Cloud Computing Market Trends 2012

Although 2012 is barely two months old, the cloud computing landscape already evinces some important new trends related to the market appetite for cloud products and services. Whereas 2011 witnessed the proliferation of new market entrants that established or consolidated their branding, the market for cloud computing services has matured in 2012 to a point where the battle lines are beginning to be drawn as the actors take their place at the table. On one hand, the market for cloud computing products and services has exploded at a dizzying pace, leading to an increasingly variegated market landscape that differentially competes in price, features, support, portability and support for compliance standards. But despite the proliferation of venture backed new market entrants, the boundaries of the battle for cloud computing market share have been redrawn with unmistakable precision as follows:

1. Amazon Web Services versus OpenStack

The rising popularity of OpenStack has thrown down the gauntlet to Amazon Web Services and proprietary cloud solutions more generally.

Amazon Web Services consolidates its positioning as the leader in cloud computing market share by adding feature after feature to its dizzying array of cloud computing products and services. Less than 50 days into 2012, Amazon Web Services announced Amazon DynamoDB for Big Data processing, a partnership with CheckPoint for cloud security, as well as agreements with Red Hat to host its Virtual Storage Appliance for Amazon Web Services and the Red Hat MRG Enterprise cloud services via Red Hat Cloud Access.

OpenStack’s fortunes continue to soar, fueled both by the allure of its inter-operable framework and the cost-savings enabled by open-source software, even in its commercialized form. Even though the dent in Amazon Web Services market share from OpenStack deployments is likely to be miniscule, at this point, OpenStack takes the cake in terms of organic publicity and its attractiveness as the basis of a business model based on an alternative to proprietary cloud solutions. OpenStack is gearing up for its Essex release in the second quarter of 2012. Separately, its ability to integrate with third party automated provisioning software such as Chef, Puppetlabs and RightScale is both impressive and promising.

Rackspace occupies a unique position in relation to the emerging battle between Amazon Web Services and OpenStack as the purveyor of a proprietary public cloud solution and distributor of a commercialized version of OpenStack for private clouds.

2. Proliferation of OpenStack-based, enterprise grade private clouds

Coincident with the rise of OpenStack is the proliferation of enterprise-grade deployments of OpenStack for private clouds. The market has witnessed a veritable cottage industry of companies dedicated to commercial-grade OpenStack deployments that feature automation, management tools, cloud security and support for regulatory standards such as FISMA, HIPAA and other government regulations. Vendors that have commercialized OpenStack include Citrix Systems, Dell, HP, Internap, Nebula, Piston, Rackspace and Cloudscaling. Rackspace recently announced a partnership with Redapt to facilitate deployment of private clouds based on OpenStack.

3. Growth of PaaS vendors and platforms

As noted by Gartner’s Yefim Natis, the Platform as a Service vertical stands poised for explosive growth in 2012. PaaS appeals to enterprises that lack the technical resources to manage complex IaaS deployments even though they typically need to install a PaaS infrastructure within a private cloud environment. PaaS provides an easier on-ramp to the cloud for enterprises that are anxious to begin deploying applications into a cloud-based infrastructure. The PaaS market currently features products such as OpenShift (Red Hat), Cloud Foundry (VMware), CloudSwing (OpenLogic), Engine Yard Cloud (Engine Yard), Heroku (Salesforce), Azure (Microsoft), Google App Engine (Google), Cumulogic PaaS (CumuLogic), dotCloud, Appfog, ActiveState Stackato (ActiveState), AnyCloud (CloudBees) and Jelastic. Engine Yard’s revenue of $28 million in 2011 illustrates the earning potential within the PaaS vertical.

Red Hat Delivers Storage Appliance On Amazon Web Services

Red Hat is ready to deliver an online storage solution that runs on Amazon Web Services (AWS) called the Red Hat Virtual Storage Appliance for Amazon Web Services. Based on technology from its recent acquisition Gluster, the Red Hat Virtual Storage Appliance for Amazon Web Services is intended to provide enterprise grade cloud storage with high availability, performance and scalability. The appliance enables users to aggregate instances of Amazon Elastic Block Storage (EBS) and Amazon EC2 to obtain a highly scalable, virtualized storage environment that allows enterprises to leverage the cloud for storage purposes in addition to application deployment. The Red Hat storage appliance boasts asynchronous and synchronous file replication. Synchronous file replication ensures replication across multiple availability zones within a single AWS region, whereas asynchronous file replication enables availability across more than one AWS region. Importantly, the appliance is POSIX compliant, meaning enterprises need not rearchitect applications to transition them to the cloud. Because of its POSIX compliance, the Red Hat Virtual Storage Appliance for Amazon Web Services can accommodate Intel-based Unix applications.

Red Hat intends to make its storage appliance available within the platforms of other cloud providers as well. Provisionally, however, the Amazon Web Services partnership with Red Hat represents yet another coup for the Seattle cloud giant as it consolidates its branding as a one stop shopping ground for cloud, Big Data and storage solutions. Red Hat acquired Gluster, the company that provided the underlying technology for its virtual storage solution, in October 2011 for $136 million in cash.

