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Demystifying Cloud Vendors

cloud-computing landscapeCutting through the hype of cloud vendors starts by evaluating how ready their Cloud Services, enabling technologies and Professional Services are to serve customers today.

That’s one of the key take-aways from a recent webinar I attended titled How Cloud Computing Changes the Vendor Landscape by David Mitchell Smith, VP and Gartner Fellow last week.  The slides are available for download here (Free for download after Gartner registration if you are not a Gartner client).

What made this webinar unique and worth mentioning is the framework that was presented for evaluating vendors.  Beginning with the well-known Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS), Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) structure, Gartner added in a Business and Information Systems layer that includes brokerages, management and security.  This is the layer where Gartner says they are seeing enterprise clients most concentrate on emerging technologies.

The cloud vendor landscape is defined by Cloud Services, Professional Services for Consumption, Enabling Technologies and Professional Services for building and running applications.  Green designates a vendor area of emphasis, yellow are those areas serviced by partners and white areas are not addressed by the vendor’s strategy at all.

Using this framework, nine different companies were analyzed including Amazon, Google, HP, IBM, Microsoft, Oracle, Salesforce.com, SAP and VMWare.

  • Microsoft has the most ambitious cloud strategy of the nine companies profiled, and their cloud-first design initiative shows they have faith in Azure performing in the enterprise.  Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 will first be released on Azure, then on-premise is a case in point. Microsoft is impatient  to move into a subscription model with its evolving cloud platform. Gartner’s analysis of Microsoft’s cloud strategy is shown in the following graphic.

Microsoft Cloud Strategy

  • Oracle is one of the most persistent cloud washers according to Gartner, often bending the definition of cloud computing to align with their strengths.  Their continual efforts to redefine the cloud are also designed to get their formidable customer base to upgrade to the latest generation of their applications.  Of the vendors compared they also have the greatest strength in enabling technologies, evidenced by their Exalogic and Exadata systems, Oracle Linux and Solaris operating systems.

Oracle cloud strategy

  • SAP’s cloud strategy looks to make the most of the large, highly profitable R/3 installed base while partnering with IaaS vendors to build out their cloud platform according to Gartner.  The point was made that of the vendors in the comparison, SAP prioritizes enabling technologies over owning the entire cloud stack as Oracle aspires to.

SAP Summary Chart

Bottom line: If you want to know  the truth about a given cloud vendor evaluate their Cloud Services, Professional Services track record and how well they transform enabling technologies into successful products.  The following graphic provides a summary of the vendors included in the webinar:

Summary Chart

Gartner Releases Their Hype Cycle for Cloud Computing, 2011

Calling the hype around cloud computing “deafening”, Gartner released their annual hype cycle for the 34 different technologies in a 75 page analysis today.  You can find the Hype Cycle at the end of this post and I’ve provided several of the take-aways below:

  • The industry is just beyond the Peak of Inflated Expectations, and headed for the Trough of Disillusionment. The further up the Technology Trigger and Peak of Inflated Expectations curve, the greater the chaotic nature of how technologies are being positioned with widespread confusion throughout markets. The team of analysts who wrote this at Gartner share that conclusion across the many segments of the Hype Cycle.
  • Gartner states that nearly every vendor who briefs them has a cloud computing strategy yet few have shown how their strategies are cloud-centric. Cloudwashing on the part of vendors across all 34 technology areas is accelerating the entire industry into the trough of disillusionment. The report cites the Amazon Web Services outage in April, 2011 as a turning point on the hype cycle for example.
  • Gartner predicts that the most transformational technologies included in the Hype Cycle will be the following: virtualization within two years; Big Data, Cloud Advertising, Cloud Computing, Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS), and Public Cloud computing between two and five years; and Community Cloud, DevOps, Hybrid Cloud Computing and Real-time Infrastructure in five to ten years.
  • There continues to be much confusion with clients relative to hybrid computing.  Gartner’s definition is as follows ”Hybrid cloud computing refers to the combination of external public cloud computing services and internal resources (either a private cloud or traditional infrastructure, operations and applications) in a coordinated fashion to assemble a particular solution”. They provide examples of joint security and management, workload/service placement and runtime optimization, and others to further illustrate the complex nature of hybrid computing.
  • Big Data is also an area of heavy client inquiry activity that Gartner interprets as massive hype in the market. They are predicting that Big Data will reach the apex of the Peak of Inflated Expectations by 2012.  Due to the massive amount of hype surrounding this technology, they predict it will be in the Trough of Disillusionment eventually, as enterprises struggle to get the results they expect.
  • By 2015, those companies who have adopted Big Data and extreme information management (their term for this area) will begin to outperform their unprepared competitors by 20% in every available financial metric. Early use cases of Big Data are delivering measurable results and strong ROI.  The Hype Cycle did not provide any ROI figures however, which would have been interesting to see.
  • PaaS is one of the most highly hyped terms Gartner encounters on client calls, one of the most misunderstood as well, leading to a chaotic market. Gartner does not expect comprehensive PaaS offerings to be part of the mainstream market until 2015.  The point is made that there is much confusion in the market over just what PaaS is and its role in the infrastructure stack.
  • SaaS performs best for relatively simple tasks in IT-constrained organizations. Gartner warns that the initial two years may be low cost for any SaaS-based application, yet could over time be even more expensive than on-premise software.
  • Gartner estimates there are at least 3M Sales Force Automation SaaS users globally today.

