Tag: IaaS

Is Budget Leakage Sinking Corporate IT’s Boat? Enterprise Cloud Adoption Update | Gaining Altitude in the Cloud

A lot has changed in the short six months since our initial blog on on the emerging enterprise cloud adoption paths. Recent discussions with cloud infrastructure service providers clearly show that  CIOs and corporate IT seem to be interested in talking about cloud, and RFP flow is definitely increasing, but we’re not seeing conversion to contracts and revenue. One statement by a leading cloud service provider was particularly interesting:

“The cloud RFPs we’re seeing from enterprise IT are really strange, and poorly thought out. It’s like they’re just going through the process to get someone off their back…”

At the same time, there does appear to be an acceleration of enteprise spend on cloud, including SaaS, PaaS, and IaaS.

So what gives?

While there are a number of factors in play, we’re finding the biggest one is the role of the business user, and how cloud is eroding the monopoly corporate IT has traditonally had over information technology, services, and even infrastructure. People tend to forget that developer teams are frequently embedded in business units and deparments. They have budget approval limits, but typically high enough that they can spin up dev / test environments on Amazon AWS, for example, with no flags being raised. They no longer have to go to corporate IT to get a server provisioned, or a test environment setup. This is IT budget now flowing through the business, though through technical and not business resources.

As a result, IT is under significant pressure as it sees its budget dollars being threatened. It hasn’t fully figured out the implications of cloud for its IT organization, but can’t appear to be a roadblock to the business. What we see, although not in every enterprise IT organization, is a pretty substantial increase in tire-kicking, pilots and “RFPs” to give the illusion of  progress.

Based on an additional set of conversations, analyses, and insights from recent client work, we’ve updated our enterprise cloud adoption framework to more strongly reflect the business buying dynamic. This new framework is defined by two major dimensions:

  • Change Agent – is the primary driver of cloud adoption led by business or IT?
  • Adoption Approach – is the organization looking at how cloud and next generation platforms could fundamentally transform its business or IT environment? Or is it looking at more tactical, incremental opportunities being presented by cloud applications, platforms, or infrastructure?

Based on these factors, here’s our new framework and overview of the different ways we’re seeing enterprises migrating to the cloud:

Enterprise Cloud Adoption Paths

Enterprise Cloud Adoption Paths

A quick note on the different models:

Innovators

By far the most common enterprise adoption model we’re seeing is driven predominantly by business users implementing cloud solutions for new business capabilities, improved agility, flexibility, or reach. This adoption is coming in several flavors:

  • SaaS – in the majority of cases, business users are directly deploying SaaS business or collaboration apps at the individual, departmental, or business unit level.
  • PaaS / IaaS – for deploying new custom apps, or in some cases replatforming existing apps, developers with reporting lines into the business are deploying cloud with limited involvement from corporate IT.

Adoption is largely driven by individuals, departments, or functions around and outside of IT (even in the case of IaaS and PaaS). Business users want to innovate, recognize they can do it themselves, and feel empowered to do so.

Opportunists

The next most common model is corporate IT driving cloud adoption, albeit for specific, focused use cases. The goal is not broad transformation for “how IT does business,” but targeted adoption to prove the model, or to demonstrate improvements in efficiency and cost. Some of the most frequent use cases include:

  • Test / dev environments (under IT control)
  • Corporate and marketing websites
  • Backup and archival
  • Email and collaboration
  • Virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI)

The private cloud is still the preferred model for corporate enterprise IT, with most CIOs looking to play it safe with known enterprise vendors like IBM, VMware, or VCE. Note that the 20 percent in the Cloud Adoption Paths graphic above does not refer to the percentage of enterprise IT organizations that are pursuing cloud, but rather the number of companies in which cloud adoption is being driven predominantly by an “IT opportunist” model.

Modernizers

While they are the exception, a few enterprises’ CIOs are using next generation IT platforms to drive wide-scale modernization and transformation of their environments. These CIOs are viewing private, public, and hybrid cloud models as vehicles for fundamentally changing their infrastructure strategy, and are actively seeking to get their organizations out of the data center business. Although  rare, two of the more interesting examples we’ve recently seen include:

