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.

Uhuru Enables .NET Support For VMware’s Cloud Foundry

Developers seeking to deploy applications through VMware’s Cloud Foundry Platform as a Service environment now have an option through Uhuru Software Inc’s Uhuru .NET Services for Cloud Foundry. Uhuru .NET Services for Cloud Foundry empowers Windows .Net developers and IT managers to deploy .NET applications on Cloud Foundry by using tools with which they are already familiar such as Visual Studio and Microsoft Management Console (MMC). VMware’s Cloud Foundry currently supports “Spring for Java developers, Rails and Sinatra for Ruby developers, Node.js and other JVM languages/frameworks including Groovy, Grails and Scala.” Uhuru .NET Services for Cloud Foundry extends the list of languages supported by Cloud Foundry to .NET and developers seeking to leverage the ease of deployment and customizability of the Cloud Foundry platform. Uhuru, a Seattle-based startup founded by Jawad Khaki (CEO) and Jawaid Ekram (COO), offers Uhuru .NET Services for Cloud Foundry as an open source product under an Apache 2 license. Uhuru Software’s broader suite of tools enables developers to deploy .NET applications on the cloud offering of their choice without being limited to VMware’s Cloud Foundry. The word Uhuru means freedom in Swahili, and in this context refers to the freedom of developers to build the products they would like on the platform of their choosing.

Microsoft Announces Updates to Windows Azure

Microsoft today announced a set of updates to Windows Azure, its Platform as a Service (PaaS) cloud computing offering that was launched in February 2010. Microsoft grouped the updates into the categories of Ease of Use, Interoperability and Overall Value. Here are some highlights from the wide-ranging update:

• Node.js language libraries added to the Windows Azure software development kit (SDK)

Windows Azure now supports the Node.js software system, known for its suitability for highly scalable internet applications such as web servers. The Azure software development kit for Node.js includes libraries for blob, table and queue storage as well as PowerShell command-line tools for development.

• Apache Hadoop on Windows Azure – A Preview

Developers seeking to unlock the Big Data potential of Apache Hadoop can now obtain a preview of Hadoop on Windows Azure by taking advantage of a streamlined installation process that sets up Hadoop on Azure in hours as opposed to days.

• Upper Bound on Price for Large Azure Databases

The maximum Azure database size has been increased from 50 GB to 150 GB. Additionally, the maximum price for the 150 GB database has been set at $499.95, resulting in a 67% price decrease for customers using the largest size.

• Lowering of Data Transfer Prices

Data transfer fees in Zone 1 (North America and Europe) have been lowered from $0.15/GB to $0.12/GB. Data transfer fees in Zone 2 (Asia Pacific) have been lowered from $0.20/GB to $0.19/GB.

Additional updates include enhanced tools for Eclipse/Java, MongoDB, SQL Azure Federation, Solr/Lucene and Memcached as well as access to Windows Azure libraries for .NET, Java, and Node.js on GitHub via an Apache 2 software license.

Heroku Adds Support For Scala As PaaS Goes Multilingual

This week, Platform as a Service vendor Heroku added yet another language to its growing “polyglot platform.” Heroku now supports Scala, the Java virtual machine language that combines objected oriented and functional programming. Heroku began as a Ruby on Rails Platform but recently followed suit upon its August announcement to support Java by adding support for Python. Heroku’s Cedar stack release now supports the following languages: Ruby, Node.js, Clojure, Java, Python, PHP and Scala.

In September, Heroku announced a partnership with Facebook that allows Facebook developers to directly launch Facebook applications by selecting Heroku as an external provider, and then provisioning and launching the application from within Facebook’s development interface. Within twenty four hours of Facebook revealing its deployment of Timeline and a host of other features, Heroku reported the deployment of 33,800 Facebook applications, amounting to a rate of over 20 Heroku Facebook applications per minute.

Heroku’s rapid transition to a progressively multilingual platform illustrates the way in which Platform as a Service vendors are using multilingual support as a way of keeping up with the increasingly dominant IaaS space. PaaS vendor Engine Yard recently announced support for JRuby subsequent to its acquisition of the PHP platform Orchestra, to complement its Ruby on Rails platform.

Given all of the hype about OpenStack, Red Hat and Amazon Web Services, PaaS vendors may well be coming to the realization that the best way to compete in the enterprise space is to empower developers to deploy applications in as many languages as possible. Google App Engine, Microsoft Azure, VMware’s Cloud Foundry and AppFog all embrace more than one language and are increasingly following the market trend to diversify their linguistic offerings to the development community.

Heroku was acquired by Salesforce.com in January 2011 for $250 million.

