(Confusing messages. Image by Wikimedia Commons user 'Melburnian')
Again and again, we hear examples of companies struggling as they try to realise the benefits of moving to cloud. They know what they want to achieve as a business, they know that cloud can help, but they cannot translate that understanding into the way they specify, procure, and run the technology.
There are plenty of organisations willing to help, offering everything from design and migration services through to management of infrastructure and applications on an ongoing basis. Even in the public cloud world, it's easy to find companies eager to take your money, and then start and stop workloads on your behalf.
"Cloud computing changes the way that applications are designed, built, and run. It is often part of a broader organizational change, as enterprises move to embrace digital opportunities. Providers of managed cloud solutions need to recognize this shift: They must do more than simply run a customer’s computers. But CIOs seeking a trusted partner to assume this broader role find that too many managed cloud offerings fail to rise above basic management of infrastructure."
Two weeks on, the result of the UK referendum on membership of the European Union (EU) continues to reverberate around the world. Forrester provided advice for clients needing to understand the business implications. Looking at the specific impact on public cloud deployments in Europe introduces a number of additional points. These are best considered in three separate contexts:
that of companies wishing to serve customers in the UK
that of companies wishing to serve customers in the remaining 27 EU member states (the EU27)
that of companies wishing to serve customers in the EU27 from a base in the UK.
When we think about the public cloud, the list of credible providers can sometimes seem rather short.
(The Great Wall of China. Source: Paul Miller)
In North America, Europe, and elsewhere, the same few names tend to dominate. But not in China. There, big local brands continue to command impressive market share. And now they're looking to expand into new territories, including Europe.
Huawei hardware and Huawei's distribution of the OpenStack open source cloud platform power T-Systems' Open Telekom Cloud. This was launched, with some fanfare, at CeBIT in Hannover.
Alibaba Cloud, which leads the Chinese public cloud market, is also coming to Europe this year.
In my latest report, I take a look at what both Alibaba and Huawei bring to Europe's public cloud market, and ask whether they can repeat their domestic success in this market.
TL;DR - it would be unwise to discount either of them.
First we need to define what we mean by “enterprise cloud”. For this definition, the minimal criteria set includes: robust security, reliable performance, disaster recovery, growing set of services, constantly investing and a great and growing ecosystem of partners. Based on this definition (along with the tremendous growth in public cloud), then all of the public cloud leaders are indeed “Enterprise-class”. In short, the term "Enterprise-class" is fundamentally a term targeted to allay the cloud fears of enterprise technology managers.
Providers are adapting to offer managed services for the megaclouds.
The big public cloud providers, most of which are still from the United States, sometimes have a hard time finding ways to balance their legal obligations at home with the quite different sensitivities they encounter amongst their new international customers. For a long time, the toolkit has been pretty consistent: site data centres as close to the customer as possible, vehemently support political efforts to harmonize laws, and ocassionally be seen to stand up to the worst execesses of Government over-reach.
(Source: Flickr user Luigi Rosa. Image licensed under Creative Commons Attribution License)
Microsoft's announcements in Germany today appear, on the surface, to follow that model pretty closely. But there's a twist that's potentially very important as we move forward.
First, the standard bit. Microsoft, yesterday, announced new data centres will be operational in the UK next year, joining existing European facilities in Dublin and Amsterdam. Big competitor Amazon did much the same last week, announcing that a new UK data centre will be online in the UK by "2016 or 2017." Given the vague timescales, it might be easy to assume that Amazon was trying to steal a little of Microsoft's thunder with a half-baked pre-announcement. And then, today, Microsoft announced two new data centres in Germany. Amazon already has a facility there, of course.
I was in Tokyo last week, for the latest OpenStack Summit. Over 5,000 people joined me from around the world, to discuss this open source cloud project's latest - Liberty - release, to lay the groundwork for next year's Mitaka release, and to highlight stories of successful adoption.
Tokyo's Hamarikyu Gardens combine old with new (Source: Paul Miller)
And, unlike many events, this wasn't a hermetically sealed bubble of blandly anodyne mid-Atlantic content, served up to the same globe-trotting audience in characterless rooms that could so easily have been in London, Frankfurt, or Chicago. Instead, we heard from local implementers of OpenStack like Fujitsu, Yahoo! Japan, and - from just across the water - SK Telecom and Huawei.
In keynotes, case studies, and deep-dive technical sessions, attendees learned what worked, debated where to go next, and considered the project's complicated relationship to containers, software-defined networks, the giants of the public cloud, and more.
The hordes gathered in Las Vegas this week, for Amazon's latest re:Invent show. Over 18,000 individuals queued to get into sessions, jostled to reach the Oreo Cookie Popcorn (yes, really), and dodged casino-goers to hear from AWS, its partners and its customers. Las Vegas may figure nowhere on my list of favourite places, but the programme of Analyst sessions AWS laid on for earlier in the week definitely justified this trip.
The headline items (the Internet of Things, Business Intelligence, and a Snowball chucked straight at the 'hell' that is the enterprise data centre (think about it)) are much-discussed, but in many ways the more interesting stuff was AWS' continued - quiet, methodical, inexorable - improvement of its current offerings. One by one, enterprise 'reasons' to avoid AWS or its public cloud competitors are being systematically demolished.
Microsoft’s cloud-based productivity suite, Office 365, is now generally available in China through a partnership with 21Vianet, China’s largest carrier-neutral Internet data center service provider. This announcement follows the recent launches of Microsoft Azure and SQL Server 2014.
Local teams ensure timely responses. 21Vianet has 300 engineers to provide hardware and software service and support for Microsoft Azure and Office 365. For emerging technologies, large Chinese organizations and government agencies like to have local engineers available to quickly solve their problems rather than using a service hotline or remote support.
Chinese customers can choose the services they want.Companies and government agencies wishing to purchase Office 365 have a range of tiered pricing options with different functionality, including only buying one Office 365 service — say, SharePoint, Exchange Online, or Lync. As Chinese organizations normally run collaboration applications on-premises, they won’t give up legacy infrastructure, preferring to test public cloud services on a small scale first. For example, TCL uses on-premises email and Office software, so it’s only buying Lync and SharePoint services to improve efficiency instead of completely migrating to a public platform.
Although Forrester expects China’s public cloud market to show solid growth through 2020, we have observed that organizations face barriers to adopting public cloud. Survey results indicate that data privacy, residency, loss of control, and security remain the top barriers for organizations adopting public cloud in China. This shows that Chinese customers are getting more knowledgeable about cloud and would like to understand cloud players’ offerings in more detail.
To ease concerns about public cloud usage, in mid-2013 the Chinese government and some leading cloud and data center service providers in China initiated an industry standard to evaluate cloud service offerings. After six months of discussion, they agreed upon version 1.0 of the industry standard, which includes three categories and 16 detailed SLAs:
Hybrid clouds are especially subject to the law of unintended consequences, says Forrester’s cloud expert James Staten. Many IT organizations don’t even acknowledge that they have a hybrid cloud. The reality: If enterprises are using public cloud software-as-a-service (SaaS) and/or deploying any custom applications in the public cloud, then by definition they have a hybrid cloud, because it almost always connects to the back end.
In this episode of TechnoPolitics, James implores CIOs and IT professionals to get serious about hybrid cloud now to avoid spaghetti clouds in the future.