Guest Blog Post: “The Art of the Cloud Wars” By Scott Jeschonek, Director of Cloud Solutions, Avere Systems

Editorial note: This article was authored by Scott Jeschonek, Director of Cloud Solutions, Avere Systems. The opinions expressed below are those of the author, Scott Jeschonek. 

Chinese military strategist Sun Tzu once wrote that battles are won or lost before they are ever fought, but can the same be said for the cloud wars? Though many industry thought leaders have made projections, the future of how the battle between public cloud providers will unfold remains hazy. Despite projections that global IT spending will fall in 2016, investment in public cloud services is expected to grow 16% this year, fueling the fire of the on-going war. Most industry experts would agree that AWS, Google Cloud Platform, Microsoft Azure and IBM Cloud Services are the key players to watch, however many CIOs still struggle with determining which cloud service provider is right for them.

The table stakes for becoming the top public cloud provider are only getting higher with each passing quarter, and at the same time, the rise of a multi-cloud strategy is shaking things up. So, how will the cloud wars play out and how can enterprises that want to embrace the cloud choose the right CSP (or combination of CSPs) for their organizations?

Choosing a Side

When the technical features of the four hottest CSPs put them on relatively even playing field, it is the brand personalities and customer experience that can help organizations evaluate which cloud provider is most suitable for their needs. Below is a breakdown of how each CSP’s culture and decades-long experience with their respective specialties has influenced their approach to building and selling cloud offerings.

AWS

Launched officially in 2006, AWS is the oldest among the major CSPs and draws strongly from its foundations as an online marketplace to provide ease-of-use and a seamless on-demand experience. In the cloud wars landscape, AWS is like the U.S. military of the public cloud – bigger than all the others combined. AWS is very streamlined in how it offers its products, how they can be purchased and how fulfillment is handled. AWS’s ability to provide a user-friendly e-commerce experience isn’t a surprise, because, after all, AWS is Amazon. Just like you can buy a book or a suitcase from Amazon.com, you can buy compute time or storage. AWS also boasts sophisticated large-scale data base products, APIs and control structures, including AWS Lambda, which lets customers run code without provisioning or managing servers. Given Amazon’s core value of customer service, the rapid growth of AWS and its ease of use make sense. 

Google Cloud Platform 

While Google’s cloud offering is newer on the scene, its recent enterprise investment makes it one to watch. The company’s history of being forward-thinking and cutting edge is carried throughout its cloud platform value prop. At its NEXT conference in March, Google focused its keynotes on the sophistication of its technology, and how savvy developers could take advantage of Google Cloud Platform’s dynamic point-to-point networking, artificial intelligence and machine learning offerings. Google arguably has the most sophisticated developer cloud on the market, which makes sense as one of the large-scale inventors of web scale, or scale-out computing. 

IBM 

IBM, which combined its July 2013 acquisition of SoftLayer Technologies with its IBM SmartCloud to form the IBM Cloud Services Division, is building on its historical strength as a provider of consulting and computer services. Professional services and consulting is not necessarily top of mind for AWS or GCP, so IBM’s global cloud platform appeals to those customers looking for a stronger engagement model. Professional services is part and parcel to IBM, and it can combine its cloud offerings and consulting capabilities with other technologies such as Watson. 

Azure 

Rounding out the four, Microsoft’s Azure has a strong and steady history in the CSP market. Though it offers many of the same features as the other three “big guns,” it has stood out by intelligently leveraging its long-standing strength in the enterprise and bridging its existing enterprise capabilities with its newer cloud offerings. Customers can run other Microsoft software offerings such as Exchange, SQL Server or Active Directory both in the cloud or on premises. Microsoft also offers licensing incentives for existing enterprises customers as an option to help them embrace Azure.

If your organization is, for example, a next-generation application outfit and has been in the cloud from the get-go, then AWS or GCP will suit you just fine. If you’re generating an Internet-of-Things-based application with a mobile front end, for instance, that will run on Android and iOS and you’re storing a lot of data, any one of the four will handle the job admirably.

But here’s where it gets a little tricky: if you’re an enterprise customer with your own (or leased) data center(s) and Microsoft applications and backoffice applications processing lots of data (a bank, for example), it’s a much bigger proposition to move to the public cloud. This type of customer is currently a challenge for all four of the major CSPs. For organizations with a more traditional IT infrastructure, it’s not a matter of simply copying and pasting their applications and technology into the cloud and calling it a day. 

A Demilitarized Zone: The Rise of the Multi-cloud Strategy

Partly in response to these complexities, we’ve seen the rise of hybrid cloud and multi-cloud architectures and approaches. Multicloud, in particular, has been an unexpected twist in enterprise cloud adoption. CSPs catalyzed enterprise cloud adoption by driving prices lower and enhancing the sophistication of their offerings, yet now this very same competitive dynamic is allowing businesses to choose different clouds for different workloads based on the strength of each CSP.

There’s also the age-old concern about having a single supplier and being subject to vendor lock-in. By adopting a multi-cloud approach, enterprises can avoid the “data gravity” problem: as data accumulates there is a greater likelihood that more and more additional services and applications will be attracted to this data. By keeping data in different clouds, enterprises can avoid arduous and difficult data migration while taking advantage of differing pricing structures among the CSPs.

In the end, yes, we’re going to see an intensification of the cloud wars among the four big public cloud providers – Amazon, Google, IBM and Microsoft – and that’s a good thing for enterprises moving to the cloud. This competition is at once driving down prices, increasing buyer options and inspiring innovations in IT architecture that will ultimately lead to more freedom of choice and the ability to purpose-build cloud environments for enterprises who are looking to the cloud(s).

Rackspace Purchased By Private Equity Firm Apollo Global Management And Goes Private

Rackspace has been purchased by Apollo Global Management LLC, a private equity firm, for $4.3 billion or $32/share. The purchase of Rackspace, a public Infrastructure as a Service company headquartered in San Antonio, TX famous for its fanatical customer support and managed hosting capabilities, reflects Rackspace’s inability to compete with the likes of Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure and the Google Cloud Platform. In response to increased competition within the IaaS space, Rackspace transformed its business model to ensure its services were supported Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure and the Google Cloud Platform but it nevertheless found itself unable to carve out an anointed place for itself within the landscape of IaaS players despite its early entrance into the IaaS market. Rackspace’s acquisition by Apollo Global Management LLC represents a milestone in the history of cloud computing by affirming the dominance of IaaS cloud market share by Amazon Web Services and the concomitant challenge of carving out a niche within the IaaS space. The industry should expect greater consolidation within the IaaS space over the next 24 months as the ascendancy of Amazon, Microsoft and Google with respect to infrastructure-related cloud services soars and renders it increasingly difficult for smaller players to compete, particularly given their ability to drop prices and enrich their infrastructure as a service offerings with big data, data analytics, cloud monitoring and security solutions.

SecureAuth Announces Identity And Access Management Platform For SaaS Applications

SecureAuth Corporation today announced details of SecureAuth Cloud Access, a cloud-based platform that delivers single sign-on functionality and multi-factor authentication to SaaS applications within the enterprise. SecureAuth Cloud Access streamlines and simplifies identity and access management by giving enterprises a unified user interface for managing access to SaaS applications, thereby enabling IT administrators to more effectively track, monitor and control access to cloud-based applications from devices operating within their IT infrastructure. With support for over 8000 SaaS apps, SecureAuth Cloud Access also boasts the ability to customize parameters for the activation of multi-factor authentication. For example, customers can decide to configure multi-factor authentication in the event that a user attempts to authenticate from black-listed geographies or tries multiple authentications from such geographically disparate locations with a frequency that raises suspicions about the legitimacy of the authentication attempts. An expansion of its on-premise counterpart, SecureAuth IdP, SecureAuth Cloud Access delivers analytics on the adoption of SaaS applications, usage trends and password strength to bolster the security of SaaS applications within their environment. As such, SecureAuth Cloud Access responds to the proliferation of SaaS apps within enterprises and empowers organizations to more effectively manage SaaS identity access management in ways that align with security protocols and practices used for their on-premise applications.

Pyze Announces Hyper Growth Tier That Enables Customized Segmentation Of User Behavior For Mobile App Analytics

Today, Pyze announces the addition of a new tier of services to its Growth Intelligence platform that augments its ability to deliver actionable business intelligence to mobile app publishers. The Pyze Hyper Growth Tier empowers mobile app publishers to transform user behavior into a dimension that can be used to more effectively understand application performance by way of the automated segmentation of users via behavioral attributes. For example, publishers of a mobile real estate app can create a dimension for first-time homeowners versus existing homeowners, or buyers interested in moving out of state vs. those that are shopping for homes locally. The newly enabled capability to create custom-defined dimensions enables mobile app users to obtain more targeted and granular insights regarding the drivers of user behavior within their app. The app dimensions within Pyze’s Hyper Growth Tier enhance the analytics enabled by Pyze’s out of the box metrics such as engagement, loyalty, attrition risk, revenue and app starts or sessions. Moreover, mobile app publishers have the ability to define new app dimensions as their app evolves in relation to its reception by end users. The graphic below illustrates the ability of the Pyze platform to deliver business intelligence about mobile app usage:

Key-Business-metrics-compared

Here, the screenshot provides details about metrics such as the number of installations, application launches and user engagement. The availability of app dimensions via Pyze’s Hyper Growth Tier enables app owners to layer analytics such as those shown above with additional dimensions such as demographic data about users or other user attributes to enhance the richness of Pyze’s business intelligence even further. In conjunction with the release of app dimensions, Pyze today announces Personalization Intelligence and Revenue Intelligence that empower app publishers to deliver personalized content tailored to different user groups, including their history of revenue generation. Taken together, the release of app dimensions, Personalization Intelligence and Revenue Intelligence marks a significant set of enhancements to the Pyze platform that collectively enable mobile app publishers to derive granular business intelligence about the interaction between users and their apps and subsequently deliver more personalized content to their users. Available at a price of $99 per month for apps with less than a million users, the Pyze Growth Tier disrupts the market for mobile app business intelligence and continues to differentiate Pyze from other players in the mobile app analytics space.

IBM Wins Multi-Year Partnership With Workday

IBM recently announced details of a strategic partnership with Workday whereby the IBM Cloud will become the platform of choice for Workday’s development and testing environment. Workday, which specializes in cloud-based applications for human resources and financial management, will use the IBM Cloud to support its growth and enrich its development and testing process for application development. IBM’s partnership with Workday represents a notable milestone with respect to the demonstration of its ability to court enterprise customers, particularly given a slew of recent reports from Deutsche Bank, Gartner and other analyst firms that claim IBM is losing ground to Amazon Web Services, Microsoft and the Google Cloud Platform in the battle for cloud market share. Workday plans to expand its use of the IBM Cloud beyond development and testing as the multi-year partnership progresses.

Velostratra Announces Enhanced Cloud Migration Platform Featuring Support For Azure And $17.5M In Series B Funding

Velostrata recently announced the release of Velostrata 2.0, a cloud migration platform that simplifies, streamlines and automates the process of moving workloads from on-premise environments to public clouds. Velostrata boasts the capability to swiftly migrate applications to clouds by way of an architecture that decouples compute from storage. The platform’s decoupling of compute from storage allows customers to migrate an application to a public cloud within minutes while its underlying data is subsequently streamed to the cloud. In the event the application requires specific data immediately, it can fetch the requisite data from the on-premise environment and iteratively reduce latency related to data retrieval via a cloud cache that stores frequently retrieved data objects. Because Velostrata does not transfer the entirety of an application’s data to the public cloud, it takes advantage of the computing power of the public cloud in conjunction with advanced data streaming and caching functionality to stream relevant datasets to the cloud. Velostratra’s smart migration software delivers automated migration of storage environments without changes to source files, thereby enhancing workload mobility and empowering businesses to leverage the public cloud for dev/test use cases in addition to business continuity.

Velostrata 2.0 features support for Microsoft Azure in addition to Amazon Web Services. Moreover, Velostrata announced the finalization of $17.5M in Series B funding led by Intel Capital, a strategic investor. Existing investors Norwest Venture Partners and 83 North also participated in the round. Velostrata’s expertise in data streaming and caching positions it to deliver a disruptive solution to the problem of cloud migration that taps into the preference of many customers to adopt a hybrid cloud strategy whereby data resides on-premise, but the computational heavy lifting is performed in the cloud. With an extra $17.5M in funding, the company stands poised to ride the wave of skyrocketing cloud adoption by delivering a hybrid cloud solution for cloud migration, the promise of which is augmented by its partnership with Intel, its new strategic investor and the leader of its Series B round of funding.

ZeroStack Partners With T5 Data Centers And Colovore To Expand Range Of Deployment Options For Its OpenStack-based, Private Cloud Solution

ZeroStack recently announced a partnership with T5 Data Centers and Colovore that will expand the range of deployment options available to customers of its OpenStack-based private cloud solution. As a result of the partnership, T5 Data Centers and Colovore will host ZeroStack’s Z-Block Cloud Appliance within their infrastructures. The collaboration between ZeroStack and T5 Data Centers and Colovore means that customers can now leverage the experience of either of its two Managed Service Provider (MSPs) partners to operationalize their deployments, whereas previously they were limited to hosting ZeroStack on-premise. The streamlined path toward private cloud deployment delivered by ZeroStack’s partner MSPs promise to expand ZeroStack’s footprint in the commercial OpenStack private cloud space by appealing to customers interested in a hybrid cloud environment for their deployments. In addition, both MSPs offer their own marketing and sales channels for ZeroStack, thereby further expanding the avenues by which prospective private cloud customers stand to learn about ZeroStack’s private cloud solution. Meanwhile, T5 Data Centers and Colovore stand to gain from the partnership by offering the capability to host ZeroStack’s OpenStack-based private cloud solution and serving the needs of an ever expanding base of enterprise customers interested in private cloud infrastructures. All told, the partnership between ZeroStack and T5 Data Centers and Colovore promises to expedite the on-ramp to the private cloud by giving customers enhanced flexibility with respect to their deployment models. Importantly, the partnership strengthens the positioning of ZeroStack within the commercial OpenStack space and solidifies its brand as a significant player in the private cloud space.