  • State Street – Chris Perretta, CIO at State Street, is seeking to drive $600 million in cost reduction by 2014 by leveraging private clouds to streamline application development. State Street historically has relied heavily on internally developed, custom software, with app dev representing 20-25 percent of the total IT budget. Through standardizing on common, private cloud developments platforms (based on x86-based public cloud models) and encouraging code sharing and reuse, State Street believes it can reduce test times by 30 percent, and the overall amount of code written by 30-40 percent. As with other examples we’re starting to see, standardization and simplification is being leveraged to drive significant improvements in process and cost efficiencies.
  • CP Rail – finding itself unable to keep pace with user demands, CP Rail launched a broad, multi-year infrastructure transformation initiative to dramatically reduce cycle times and costs, while still supporting increasing volumes. It has already developed a global hybrid cloud dev/test network across operations in Canada, India, and Singapore, which relies heavily on AWS. Interestingly, CP Rail places as much emphasis on process (agile development) and organizational transformation as it does on technology. For those interested in more of the details, a great presentation describing the initiative is available here.

Transformers

These are enterprises using cloud and other next generation IT platforms to create new disruptive business models, transformational improvement in growth and profitability, and strategic advantage. The starting point for their discussion is not around cloud technology, but how to use the agility, flexibility, reach, and cost effectiveness of cloud to enable new business strategies. Business executives are typically the emerging change agents. The best example in the public domain is:

  • Netflix – the classic example of a transformer is Netflix, which cannibalized its highly profitable DVD-by-mail model with an online subscription-based streaming model. After concluding it couldn’t build data centers and infrastructure quickly enough to meet user demand, the company famously leveraged AWS to scale its streaming and back-end operations. Netflix has not added data center capacity since 2008, and currently runs all streaming apps, infrastructure and back-end applications in the cloud. Those interested in learning more should check out a great recent presentation from Adrian Cockcroft, Netflix’s Cloud Architect.

While Transformers is the rarest adoption path today, we do believe it will become far more frequent as the market matures, and as cloud changes the competitive dynamic in some industries.

Note that there are still a small (and shrinking) number of enterprises that are still purely in “Observer” mode, and not actively deploying SaaS, Paas, IaaS, or private clouds anywhere across their organizations. We haven’t reflected them in our framework, and struggle to see any enteprises where at minimum there isn’t at least an individual or department using a cloud-based collaboration or productivity app.

Stay tuned, as we’ll soon be posting more here about implications for both enterprises and the cloud service provider community.

The Infrastructure Outsourcing Market in 2012: On the Cusp of Transformation? | Gaining Altitude in the Cloud

Earlier this year, Everest Group conducted its annual study of high-value Infrastructure Outsourcing (IO)  deals to gain insight into how a range of parameters correlate with deal activity in the IO market. The study, which is part of our Infrastructure Outsourcing Market Update 2012 report, analyzed 164 IO deals across a combination of 17 MNCs, Tier-1 offshore and Tier-2 offshore providers.

Infrastructure Outsourcing 2012 – Key Findings:

  • Buyers: Buyers across geographies found increased value in offshore providers’ remote infrastructure management outsourcing (RIMO) model due to its flexibility. Faced with the high costs associated with IO, buyers appeared very tactical in their approach. Analysis of the basket of IO spend showed clear signs of carefully planned allocation across traditional IO, RIMO and cloud-based services
  • Service providers: Though MNCs remain by far the leaders in the IO market, offshore providers appeared to be steadily gaining ground in sales strategy as well as deal wins. We also observed similarities between MNCs and offshore providers on a number of parameters such as buyer segments, deal size and geographies
  • Cloud-based services: As transformation of infrastructure is the major driver of cloud adoption across enterprises, we devoted an entire section in the study to cloud adoption in IO. Not surprisingly, cloud is helping buyers create a flexible and scalable infrastructure environment, with Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) solutions leading cloud adoption

Infrastructure outsourcing: On the cusp of transformation?

Overall, the IO market appears to be on the cusp of transformational change. IO seems to be showing the way not only in cloud adoption but also in how IT delivery and pricing models are transforming. The growth of IaaS says a lot about the IO’s impetus for buyers and providers alike.

To find out more about these trends, our analyses of and insights on the infrastructure outsourcing market, check out the Infrastructure Outsourcing Market Update 2012 report (a preview deck is available).

Where Are the Transformers? Enterprise Cloud Adoption Roadblocks | Gaining Altitude in the Cloud

As discussed here before, a number of different enterprise cloud adoption paths are emerging. These patterns range from “Observers,” who are taking a reactive, wait and see approach to migration to “Transformers,” who are using private and public clouds to drive wide scale IT transformation and modernization programs. Not surprisingly these transformers are the Holy Grail being pursued by many cloud service providers and enterprise IT vendors. The opportunity to drive significant pieces of an enterprise IT environment to cloud environments (private and public) in multi-year transformation efforts creates visions of big services, hardware, and in some cases software dollars.