Bottom line: The greater the hype, the more the analyst inquiries, and the faster a given technology ascends to the Peak of Inflated Expectations. After reading this analysis it becomes clear that vendors who strive to be accurate, precise, real and relevant are winning deals right now and transcending the hype cycle to close sales.  They may not being getting a lot of attention, but they are selling more because enterprises clearly understand their value.

Source: Gartner, Hype Cycle for Cloud Computing, 2011 David Mitchell Smith Publication Date: 27 July 2011 ID Number: G00214915 © 2011

Predicting Cloud Computing Adoption Rates

From conservative, single digit adoption rates to hockey-stick projections of exceptional growth, analyst firms, venture capitalists and government ministries are weighing in on how they see cloud adoption progressing.

While each of the adoption rate predictions vary significantly in terms of their methodologies and results, all rely on the assumption that SaaS applications including CRM will continue to gain momentum.  The user adoption rates vary on how fast the momentum is, yet all share this assumption.  Speed, increased user adoption rates, and the ability to more closely align software to business goals are cited most often as the biggest benefits.

Where the projections vary most is whether enterprises will eventually migrate the majority of their applications to the cloud or not.  Forrester, Gartner and others see a hybrid cloud architecture emerging in the enterprise and forcing the issue of legacy systems migration by 2015.  As would be expected, vendor-driven research sees an “all or nothing” world in the near future.

Sanity Check

Wanting to see how reliable the figures were showing rapid cloud adoption in the enterprise, I did a quick sanity check.  Taking the  distribution of sales by segment for Salesforce.com and their annual revenue growth rate, then normalizing it across all segments, enterprise emerges as their strongest segment by a wide margin in 2015.  It had a 15%+ compound annual growth rate (CAGR) from 2011 – 2015 just taking their current sales by segment distribution of sales and extrapolating forward.  Data points like this and the market factors behind them is why SaaS is often used in these studies as a leading indicator of broader cloud adoption.

Adoption Rate Round-Up

  • Forrester found that SaaS will outgrow all other cloud services, achieving 37% adoption in 2011 growing to 50% by 2012.  In previous studies Forrester has shown that SaaS is a major growth catalyst of ongoing investment in IaaS and PaaS in enterprises. Source: Source:  Forrsights: The Software Market In Transformation, 2011 And Beyond Shifting Buying Preferences Lead To New Software Priorities by Holger Kisker, Ph.D. with Pascal Matzke, Stefan Ried, Ph.D., Miroslaw Lisserman  Link: http://bit.ly/ijJy70  The following table is from the report:

  • Microsoft Global SMB Cloud Adoption Study released in March, 2011 is one of the most comprehensive done this year on this topic. Of the many findings, the study predicts  39 % of SMBs expect to be paying for one or more cloud services within three years).  One of the best studies on cloud adoptions done this year Source: Study Results Document (PDF (22 pages): http://bit.ly/gN8yTx

  • North Bridge Venture Partners, GigaOM PRO and over a dozen research partners completed the study The Future of Cloud Computing 2011.  The study found 13% expressed high level of confidence in cloud computing for enterprise applications, with 40% experimenting and 10% saying they will never use cloud-based platforms as they are too risky. A presentation of the results can be found here:

Source: http://futureofcloudcomputing.drupalgardens.com/2011-future-cloud-computing-survey-results

  • Springboard Research (Forrester) completed a study of cloud computing adoption in Asia finding 31% of companies with 50 or fewer PCs will adopt cloud-based applications in 18 months, 56% with up to 500 PCs.  The key findings are available for download from the source URL below the infographic.

                                     Microsoft Asia is making this available for download here: http://bit.ly/jWjOj1

  • TechTarget published their analysis of virtualization and cloud computing adoption in the study, State of virtualization and cloud computing: 2011.  Of the many findings, a few of the most significant is how pervasive VMware ESXi 4 and later (vSphere) is throughout enterprises today.  The study also shows that 7% of those interviewed had implemented cloud computing in 2010, growing to 9% in 2011 – quite conservative compared to many of the other adoption rate analyses completed.  You can find the results here: http://searchdatacenter.techtarget.com/feature/State-of-virtualization-and-cloud-computing-2011
  • Yankee Group has found that in 2011, 41 percent of very large enterprises (more than 10,000 employees) have already deployed or are considering deployment of platform as a service (PaaS) within the next 12 months, compared to just 32 percent in 2010.  They have also found that mobility is most significant factor driving cloud adoption in the enterprise. Source: http://professional.wsj.com/article/TPCHWKNW0020110722e77q0004d.html

Inside Windows Azure, the Cloud Operating System with Mark Russinovich

Mark Russinovich, Technical Fellow on the Windows Azure team, explains how Azure continues to be developed as an OS for the data center including support for shared compute, disk and network resources and distributed application services.  He also covers SQL Server integration and process management, support for queuing, structured storage and SQL storage.