Amazon DynamoDB Offers Big Data Cloud Processing With Managed Services

This week, Amazon Web Services announced the availability of Amazon DynamoDB, a fully managed cloud-based database service for Big Data processing. The announcement represents yet another move by Amazon Web Services to consolidate enterprise market share by providing an offering that can store massive amounts of data with ultra-fast, predictable rates of performance and low latency waiting times. Amazon DynamoDB is a NoSQL database built for customers that do not require complex querying capabilities such as indexes, transactions, or joins. DynamoDB constitutes a greatly enhanced version of Amazon SimpleDB. One of Amazon SimpleDB’s principal limitations is its 10 GB limit on data within containers known as domains. Moreover, Amazon SimpleDB suffered from performance issues due to indexing all of the attributes for an object within a domain and a commitment to eventual consistency of the database taken to an extreme. Amazon DynamoDB builds upon the company’s prior experience with SimpleDB and Dynamo, the precursor to NoSQL, by offering the following features:

• Managed services

Amazon DynamoDB managed services take care of processes such as provisioning servers, configuring a cluster, and dealing with scaling, partition and replication issues.

• No Upper Bound On Data

Customers can store as much data as they would like. Data will be spread out across multiple servers spanning multiple Availability Zones.

• Speed

The solid state drives on which Amazon DynamoDB is built help optimize performance and ensure low latencies. Applications running in the EC2 environment should expect to see latencies in the “single-digit millisecond range for a 1KB object.” Another reason performance is optimized involves a design whereby all attributes are not indexed.

• Flexible schemas and data models

Data need not adopt a particular schema and can have multiple attributes, including attributes that themselves have multiple values.

• Integration with Amazon Elastic MapReduce (Amazon EMR)

Because DynamoDB is integrated with the Hadoop-based, Amazon Elastic MapReduce technology, customers can analyze data in DynamoDB and store the results in S3, thereby preserving the original dataset in DynamoDB.

• Low cost

Pricing starts at $1 per GB per month.

With this set of features, Amazon DynamoDB represents a dramatic entrant to the Big Data party that features Oracle, HP, Teradata, Splunk and others. The product underscores Amazon Web Services’s strategic investment in becoming a one-stop service for cloud and Big Data processing. Moreover, the managed services component of Amazon DynamoDB represents a clear change of pace by Jeff Bezos’s spin-off because of its recognition of the value of managed services at the enterprise level for technology deployments. Amazon DynamoDB’s managed services offering is expected to appeal to enterprises that would rather invest technical resources in innovation and software development as opposed to the operational maintenance of a complex IT ecosystem. Assuming that AWS can quantify the degree to which DynamoDB’s managed services offering ends up being responsible for sales, expect to see more managed service offerings from Amazon Web Services in both the cloud computing and Big Data verticals. Going forward, the technology community should also expect partnerships between Amazon Web Services and business intelligence vendors that mimic the deal between Jaspersoft and Red Hat’s OpenShift given how Amazon Web Services appears intent on retaining customers within their ecosystem for all of their cloud hosting, Big Data and business intelligence analytics needs.

Amazon Web Services Partners With CheckPoint For Virtual Appliance For Cloud Security

Amazon Web Services and CheckPoint announced the availability of Virtual Appliance for Amazon Web Services, a product that empowers Amazon Web Services customers to deploy more than 30 security applications within their EC2 virtual environment. Virtual Appliance for Amazon Web Services enables AWS customers to select and deploy applications for firewall, antivirus, URL filtering, application control, intrusion prevention, mobile access and data loss prevention. Because the virtual appliance leverages the same code used by CheckPoint’s on premise security applications, it caters to users already familiar with CheckPoint’s security products by delivering applications that resemble those within its on premise security suite. CheckPoint’s base product for Amazon Web Services features a firewall and virtual gateway priced at $2000. Users can subsequently add more “blades” to their virtual appliance that correspond to the security products they would like to deploy within a virtual environment for $1500 per blade. By partnering with CheckPoint to deliver a virtual appliance, Amazon Web Services started off the New Year by addressing cloud security, one of the most pressing contemporary concerns in the cloud computing space.

Cloud Computing 2011: The Year in Review

Whereas Time magazine selected “The Protester” as the Person of the Year, the award for Technology of the Year surely goes to Cloud Computing. 2011 marked the year that cloud computing emerged with force and gravitas onto the enterprise landscape. In the case of enterprise CIOs and IT leaders pondering the use of cloud computing infrastructures, the question of the day suddenly morphed from whether to engage the services of a cloud provider to when and how. Over the course of the year, cloud providers grew, emerged, acquired companies or were acquired, raised venture capital and announced products at a dizzying pace.