While many service providers are crafting go-to market strategies around these types of client opportunities, they’re running into an interesting challenge. They’re not finding a lot of Transformers out there yet. Enterprise cloud adoption, particularly for IaaS, is still largely focused on specific use cases or initial pilots. While many CIOs have long-term visions for cloud-centric future state environments, few CIOs are actually doing it today.

So why aren’t we seeing more Transformers in the market? Our experience suggests that in many cases there are a set of tactical (and often mundane) issues preventing CIOs from getting to the cloud more aggressively. While by no means comprehensive, several of the issues we frequently see are:

  • Licensing handcuffs – legacy enterprise software vendors clearly understand the business model disruption that cloud represents. Not surprisingly, most enterprise software houses are in no hurry to get their customers to the new world. For example, nearly all of Oracle database licensing policies are still based on physical server CPUs. One notable exception is with Amazon AWS, for which Oracle does support a “BYOL” (bring-your-own license) model based on virtual cores; at this time, Amazon is the only cloud service provider certified by Oracle.  In addition Oracle software licensing also provides no or limited technical support for major non-Oracle virtualization platforms such as VMware, KVM, Xen and Hyper-V. Needless to say, if you’re a CIO running an Oracle shop (as many Fortune 500 companies are), there are significant constraints to migrating to even private cloud environments. While not every legacy enterprise software vendor has staked out a position as extreme as Oracle, many are still using licensing as leverage to drive clients to preferred models (or keep them there).
  • Shortage of skills – cloud expertise and experience is hard to find. Without cloud architecture and solution skills, enterprises are finding it difficult to drive wide-scale transformation efforts. While retraining would seem to be the obvious answer, CIOs that have tried going down that path are finding it to be a dead end. As discussed at our Organizational Readiness track at Cloud Connect Santa Clara last February, IT leaders are finding that the cloud paradigm shift is a bridge too far, and that most of their current employees are unable to make the shift. The lack of internal talent, combined with the wariness to trust vendors and service providers, is leading to a real constraint to further adoption, particularly in IaaS and private cloud models.
  • Analysis paralysis – private cloud provides an interesting example of the proliferation of options facing enterprise IT. Private clouds can be provided in a variety of flavors, with important choices to be made around delivery model (VPC vs dedicated), location (on-premise or hosted), asset ownership (customer or service provider), platform (proprietary vs open source) and, of course, vendor.  Given the skills shortage mentioned above, even sophisticated enterprise IT shops are challenged with the variety of vendor and service options in the market, particularly given the pace of change. Of course the recent flare-up of IaaS platform wars doesn’t help make these choices clearer for risk-averse CIOs.  The result of too many choices? It’s not uncommon for us to see clients experiencing “vapor lock,” not really knowing what to analyze, let along what methodology to use. Clients are finding the frameworks, methodologies and tools they’ve historically used to make similar decisions in the past aren’t applicable or relevant in the cloud paradigm. As simple as it seems, many of our clients simply don’t know where to get started.

Why isn’t security and compliance on the list? Because in many cases, we’re finding that security and compliance is a red herring that IT is hiding behind. This is not to say that there are not workloads and use cases where security and compliance issues prevent certain public cloud models; however, these situations in reality are the minority. A variety of examples exist of enterprises leveraging the cloud today while still maintaining compliance with PCI, HIPAA and other mandates (most of which are open to auditor interpretation anyway). Best practices, tools and architectures for addressing common security issues are also becoming more prevalent, as are more mature CSP offerings and security practices for common use cases. Net, net: where there’s a will there’s a way, and in most cases if CIOs are truly interested in getting to the cloud, there are secure, compliant ways of getting there.

Overall, we believe that the wave of transformation is coming in the enterprise. Early movers exist and are achieving the promised payoff. Unfortunately the timing and shape of the wave for the mainstream organization is not as clear as those in the enterprise IT world would like, and the pace is being shaped primarily by a set of factors that are largely non-technical and beyond the IT leader’s control.

Will Platform Wars Freeze the Enterprise IaaS Market? | Gaining Altitude in the Cloud

As we work with our clients to understand the implications of Next Generation IT technologies, it’s clear that large enterprise adoption of public cloud IaaS is progressing more slowly than other types of cloud services (e.g., SaaS, private cloud). When we ask ourselves “why,” we continue to come back to three critical issues:

  • Vision and reality gap – we continue to be impressed with the sophistication that many of our client IT executives have around how private, public and hybrid clouds can be used to fundamentally transform their IT infrastructures. They then talk to vendors and face the disappointing gap between the state of cloud technologies today and their expectations and requirements (legitimate or not).
  • Risk aversion – it’s one thing for a CIO to passively support their VP of Sales as they roll out Salesforce.com.  It’s quite another to own the decision to migrate critical IT workloads out of the data center to public cloud services. While early adopters are clearly out there experimenting with IaaS, don’t expect your typical Fortune 500 CIO to be eager to get on the diving board and jump in until they have to, or they feel it’s safe.
  • Market “noise” – just when CIOs think the drumbeat of vendor provider announcements around public, private and hybrid cloud offerings and standards can’t get any louder, someone dials it up a notch.  The noise (and uncertainty) is now being amplified even further by the emerging battle around enterprise cloud platforms / operating systems like vCloud and Open Stack (more on this later).

Certainly we’re finding that these issues are reflected in enterprise IaaS adoption patterns that are not quite what many in the enterprise CSP vendor community had hoped for at this point. Namely we’re seeing:

  • Enterprises growing cloud usage from the “inside out” – nearly all the activity we see in the enterprise market around cloud and infrastructure today is focused around private cloud pilots or full deployments (hosted or on-prem). Rather than experiment with cloud with public service providers, they’re opting to try the model internally first. Some call it “server-hugging,” others a reactive move to keep IT spend in house, and still others a rational response to the current state of technology and services.
  • Heavy reliance on proprietary enterprise IT vendors – despite their vision, promise and industry support, new open source platforms (and Eucalyptus) have seen limited adoption in enterprise private clouds. While OpenStack has had success with service providers, many CIOs don’t consider it ready for prime-time yet in their data centers. CloudStack has had more success, but enterprise deployments still likely number only in the double digits. Perhaps not surprisingly we see enterprise cloud deployments (private cloud) dominated by VMware and IBM.
  • Selective, incremental migration of targeted use cases – where we do see enterprise IT migrating to public cloud or hybrid infrastructure models is for very targeted or smaller scale, lower risk use cases. Examples include test / dev environments, backup and archival, websites and batch data analytics. IT is dipping their “toe in the water” with public cloud, and not feeling a compelling need to drive widescale transformation – yet.

So where are we headed?

In general, enterprises are obviously not comfortable with the current risk / return profile associated with public IaaS and hybrid cloud models. We believe one of the few levers that would pull both components of this ratio would be a cloud management platform that would enable true workload portability / interoperability and policy enforcement across private, public and hybrid models. Not surprisingly, competing enterprise cloud vendor platforms, standards and ecosystems are emerging around VMware, Open Stack and Amazon (and to a limited extent Microsoft) to address this market gap. Several major announcements over the past several weeks that have served both to partially clarify and muddy this evolving landscape at the same time include:

  • The Amazon / Eucalyptus announcement around extended  API compatibility for hybrid clouds
  • The Citrix announcement that they will be breaking away from Open Stack and open sourcing CloudStack to the Apache Software Foundation
  • HP’s announcement of the Converged Cloud portfolio of public, private and hybrid cloud offerings based on a “hardened” version of OpenStack and KVM.

Most major enterprise IT vendors are still hedging their bets and publicly keeping feet in multiple camps. With the marketing engines in overdrive it’s difficult to understand what commitments vendors are really at the end of the day making to the different platforms. In fact it’s quite instructive to take a look at who’s putting their money where their mouths are when it comes to open source efforts like Open Stack, not just in terms of sponsorship fees but also developer contributions.

Historically IT platform markets end up with a dominant leader and one to two credible challengers that end up with 2/3 to 3/4 of the market, with the remainder shared among niche players. When we take a look at the enterprise cloud operating system or management platform market, we don’t see why it would be any different here, though we’re obviously still a long, long way from the end game.

The critical question in our mind is: Is a cloud platform market shakeout required for enterprise adoption of IaaS to accelerate and hit the tipping point? If so, we could be waiting a long time.

What are your thoughts?

Enterprise Cloud Goes Vertical | Gaining Altitude in the Cloud

Most enterprise cloud offering conversations to date have focused on the horizontal benefits…flexibility, scalability, auto scaling, cost savings, reliability, security, self provisioning, etc.

Advantageous as these are, CIOs are increasingly interested in learning more about cloud benefits that are specific to the industry in which their organizations operate. For example, latency requirements, failover mechanism and data encryption are important to a CIO in the financial industry. A healthcare industry IT executive will be interested in hearing more about mobility and data archiving. How the cloud can improve supply chain or logistics is important for a CIO in manufacturing industry. And a media industry IT executive, quite aware of the various platforms being used to access content, will want to hear more about Content Delivery Networks (CDN) supported by the cloud.

A growing number of enterprise cloud providers are beginning to understand this interest in vertical cloud benefits. While their focus has been on “SaaS-i-fying” their offerings to meet unique, industry-specific application requirements, the trend will continue towards “PaaS-i-fying” and even “IaaS-i-fying” their offerings.

Let’s take a quick look at some of today’s verticalized enterprise cloud offerings.

IBM’s Federal Community Cloud is dynamic and scalable to meet government organizations’ consolidation policies as mandated by the Obama administration’s CIO. It is in the process of obtaining FedRAMP certification to meet Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA) compliance standards, a requirement for government IT contractors, and will be operated and maintained in accordance with federal security guidelines.

Savvis provides customized IaaS solutions that cater to the financial industry. Growth in this vertical has been led by providing infrastructure services – such as proximity hosting and low latency networks – which support electronic trading. Savvis has added six new trading venues and an international market data provider. Its customers can now cross-connect, or have network access, to over 59 exchanges, Electronic Communication Networks (ECNs), and market data providers. For example, it hosts Barclays Capital’s dark liquidity crossing network, LX, which aggregates its global client bases’ market structure investments.

Infosys took advantage of Microsoft Azure PaaS platform and its SQL Data Services (SDS) to provide automotive dealers with cloud-based solutions to go from a point-to-point dealer connection for inventory management to a hub-based approach. In this solution, an inventory database for all dealers is hosted at a dedicated instance of SDSin the cloud. It provides middle tier code and business logic to integrate data between participating parties and a web-based interface for dealer employees wanting to check inventory at other dealerships.

Amazon Web Services (AWS) has cloud solutions that cater to the media industry’s needs for transcoding, analytics, rendering, and digital asset management. It developed a CDN, based on CloudFront™, which provides the streaming from edge nodes strategically located throughout the United States for a robust streaming experience.

AWS’ Gov Cloud™ provides a cloud computing platform that meets the federal security compliances FISMA, PCI, DCC and ISO 27001. The Department of State and its prime contractor, MetroStar Systems, built an online video contest platform to encourage discussion and participation around cultural topics, and to promote membership in its ExchangesConnect network. The contest drew participants from more than 160 countries and took advantage of AWS for scalability. AWS hosts websites for many federal agencies such as the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board (recovery.gov) and the U.S. Department of Treasury (treasury.gov). AWS provides multiple failover locations within the United States, a provision which meets the security requirement that only people physically located within the United States have access the data.

Game hosting companies are running their games in the cloud for faster delivery and scalability. And AWS’ S3 platform provides the storage capacities for gaming companies such as Zynga and Playfish.

GNAX’s healthcare cloud specifically caters to the healthcare industry and understands the nuances of HIPPA. It provides a private cloud solution to healthcare companies that scales up and down depending on patient volume.

Of course, there are both pros and cons to adopting vertical-specific cloud offerings.

Pros:

  • Customized solutions based on industry regulations
  • Immediate creation of competitive advantage

Cons:

  • Vendor lock-in
  • Proprietary workloads may not be migrated

These issues can be mitigated through a careful sourcing methodology, now being provided through cloud agents who negotiate the contracts with multiple vendors as per the needs of the client organization.

As illustrated above, there are significant benefits to be gained from industry-specific cloud solutions, and I predict we’ll see an increasing number of them emerging in the near-term.

The Best of IaaS is Still in the Making | Gaining Altitude in the Cloud

Most people out there consider IaaS the “dog” of all the cloud computing layers, given its low margins, tough competition and gradual commoditization. However, one thing that is going well for IaaS is that its position as the building block of cloud computing. That makes IaaS the starting point for large enterprise’s consideration of transition to the cloud.

Now, IaaS is turning out to be a new turf war between the cable and network providers. Verizon purchased Terremark, CenturyLink picked up Savvis, Time Warner acquired Navisite, and  AT&T might be a little anxious to go shopping as well with all this commotion. That is signaling consolidation in the cloud provider space. It will be interesting to see how the cloud pioneers and startups  can continue to remain independent in the battle between the behemoths for capturing the attention of large buyers for cloud deployments. As the consolidation progresses, PaaS and SaaS providers like Google and Salesforce.com will need to find partners among the cable and network providers to be part of the discussion with the clients.

We are moving towards an oligopolistic industry in which the providers must better understand and respond to the needs of buyers in their respective industry verticals like healthcare, education etc.,  for prospects to warm up to the idea of leveraging the cloud. (For more insights, please read our recent blog, “Talking the Talk, but not Walking the Walk, in the Cloud”.) Network providers and IT service providers are going to have to urgently fill this vacuum. With many small players trying to race to the top by claiming to be everything to everyone, it’s difficult to meet the custom needs of a vertical business or entity.

What does all this mean for legacy IT service providers like HP, IBM, Cisco, and EMC? They must be happy, as they are receiving some relief around the price wars and commoditization of hardware infrastructure like servers and storage, as the telecom and cable operators will go to a familiar source for their hardware needs.

IaaS providers must be enjoying the attention they are receiving all over again, as PaaS and SaaS providers have had their fair share of the limelight.

What do you think will happen in the IaaS space?

Notes from the Interop NYC 2011 Carrier Cloud Forum | Gaining Altitude in the Cloud

I had the good fortune to participate in a lively panel discussion at this week’s Interop NYC Carrier Cloud Forum on the topic of Enterprise Expectations for Cloud Services. My co-panelists were Troy Angrignon of Cloudscaling, and Charlie Burns of Saugatuck Technology, and the moderator was Carol Wilson from Light Reading. We covered a pretty broad waterfront, discussing everything from the state of enterprise cloud adoption to enterprise perceptions of telcos/carriers as potential cloud service providers. Some of the more interesting exchanges focused on the following points:

  • The market noise is getting deafening – one of the biggest emerging obstacles to enterprise cloud adoption is actually the market confusion being created around what cloud is (and isn’t). Every enterprise IT vendor, including hardware, software or services, is pitching a cloud story, whether it actually has capabilities or not. The vendor marketing onslaught is making it extremely difficult for CIOs to separate truth from fiction, and in many cases is slowing down efforts to drive migration. The good news? This is a purely self-inflected wound from a cloud industry perspective, and it should sort itself out over time. The bad news? In the short term, some CIOs are starting to tune out, or at least very skeptical in engaging in yet another vendor discussion around cloud.
  • It’s all about business agility – on the topic of what ultimately will be the primary driver of enterprise cloud migration, there was some healthy debate around the importance of the cost efficiency value proposition to enterprises. While we all generally agreed that business agility and flexibility was going to be the dominant theme, there were differing perspectives on how important a compelling cost reduction component was going to be. Some think agility alone will be enough, while others (including me) believe that overall cost improvements of 30+ percent will be required to get the attention of enterprise CIOs and to drive wide-scale transformation, particularly in infrastructure.
  • Cloud security is often more about IT job security – Charlie Burns made the great observation that enterprise concerns around data security often have more to do with IT executives’ anxiety about their future roles, and less to do with actual cloud security. Major cloud service providers have matured quite a bit when it comes to security, and the major enterprise issue now has more to do with transparency than the actual security policies and practices being implemented by providers.
  • Significant market “white space” still exists – we agreed that enterprises view the network as a critical component of cloud services and that carriers have a strong “card to play” as enterprise cloud emerges. Rather than focusing on horizontal IaaS services, carriers may be better off identifying specific solution areas and use cases where network ownership could create strategic differentiation and advantage – for example, use cases in which high availability or bandwidth are critical. While we all recognized the challenges of carriers entering more horizontal IaaS or PaaS markets from scratch, Troy gave an interesting example of how Cloudscaling has recently helped KT launch cloud IaaS services in Asia that were priced 30 percent lower than Amazon AWS.

Thanks again to Troy, Charlie, and Carol for a great discussion!

Photo Credit: Interop Events

Cloud: The Network Itch | Gaining Altitude in the Cloud

During the past several weeks, Everest Group’s ITO team has had multiple debates about the various levers that govern the cloud services industry. The growing consensus has been that service orientations, *aaS (BPaaS, SaaS, PaaS and IaaS), are the strength levers with which the cloud service providers will play. So, for example, a Rackspace (IaaS) will host a Salesforce.com (SaaS) on a Microsoft Azure (PaaS) platform, completing the cloud landscape. Just one glance across the *aaS firmament and the stories appear similar. The cloud portrait seemed complete and nailed to the wall for posterity.

However, a statement by Steve Caniano, VP of AT&T Hosting and Cloud Services – “What is key for us is the ability to leverage the cloud as part of a network service experience – without a network you don’t have a cloud” – took our debates in another direction.

“Without a network you don’t have a cloud”

While the services side of the cloud has dazzled the industry, the infrastructure side – consisting of data centers and network – has seemed dreary. After all, network and storage are considered hygiene requirements for the cloud infrastructure. They also appear to have been relegated to commodities, as both the network and storage markets have experienced intense competitive and pricing pressures. Our feeling is that saying there cannot be a cloud without a network is akin to taunting a Ferrari owner that his or her sports wonder car is no good without Michelin tires. True, the owner may have a momentary nightmare of the beaming red Ferrari’s chassis lying flat on the ground. But it isn’t a real worry, as Bridgestone, Goodyear, and other tire brands are also options. So, can I pat myself on my back and say I nailed this “cloud without a network” debate with this repartee and sign off on this blog?

A growing tribe of telecom firms thinks otherwise. Verizon, CenturyLink and AT&T have all recently made big investments in cloud – acquisitions of Terremark and Savvis are still fresh, and AT&T has put up a US$1 billion corpus fund for its cloud initiative. Additionally, the cloud-focused consolidation happening in the telecom industry has coincided with the growing activity in the cloud services industry. The next generation of networks (4G and 5G) have enticed many new cloud initiatives. Apple’s iCloud is an example.

In the debate that ensued within my team on this topic, a colleague reminded that the whole concept of cloud comes from telecommunications, and that public telephony was the first cloud ever. With this legacy in mind, can we assume that control over network and bandwidths will help telecom companies define the rules of the cloud?

Taking this debate external, is network:

  • Just a part of the cloud (and the real money lies with systems integration and advisory)?
  • An enabler of the cloud?
  • The cloud itself?

We’d love to hear your thoughts on this.

If Governments Can, Why Can’t You? | Gaining Altitude in the Cloud

All around the world, governments are increasingly stepping up to the Cloud.

Early last week, the U.S. government’s General Services Administration (GSA) issued a solicitation for cloud-based email, office automation, and records services, in a contract estimated to be worth up to US$2.5 billion over five years. The GSA expects savings of nearly 45 percent from this move.

By the end of this year, the government CIO’s commitment to a “Cloud First” policy is expected to result in closures of up to 137 data centers across the United States. While this is only about 6 percent of the government’s 2,000+ data centers, it’s a great start given the extent of change required.

Across the Atlantic, there are plans to consolidate the U.K. government’s 8,000 data centers into a dozen centers on an internal G-Cloud. The government also recently released an alpha version of a consolidated government portal (alpha.gov.uk) hosted on Amazon’s cloud platform, that aims to centralize access to all government services.

In China, there are plans to build a cloud computing center the “size of a city” within the Heibei province, to primarily serve government departments.

These moves by governments around the globe represent, for perhaps the first time in recent memory, path-breaking leadership in technology transformation. Change is never an easy subject, especially within the public sphere. Yet the extent of potential benefits from a move to the Cloud is making governments take notice and make the plunge.

Private enterprises stand to learn a variety of lessons from these public sector Cloud moves:

a. They set the lead for large private enterprises

The Cloud is already at the forefront of CIO priorities for 2011. However, many enterprises hesitate to take large technological plunges given the extent of change required from legacy environments. Questions often emerge as to whether Cloud strategies are better suited for small-to-medium environments, and for new next generation initiatives. Enterprises also question how the change can be managed across so many different business units with disparate platforms. 

The scale of attempted governmental transformation should put such questions to rest. If an entity with over a thousand departments and an US$80 billion IT budget (a.k.a. the US government) can make the shift, why can’t you?

b. They indicate greater tolerance towards risk and security challenges

As recent discussions on this blog indicate, security and compliance concerns constitute two of the biggest impediments to transition to the Cloud. Yet, with risk sensitive departments such as Defense, Homeland Security and the NSA making the move, it’s clear the public sector’s concerns on these risks have been largely alleviated.