The following video was recorded May 19th at the Microsoft Tech-Ed held in Atlanta, GA and runs just over an hour.  It’s a great briefing on how Windows Azure is evolving to support configurable Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) architectures.  You can also download the slides from this session here Inside Windows Azure, the Cloud Operating System with no opt in from the Microsoft Channel 9 website.

Gartner Search Analytics Shows Spike in Platform as a Service (PaaS) Inquiries in 2011

Trends of search terms from user accounts and topics of their inquiries form the catalyst of research agendas in many IT advisory firms.  At Gartner these two factors and others like them are commonly regarded as leading indicators of future IT spending.

Gartner has been delivering short analyses of these subject areas to clients in the form of reports, with the latest being Search Analytics Trends: Platform as a Service published on June 9, 2011.  This report covers user search activity from April, 2009 to March, 2011. For purposes of the report, Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) is defined as cloud application infrastructure services delivered as a service.  Gartner makes the point that PaaS includes no traditional software license and is expensed on a metered or utility basis.  Presented below is the time series of searches by month from the report.

A few key take-aways emerge from the report, and they are presented below:

  • Cloud Middleware Services including Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) are still unknown to many Gartner IT user clients.  As a result this area is seen with skepticism by many of their clients.  In studies of PaaS adoption from other analysts at Gartner and Forrester, it is evident that internal software development will make or break the credibility of PaaS initiatives for the long-term.
  • When Gartner IT users search for PaaS on the website and throughout online research, the four most common secondary terms are IaaS and SaaS (7.05%), Magic Quadrant (6.12%) and cloud (5.72%).  Clearly Gartner IT user clients are looking to define their own technology stack in this area and looking for a framework of reference of where PaaS fits into their own IT plans and architectures.  The competitive intensity across the analyst community will most likely go up as a result of the uncertainty many IT buyers have over PaaS.
  • The top three vendors that Gartner IT users search for are Microsoft (18%), Amazon (13%) and Tata (11%).  Additional vendors include IBM (11%), Salesforce.com (11%), SAP (7%), Google and Oracle (4%).

Bottom line: The key to PaaS adoption in larger enterprises, many of which are IT user clients of Gartner, is how successfully Independent Software Vendors (ISVs) clarify their value proposition and how their apps add value to the platform layer.

Windows Azure AppFabric Update

Microsoft’s cloud-based middleware platform, Azure AppFabric, is designed to streamline the development, deployment and support of applications on the Windows Azure platform.   The Azure AppFabric initiative serves as  the foundation of the Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) in the Windows Azure stack as well.

Microsoft is supporting four types of multitenancy with Azure AppFabric. These types of multitenancy are explained in the presentation, with an analysis by Gartner of the multitenancy options also provided.  You will find a link to the Gartner research note below.

AppService Bus Is Key To Integration in Windows Azure. The AppFabric Service Bus is an interesting integration concept Microsoft is working on right now, as its design goal is to connect systems and content outside the firewalls of companies, unifying it with internal, often legacy systems’ data.  How ServiceBus will define context has not been shared by Microsoft.  That however will be interesting to see, as contextual content in this type of configuration has much potential for redefining internal search.

Usability is King. Azure’s design objective for a usability standpoint  is to deliver the content to any device, anywhere in the world, at any time.  It is a very ambitious project and the following presentation does an excellent job of putting Azure AppFabric into context.

Research note from Gartner. Yefim Natis,  David Mitchell Smith, David Cearley have written an insightful research note on AppFabric’s current status (as of November, 2010) and have also defined in detail its architectural components. Here is the research note:  Windows Azure AppFabric: A Strategic Core of Microsoft’s Cloud Platform.



Mark Russinovich on Windows Azure, Cloud Operating Systems and Platform as a Service

Mark Russinovich is a Technical Fellow working on the Windows Azure team and is considered one of the leading experts on its architecture.   He is currently working on the Windows Azure Fabric Controller, which handles kernel-level tasks for the platform.   He explains the functions of the Fabric Controller in detail during the following video, illustrating concepts with references to data centers and legacy Microsoft operating systems.

Windows Azure:  Platform as a Service

This discussion also highlights how Windows Azure is being designed to scale for HPC-based instances and applications.  At 45 minutes, this is a great overview of the latest status on Windows Azure platform development from one of the leading software architects at Microsoft.   Despite how technical the discussion becomes at times, Mark Russinovich does a great job of referring back to what it means to data center requirements and simplifying complex concepts through examples.

Source attribution: http://channel9.msdn.com/Shows/Going+Deep/Mark-Russinovich-Windows-Azure-Cloud-Operating-Systems-and-Platform-as-a-Service

Insights Into Creating Scalable Java Applications on the Windows Azure Platform

David is a former Java Architect and in this presentation, he provides a great overview of the Azure platform, its key components. He also provides a great tutorial of how cloud architectures vary for Flickr, Facebook, SlideShare and Twitter, and explains how Java applications can be made highly scalable on the Azure platform.

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