Within months, the cloud computing landscape transformed from the Amazon, Rackspace, Joyent, Terremark, Savvis show to something radically heterogeneous and complex. As more and more cloud technologies proliferated, analysts and technologists alike began to feel that the term “cloud computing” itself was losing its meaning. Meanwhile, news agencies and blogs struggled to keep up with the pace of innovation and deployment as startups and enterprises alike announced new, exciting and powerful cloud technologies day after day, week after week.

Below are some of the highlights of cloud computing in 2011, the year of the cloud:

• In January and February, Amazon Web Services busted out of the gate in 2011 with the launch of Elastic Beanstalk and CloudFormation. Elastic Beanstalk automates the process of deploying an application on Amazon’s virtual servers. CloudFormation automates the provisioning of virtual resources using templates that streamline the setup of an infrastructure for deployments of new instances.

• In May, Citrix announced plans to launch Project Olympus, an IaaS platform that allows customers to leverage the OpenStack operating system code to create public or private clouds. Project Olympus marked the first commercialization of OpenStack and thereby inaugurated a series of commercial OpenStack deployments throughout the remainder of 2011.

• In May, Red Hat launched IaaS platform CloudForms and PaaS platform OpenShift. CloudForms signaled genuine innovation in the IaaS space because of its Application Lifecycle Management capabilities and hybrid infrastructure flexibility. OpenShift, meanwhile, presented direct competition to Google Apps, Windows Azure and Amazon’s Elastic Beanstalk because of the breadth of its deployment platform and claims about increased portability.

• In June, Apple announced details of iCloud, a software framework that synchronizes files across multiple devices such as iPads, iPhones and personal computers, and pushes software updates to a constellation of devices in unison. In a keynote address at the Apple Worldwide Developer’s Conference (WWDC), Steve Jobs famously remarked that iCloud would “demote the PC and Mac to being a device,” because “we’re going to move the digital hub into the cloud.”

• In August, Amazon Web Services announced the launch of GovCloud, a private cloud for government agencies that complies with regulatory and compliance rules for the Federal government such as FISMA, FIPS 140-2 compliant end points, SAS-70, ISO 27001, and PCI DSS Level 1.

• In September, OpenStack, the open source cloud computing infrastructure that gained the backing of 144 companies including AMD, Canonical, Cisco, Dell, Intel and Citrix, released Diablo, its latest software version since the Cactus release in April 2011. Diablo, the first upgrade to OpenStack released on a 6 month schedule, upgrades its existing Nova, Object Storage and Glance components.

• Also in September, Joshua McKenty’s startup Piston Cloud Computing launched pentOS, one of the first enterprise grade versions of OpenStack for private clouds. With the launch of pentOS, Piston joined HP, Citrix Systems, Nebula and Dell in an elite group of vendors that commercialized the OpenStack platform in the latter half of 2011.

• In October, Rackspace revealed plans to turn over the leadership of OpenStack to an independent foundation. After founding OpenStack with the collaboration of NASA in the summer of 2010, Rackspace decided to hand over trademarks and copyrights to an independent foundation to ensure that OpenStack remains vendor neutral.

The meteoric rise of OpenStack constituted the cloud computing story of the year, by far. Commercial deployments of OpenStack by Piston Cloud Computing and other vendors underscored the emerging power of OpenStack as an increasingly competitive option to Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) vendors such as Amazon Web Services and Rackspace. Moreover, OpenStack promised global cloud inter-operability and standards resulting from an open source organizational framework for which respect snowballed within the developer and enterprise community alike. Much of the story of cloud computing in 2012 will hinge on the ability of the OpenStack foundation to continue to promote the software framework’s adoption in the private sector and establish itself as a credible counterweight to first mover Amazon Web Services and other proprietary cloud vendors.

HPCC Announces Availability of ETL Cluster On Amazon Web Services

HPCC (High Performance Computing Cluster) systems from Lexis-Nexis announced that its Thor Data Refinery Cluster, an apparatus designed for big data processing, is available to enterprises on the cloud via the Amazon Web Services platform. The availability of the Thor Data Refinery Cluster on the Amazon Web Services platform renders it easier for developers to evaluate the efficacy of HPCC as an alternative to Hadoop and legacy systems. The Thor Data Refinery Cluster has the capability to load, transform, link and index massive amounts of data by leveraging HPCC’s parallel processing capability dispersed across different nodes. Developers may elect to use HPCC’s Thor Data Refinery Cluster on AWS for proof of concept or trial purposes while enjoying the convenience of not having to deploy any hardware to harness the power of the extract, transform and load component of the HPCC supercomputer.

HPCC is an open source Big Data technology platform that specializes in the processing of massive amounts of structured and unstructured data. Branded as a Hadoop alternative, HPCC’s technology platform is composed of (1) Thor Data Refinery Cluster, its extract, transform and load component; (2) Roxie, its query engine; and (3) ECL, the Enterprise Control Language responsible for the manipulation of Big Data across both the Thor and Roxie clusters. Only the Thor Data Refinery Cluster is available on AWS at present.