Around the world, strong public cloud platform Leaders mask local complexity and difference


(Public Domain image taken taken by US Astronaut Terry Virts, Jan. 30, 2015)

Towards the end of last year, Forrester published four tightly connected Wave evaluations. These assessed the 18 most significant providers of public cloud platforms, looking globally, in Australia and New Zealand, in Europe, and in China. Now we’ve published a fifth document, which digs into the trends we observe across all four regions. More on that in a moment.

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Public Cloud Providers Embark On A European Building Spree

A Google data centre in Finland. Image source: Google.
(A data centre in Hamina, Finland. Source: Google)

Not long ago, European customers of the global public cloud vendors relied upon a single data centre ‘region’ for all their cloud computing needs. From Lisbon to Lviv, Kiruna to Kalamata, customers of Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft Azure sent everything to Ireland, and customers of the Google Cloud Platform (GCP) sent everything to Belgium. And, mostly, public cloud’s early adopters in Europe just got on with it.

For the majority of public cloud workloads, storing and processing data somewhere in the European Economic Area (EEA) really was — and is — good enough. Network latency was mostly low enough not to be a problem, and European regulations covered the main use cases well enough to appease all but the most cautious lawyers.

But connections can always be faster, and there are still use cases in regulated industries and government where keeping personal data inside specific geographic borders is either essential or encouraged. And, more and more often these days, customers just seem to feel happier when their data doesn’t leave the country. Mostly, no law requires it, and no regulation recommends it. But it’s still happening. We should all be pushing back against this odd trend towards data balkanisation, much harder than we are.

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Local vendors challenge global players in our analysis of Europe's public cloud market

Europe from space

Public Domain image of Europe, derived from NASA World Wind data, uploaded to Wikimedia Commons.

The hyperscale global clouds seem to crop up pretty much everywhere, these days. But we all know that customer requirements differ, from industry to industry, and from country to country. So... how do they cope, and how do we account for the peculiarities of different markets?

Today, we publish our latest take on the public cloud platforms market in Europe: The Forrester Wave™: Enterprise Public Cloud Platforms In Europe, Q4 2016Read the report itself, or sign up for my 3 November webinar to learn more.

The report (my first Wave, so allow me to feel pleased with myself) is, of course, interesting and useful in and of itself. But what's more interesting, perhaps, is that it's part of a collaboration that allows Forrester to account for those regional quirks.

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Vertical clouds - less useful than you're meant to believe, but still useful

How often have you been told you can't use a mainstream public cloud provider? Quite often, probably, especially if you happen to work in a regulated industry like banking or healthcare. And what justifications are you given? The regulator "won't let you," no doubt? That's a good one. And "it's not secure" is often pretty close behind. Either that, or the argument that generic public cloud infrastructure can't possibly meet your very special, very unique, very carefully crafted mix of requirements?

Sadly, despite the frequency with which they're trotted out, these attempts at justification stand a pretty good chance of being either hearsay, or just complete nonsense.

It's easy not to change, and to justify your inertia with reference to the scary, punitive, hopelessly luddite regulator.  It's easy to continue lovingly polishing the hideously complex snowflake your internal computing environment has become. It's far harder to look at the truth behind the hearsay, and to work out when doing something different might — or might not — be the better approach for your business, and its effort to win, serve, and retain customers.

My latest report, Bespoke Vertical Clouds Become Less Important As Public Clouds Do More, takes a look at some of the rationale for using vertical cloud solutions in these situations. Often — but definitely not always — you may discover that a generic public cloud provider will do the job just as well. Or maybe even better.

Valuable services lurk behind confused marketing of 'managed cloud'

(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.

But, as the blurb for my latest report states,

"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."

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After Brexit, it's business as usual for most of Europe's public cloud workloads

The flags of the European Union and the United Kingdom

(source: Wikimedia Commons)

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.
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Big Data Vendors See The Internet Of Things (IoT) Opportunity, Pivot Tech And Message To Compete

Picture of a stream flowing over boulders.

(Source: http://www.publicdomainpictures.net/pictures/90000/velka/waterfall-stream-over-boulders.jpg)

Open source big data technologies like Hadoop have done much to begin the transformation of analytics. We're moving from expensive and specialist analytics teams towards an environment in which processes, workflows, and decision-making throughout an organisation can - in theory at least - become usefully data-driven. Established providers of analytics, BI and data warehouse technologies liberally sprinkle Hadoop, Spark and other cool project names throughout their products, delivering real advantages and real cost-savings, as well as grabbing some of the Hadoop glow for themselves. Startups, often closely associated with shepherding one of the newer open source projects, also compete for mindshare and custom.

And the opportunity is big. Hortonworks, for example, has described the global big data market as a $50 billion opportunity. But that pales into insignificance next to what Hortonworks (again) describes as a $1.7 trillion opportunity. Other companies and analysts have their own numbers, which do differ, but the step-change is clear and significant. Hadoop, and the vendors gravitating to that community, mostly address 'data at rest'; data that has already been collected from some process or interaction or query. The bigger opportunity relates to 'data in motion,' and to the internet of things that will be responsible for generating so much of this.

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Established Chinese cloud providers hope to succeed in Europe's public cloud market

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.

Containers - there really is substance behind the hype

Containers. One of those nasty terms, like metadata (ok - maybe you had to move in the odd circles I did for that one to resonate), cloud, or big data. To some, the solution to every problem. To others, yet another unforgivable explosion of over-exuberant hype that should be ignored at all costs. And, like so many things, the truth lies somewhere in the middle.

Containers are an important component in broader efforts to transform the way in which an enterprise builds, tests, deploys, and scales its applications. Particularly, today, its customer-facing systems of engagement. But they're not the answer to every problem, and they don't replace all your virtual machines, mainframes, and other infrastructure.

Most enterprise CIOs, today, have probably heard of containers... or Docker. And, for most of you, there will be a group or individual inside your organisation loudly singing containers' praises. There will be an equally vocal group or individual, pointing to every factoid supporting their view that the container emperor has nothing on.

My latest Brief takes a look at some of the ways containers are being used, and argues that CIOs need to pay attention - now. That's not to say you should wholeheartedly embrace containers in everything you do. But you do need to ensure you're aware of their strengths, and track the rapid evolution in the underlying technologies. Some pieces are even beginnint to be standardised, between competing companies.

And, just to see if the metadata crowd are still reading... Z39.50! 

OpenStack Returns To Austin, Stressing Evolution Over Revolution


(Austin. Source: Paul Miller)
My very first report for Forrester, last summer, explored the ways in which the open source OpenStack cloud project has grown up. Once a science project for those interested in exploring the technologies or celebrating open source, OpenStack now runs key enterprise workloads for the likes of AT&T, BMW, Best Buy, and Volkswagen. They are choosing OpenStack because it gets the job done, not because they have some affinity for it, its community, its components, or its philosophy.

Last week, OpenStack returned to the scene of the very first community Summit - Austin - for an event that drew over 7,500 attendees from around the world.

There was little to wow, there was little that was truly new, there was little that deserved a headline. But there was a lot that demonstrated the steady, difficult, important slog to improve, to harden, to simplify. OpenStack continues to grow up.

A few Forrester analysts where there, and we prepared this summary of our immediate impressions. Take a look, and let us know what you think.