Go Daddy’s recent announcement that it plans to enter the IaaS cloud computing market throws yet another twist into the contemporary evolution of the cloud computing space. Although competing directly with Amazon Web Services and Rackspace, the domain registration and web hosting company proposes an IaaS solution called Data Center on Demand that provides fixed server resources for a monthly fee in sharp contrast to the “elasticity” and “pay per use” attributes of IaaS cloud computing. Moreover, the marketing brochure for Go Daddy’s Data Center on Demand offering asks its customers whether they have professional IT staff, noting, “managing Data Center On Demand machines requires technical expertise.” The disclaimer about professional IT staff reveals that Go Daddy has yet to build user friendly management consoles that do not require the use of shell commands. The service does offer load balancing capabilities that “can load balance any volume of traffic among an entire network of machines” and are “amazingly simple to set up.” The twist in the evolution of cloud computing represented by Go Daddy’s cloud computing product concerns its use of fixed pricing for fixed server resources. Data Center on Demand is currently in a limited release version scheduled for full deployment in July. Go Daddy’s entry into IaaS cloud computing marks a strategic move to leverage its ubiquitous brand name and gargantuan customer base to make a dent in the cloud computing revenues of AWS and Rackspace. Expect small businesses with technically savvy resources to lead the charge amongst their initial round of customers. Larger enterprises are likely to continue to stick with Amazon, Rackspace and more user friendly, pay per use models for now.
Contemporary discussions about cloud computing typically revolve around the concepts of Infrastructure as a Service (Iaas), Platform as a Service (PaaS) and Software as a Service (SaaS). Amazon Web Services (AWS) constitutes the paradigmatic example of IaaS whereas Microsoft Azure aptly exemplifies PaaS while Salesforce.com illustrates SaaS. Where does Apple’s iCloud stand in relation to the Iaas, PaaS and SaaS trinity? Technically speaking, iCloud constitutes a SaaS application insofar as it represents a software product, delivered over the internet, that empowers users to:
•Synchronize photographs, music and iWork files across multiple devices such as iPads, iPhones and personal computers
•Remotely access iTunes or music files by matching them against iCloud’s online collection.
•Resume working where they left work on one device, upon opening a different one.
•Synchronize user settings such as passwords and browser settings across all devices.
•Enjoy free email, calendars and online storage.
•Leverage pushed updates to applications across all devices.
But taken as a whole, these features amount to a disruptive technology with the power to transform user relationships to personal computers in a way that the SaaS moniker fails to accurately capture. In other words, whereas cloud computing has traditionally acted either as a (1) platform for software development (IaaS or Paas); or (2) a mechanism for software delivery (Saas), iCloud promises to use cloud computing to create an infrastructure for personal productivity across PCs, Macs, iPads and iPhones. As Apple CEO Steve Jobs remarked in his keynote address at the 2011 WWDC conference, “We’re going to demote the PC and Mac to being a device. We’re going to move the digital hub into the cloud.”
Apple’s iCloud features all of the benefits that enterprises obtain from cloud computing in addition to some functionality specific to personal users. For example, just as enterprises often use cloud computing to harmonize updates across an ecosystem of machines, the iCloud serves the same purpose of keeping machines in sync. iCloud transforms the role of the personal computer from a platform for personal productivity to a means of inscribing upon a virtual environment for personal productivity. The personal computer becomes one point of access amongst many to an online space in which all of one’s personal productivity is performed. In other words, the iCloud promises to turn a cloud based, virtual environment into the fundamental plane for accessing music, pictures, writing, spreadsheets and more. Understood in these terms, the iCloud is less SaaS than an online space from which multiple SaaS applications originate and interact with a constellation of machines.
Read more about Apple’s iCloud, in Jobs’s own words, here.
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.
Dell announced it plans to spend $1 billion in cloud computing products and services over the next fiscal year in an attempt to gain market share in an environment currently dominated by Amazon, IBM, Microsoft, Google, Rackspace and HP. Over the next two years, the company plans to build 10 data centers devoted to deployment of cloud computing technology in the U.S., Europe and Asia. Moreover, the company plans to open a total of 22 Global Solutions Centers that enable customers to obtain consultative services about the cloud computing strategy that constitutes the best fit for their organization. In support of its plans to invest in cloud computing infrastructure, Dell announced the availability of vStart, a product that integrates server, storage, networking and management ability to provide customers with out of the box, racked and cabled virtualization hardware and software. Designed to instantly enable the virtualization of 100-200 machines in its initial configuration, vStart comes pre-loaded with VMware’s ESXi hypervisor virtualization technology but expects to accommodate a broader range of virtualization technology as the product matures. vStart 100’s technical specifications include a PowerEdge 610 server for managing the VMWare technology, 3 PowerEdge R710 servers, Dell EqualLogic™ PS6000XV iSCSI storage, Dell PowerConnect™ 6248 switches and Dell management tools.
Dell’s decision to invest heavily in cloud computing marks the most explicit recognition from the Texas based IT corporation that the market for PCs and data center servers is insufficient to sustain its growth in an enterprise environment that increasingly seeks IT standardization and efficiency, and a consumer environment that demands access to information in real-time, 24-7. Dell has yet to announce what cloud computing software will power its IaaS and PaaS offerings in the data centers it intends to build. One possibility is that the IaaS platform will feature the OpenStack platform while the PaaS leverages Microsoft Azure. In an April 6 press conference in San Francisco, Steve Schuckenbrock, Dell’s president of Dell Services, noted that Dell’s forthcoming cloud computing data centers will house “public and private cloud capabilities.”