Software-as-a-service (SaaS) is the largest and most strongly growing cloud computing market; its total market size in 2011 is $21.2 billion, and this will explode to $78.4 billion by the end of 2015, according to our recently published sizing of the cloud market. But SaaS consists of many different submarkets: Historically, customer relationship management (CRM), human capital management (HCM) — in the form of “lightweight” modules like talent management rather than payroll — eProcurement, and collaboration software have the highest SaaS adoption rates, but highly integrated software applications that process the most sensitive business data, such as enterprise resource planning (ERP), are the lantern-bearers of SaaS adoption today.
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 Forrsights Software Survey, Q4 2010 has quantified for the first time how enterprise demand is shifting from traditional licensing models to subscriptions and other licensing models, such as financing and license leasing. However, the shift to subscriptions for business-applications-as-a-service is the major driver of this change. Traditional enterprise licenses are slowly decreasing, and Forrester predicts that subscriptions for SaaS applications will drive alternative license spending up to 29% — as early as 2011. This demand-side change goes beyond front-office applications like CRM. In 2011 and 2012, enterprises will opt for “as-a-service” subscriptions for more back-office applications, such as ERP, instead of licensed and on-premise installations. Detailed data cuts by company size and region are available to clients from our Forrsights service.
Base: 622 (2007), 1,026 (2008), 537 (2009), and 930 (2010) software decision-makers predicting license spending for the coming year Source: Enterprise And SMB Software Survey, North America And Europe, Q3 2007; Enterprise And SMB Software Survey, North America And Europe, Q4 2008; Enterprise And SMB Software Survey, North America And Europe, Q4 2009; Forrsights Software Survey, Q4 2010
What does this means for existing independent software vendors (ISVs) and infrastructure vendors?
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: