The just concluded Cloud Leadership Forum (June 20-21 in Santa Clara, CA) brought together CIOs, IT managers, vendors, and analysts to discuss the current status, future directions and important caveats of Cloud Computing. This very successful IDG event was organized and chaired by IDC Chief Analyst Frank Gens and IDG Enterprise Sr VP John Gallant. Both did an excellent job of running the conference, which provided very useful information to the many attendees who came from all over the world.
A IDC/IDG survey revealed that information technology executives believe that cloud computing will have significant impact on IT organizations and IT vendors, as well as the enterprises they support.
Frank Gens of IDC is a strong advocate of Public Clouds, insisting they will dominate over Private Clouds sooner than most expect. He says that IT executives need to be looking at cloud for the new capabilities it offers, not simply to re-create what the business is already doing on a potentially cheaper platform. The implication is that most new apps – even those that are mission critical-will run on data centers in the cloud.
All but the largest companies appear to favor Public Clouds because of lower cost, advantages of scale, and faster depoyment. Amazon, Rackspace, Microsoft and now Fujitsu all offer public clouds for Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS). However, HP was touting Hybrid Cloud (mixture of both public and private) as the way forward. HP plans to introduce their own public cloud later this year.
Here are just a few data points from the Conference:
- More than 70 percent of those surveyed said they believed that by 2014, a third of all IT organizations will be providers of cloud services to customers or business partners.
- Almost 80 percent of respondents felt that cloud service brokers and service aggregators will provide integration, management, security and other services across public cloud offerings by 2015.
- More than 80 percent of the respondents said that one-third of Fortune 1000 enterprises will deploy at least one business-critical system in the cloud. More than half of the IT executives surveyed believe that mobile-optimized cloud services will be a primary interface with customers by 2014.
- In 2010, more than 40% of storage purchased was for cloud use (cloud computing and ISP internal use). This percentage is expected to increase this year and next, especially in light of Netflix’s move from in house to cloud resident data centers. An IDC analyst suggested that shared cache memory might be used in the future for cloud storage.
- VCs are not investing in compute/storage/networking hardware companies or infrastructure players. It’s believed those mkts will be dominated by large players who have massive scale. Their investments are in cloud, e-commerce, social media start-ups that have differentiating IP.
- Platform as a Service (PaaS) continues to be the most unexploited area of Cloud. This is because the larger players are all doing Infrastructure as a Service (e.g. Amazon, Rackspace, Fujitsu, IBM, HP, etc) while Sales Force.com and start ups dominate Software as a Service.
- While the advantages of cloud services are very well known and have been hyped to the sky, several speakers emphasized business innovation and agility as key benefits. Their message: use the cloud to accomplish business objectives and innovate; adopt to changes quickly.
- A key opportunity that Frank Gens of IDC has emphasized is the “mashup” or integration of cloud services with big data, business analytics, mobile device, mobile apps &data, and social media. Due to the variety of platforms and lack of standards, we think this will take a very long time to happen on a large scale.
- Security, availability, ;ack of standards =vendor lock-in, guaranteed performance, contracts and SLA compliance seem to be the key impediments to massive cloud adoptions.
- Cloud standards are nowhere on the horizon. What’s urgently needed is a common API to access cloud services (see discussion below). That and other critical cloud interoperability standards will likely take at least two more years to be sorted out.
What’s the Impact of No Cloud Standards?
No standards translates into a lack of interoperability, which locks-in the customer to a single cloud service provider. For example, the lack of a standard IaaS management API requires cloud user software to be particularized to a single Cloud Service Provider. This is because every cloud service provider has a different version of web services (mostly REST based, but a few use SOAP WS’s) protocols and software interfaces that the customer must adhere to.
Here’s an article highlighting IEEE CIOs position that lack of Cloud Interoperability is a greater problem than security for most potential Cloud users:
In the absence of any Cloud network (UNI or NNI) standards, there are a variety of network interfaces (L1-L3), which are highly dependent on the type of network used to access the cloud services.
- When the public Internet is used to access cloud services, there is usually an IP VPN per user with IP-SEC or IP-MPLS/PPP frames over whatever the physical medium dictates as the PHY layer. The same Router that is used to access the Internet is used to obtain cloud based services (usually public cloud).
- But if a private network is used to access the cloud service(s), the network interface could be IP-MPLS, MPLS over Ethernet, Ethernet VPLS, or other L2 protocols over the PHY layer. This means the private network provider (not the corporate end user) is responsible for the on premises access switch/ router that is used to accesses cloud services. In most cases, e.g. Savvis, AT&T, Verizon Business, the private network provider is the same company offering cloud services. But in any case, if the customer switches cloud providers they will need to install a different access switch/router. Note also, that switch/router may not provide access to the public Internet. It sure sounds like vendor lock- in to me!
Other Problem Areas for Cloud to Overcome
There are other pitfalls and barriers to cloud adoption besides the lack of standards. While everyone knows that security is an impediment to cloud adoption, other important functional (vs contract and legal) issues are reliability, availability, fast failure recovery (e.g. the recent Amazon EC2 failure took up to 5 days to restore service), performance (especially when the public Internet is used to delver Cloud Services).
Finally, there are some BESIDES this author who say that the network is not ready for cloud and will be the bottleneck:
” Networks are not prepared for cloud onslaught. Complexity, latency, bandwidth. Networks just are not prepared, particularly as organizations build public-like cloud services in their private clouds. Virtualization at scale or greater numbers of devices on the network don’t help either. Time for a cloud-ready data center (Juniper example, but there are many). One challenge is that cloud is reducing capital expense budgets, where network upgrades happen. Are we too early for that?” –Paul Calento 06/22/2011 – 3:09pm.
“I fully agree. Yes Paul is right! THE network (aka cloud) is the critical infrastructure, but you can indeed get the connections you need and prices are falling however it strongly depends what application. A good example is VDI this was sold as the hottest thing the last 2 years, but you will not be able to run this in the cloud! Once we all have fiber to the desk maybe!” Oliver Fischer-Samano on Wed, 06/22/2011 – 3:43pm.
Here’s a related article about John Gallant – the co-host for Cloud Leadership Forum the last two years:
Note: This author is closely tracking cloud standards being produced by the ITU-FG Cloud as well as the IEEE P2302 Cloud Interoperability Working Group.