Top 3 Cloud Computing Market Trends for 2011

2011 has been an extraordinary year for cloud computing so far. Amazon Web Services (AWS) set the pace with an aggressive roll-out of products such as Elastic Beanstalk, CloudFormation, Amazon Cloud Player and Amazon Cloud Drive. Just when AWS seemed poised to consolidate its first mover advantage with respect to cloud computing market share, the landscape exploded with a veritable feast of product offerings, business partnerships and acquisitions. Every month another Fortune 500 IT or telecommunications company throws its hat into the cloud computing ring: Dell’s vStart, Dell’s recent partnership with SAP, IBM’s SmartCloud, Apple’s iCloud and HP’s BladeSystem Matrix mark just some of the big names and brands that have entered the cloud computing dohyo, or sumo circle. The cast of new actors has rendered the cloud computing space painfully difficult for analysts to quantify for the purpose of understanding relative market share and growth within the industry. But within this bewildering sea of change, three industry trends have emerged that deserve attention:

1. Outages across the industry signal demand outweighs supply
Demand for cloud computing services has begun to outstrip supply to the point where vendor processes for guaranteeing system uptime have become increasingly challenged. The Amazon Web Services outage of 2011 was the most glaring example of a lack of effective, scalable processes for one of the world’s premier IaaS vendors, but 2011 has witnessed notable outages specific to Sony PlayStation, Twitter, Gmail and Google’s Blogger as well. Expect more outages and service disruptions until the industry fathoms the time to develop processes for delivering on 99.99% SLAs as opposed to merely promising them.

2. Early Consolidation vs. the Proliferation of New Entrants to the Market
The past five months have witnessed Verizon’s acquisition of Terremark, Time Warner Cable’s acquisition of NaviSite, CenturyLink’s acquisition of Savvis and rife speculation that Rackspace lies next on the totem pole of potential buyouts. In tandem with the finalization of these acquistions, a slew of other companies such as Appistry, CA Technologies, Engine Yard, Flexiant, GigaSpaces, RightScale and ThinkGrid have emerged on the landscape and promise to collectively cobble together a non-trivial slice of the market while potentially transforming into significant niche players themselves. Expect new entrants on the scene, particularly in the open source space that will increasingly complicate the IaaS market share dominance of AWS, Eucalyptus, Rackspace, GoGrid and Joyent. Consolidations will continue but the market is unlikely to congeal into a few dominant players for quite some time.

3. The Rise of Open Source Cloud Computing Solutions
Rackspace, Dell and Equinux’s launch of a demonstration environment of OpenStack promises to change the industry by enticing customers to consider toying with its open source platform for free while paying for consultative support services associated with cloud design and management. Meanwhile, Canonical’s decision to change the cloud computing provider for its Ubuntu Enterprise Cloud (UEC) offering from Eucalyptus to OpenStack testifies to the strength of OpenStack and conversely, underscores Eucalyptus’s challenge in defining its value proposition as an Amazon EC2 compatible open source IaaS platform. RedHat’s open source PaaS product called OpenShift marks another leading contender in the open source ring by virtue of its deployment flexibility across the Java, Python, PHP and Ruby environments. Expect that open source IaaS and PaaS offerings will become increasingly robust and scalable. If open source solutions can demonstrate reliable, high quality portability across platforms, the market for less portable, private sector IaaS and PaaS solutions is likely to shrink dramatically. The fortunes of OpenStack, OpenShift and the recently formed Open Virtualization Alliance merit a close watch, in particular.

Toyota Plans to Leverage Microsoft Azure for Telematics Services Focused Around Energy Management

Microsoft Corporation and Toyota Motor Corporation’s announcement that the Microsoft Azure cloud computing platform will host telematics applications for Toyota’s electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles marks an important step in the battle for enterprise market share amongst the top cloud computing vendors. Disclosed on April 6, the agreement signifies Microsoft’s increasing dominance in the automotive vertical as it expands its market base beyond Ford, Kia and Fiat. Microsoft and Toyota plan to invest $12 million or $1 billion yen in telematics services for the Toyota subsidiary, Toyota Media Service. Telematics marks the conjunction of information technology with telecommunications in a way that allows users to obtain increased control of energy management, multimedia and location-related services. Expected features of the Microsoft Azure based platform include:

• The ability to determine when to most economically recharge an electric battery in relation to energy costs
• A mobile application that checks battery levels and calculates how far users can drive before recharging their battery
• The ability to manage home energy and air conditioning units from automobiles
• Increased customization over streaming audio and video content

Initial deployment of telematics applications is expected amongst Toyota’s electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles in 2012. Toyota plans to deploy a global, Azure based platform to provide advanced telematics services to its customers by 2015. The initial roll-out of Toyota’s partnership with Microsoft will focus on energy management but the platform will more broadly enhance information access and control for its users. Toyota plans to render its telematics platform available to other car manufacturers as well in a move that would increase standardization within the automotive vertical with respect to driver access to energy, entertainment and location information.