As the head of the U.S. Cyber Command General Keith Alexander recently testified in a House sub-committee hearing“…moving the programs and the data that users need away from the thousands of desktops we now use —each of which has to be individually secured… to a centralized configuration that will give us wider availability of applications and data combined with tighter control over accesses and vulnerabilities and more timely mitigation of the latter…Indeed, no system that human beings use can be made immune to abuse — but we are convinced the controls and tools that will be built into the cloud will ensure that people cannot see any data beyond what they need for their jobs and will be swiftly identified if they make unauthorized attempts…”

c. They herald greater maturity in the supplier ecosystem

Google and Microsoft have sparred publicly over the last few months over the (alleged) respective lack of FISMA certification on Cloud services offered to U.S. government agencies. As the war for public sector Cloud prospects heats up, so will functionality and service provider maturity. For example, Google Apps for Government now includes specialized security functionality: data location and segregation of government data, necessary to ensure greater security and compliance.

In addition, as The Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program  (FedRAMP) mechanisms are established later this year to enable government-wide certifications and authorization, more Cloud vendors will step up to meet the bar.

d. They indicate need for concerted CIO-level leadership

Since 2009, when Cloud computing was identified as a Federal IT priority, the U.S. government’s CIO has unveiled a wide range of initiatives: establishing standard definitions;  defining Cloud value propositions; launching Cloud store fronts; establishing the “Cloud First” strategy as a keystone of IT strategy; setting clear decision frameworks and timelines; and establishing new Cloud standards. Clearly, Federal Cloud initiatives are leading change across a diverse government organization, much of which has been driven by the CIO’s determined efforts to push through change, despite naysayers and challenges.

Governments’ migration to the Cloud represents a monumental effort in technology change in a large and complex organization. As private enterprises navigate to the Cloud, they have much to learn from the public sector’s lead.

Cloud Services and CFOs’ Triple Hat Role | Gaining Altitude in the Cloud

We had the pleasure this week of participating in a CFO Forum hosted by TechAmerica, along with representatives from Microsoft, Softlayer and SOURCE, on the topic of “Navigating the Cloud.” The overall discussion focused on the benefits of the rapidly expanding universe of cloud services, along with key risk, compliance and security considerations for CFOs. During the panel discussion and audience Q&A, it became apparent that CFOs wear three different hats when thinking about the cloud:

CFO as Cloud User – like everyone else, CFOs are potential users of cloud services, primarily via ERP and F&A-related SaaS offerings. Discussion in this area focused on several topics:

  • Cloud ERP and accounting solutions from vendors like NetSuite and Intacct have been traditionally focused almost exclusively on SMBs. Though still early, enterprise options are emerging from cloud-focused vendors such as Workday. CFOs need to keep on top of the rapidly evolving set of alternatives that exist for the F&A function.
  • New cloud deployment models are emerging for ERP, such as the ability to run SAP on virtualized private clouds, and availability of select modules through public multi-tenant models. CFOs need to realize that it’s not just SaaS or nothing – new models are being introduced that capture virtualization and private cloud benefits without the perceived risks of moving sensitive financial data to the public cloud.

CFO as Cloud Buyer – the second major relationship CFOs have with the cloud is as a buyer, given the ownership they have over corporate and IT budgeting processes and spend. Points mentioned during the Forum included:

  • CFOs should give strong consideration to “Cloud First” policies such as one recently announced by Vivek Kundra, CIO of the United States, who is seeking to move 25 percent of the Federal Government’s IT budget to cloud services. The policy doesn’t say that cloud should be adopted whenever available, but rather that it be strongly considered “whenever a secure, reliable, cost-effective cloud option exists.” Sounds like a smart policy for the private sector as well.
  • CFOs should also work with CIOs and business owners to ensure that a comprehensive assessment has been made of the potential value of migrating to cloud services at the SaaS, IaaS (infrastructure-as-a-service) and PaaS (platform-as-a-service)levels, and that an overall transformation plan exists. Many experiments currently exist, but there is little understanding of where adoption goes after that.

CFO as Fiduciary – the panel also explored the impact of the cloud on CFOs fiduciary responsibilities for the organization.

  • Duke Skarda, CTO of Softlayer, described the four categories of risk in the cloud that CFOs need to evaluate: compliance, governance, security, and disaster recovery. As with cloud services overall, there’s no one right answer – organizations need to understand their risk posture, requirements, vendor capabilities, and supporting SLAs and contractual agreements. It was also noted that, in some cases, cloud services can actually serve to decrease organizational risk profiles.
  • CFOs need to understand any potential impacts of applicable compliance or data privacy regulations (especially in Europe) on where and how they can leverage cloud services.
  • IT policies and controls themselves don’t necessarily change with cloud services, but how they are implemented likely will. CFOs need to ensure IT has taken the right steps to implement appropriate governance and control of cloud services.

Overall, it was a great discussion, with interesting questions and comments from a very engaged CFO audience.

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