Make it big but keep it simple. This could be the mantra for IT executives and application owners throughout organizations of every ilk and size. In the brave new world of enterprise computing, Big Data and cloud computing are two of the more compelling trends, and biggest management challenges. Wrestling with how to leverage Big Data to drive innovation and adopting cloud solutions to improve business agility or lower costs are among the biggest decisions business leaders face today and into the foreseeable future.
Another challenge is keeping up with the volume of new solution providers entering the space along with determining which established players offer the best mix of technology, partnerships and support to meet these new business requirements. For instance, this month’s Cloud Expo in New York (Cloud Expo West follows in November) featured more than 120 vendor exhibits accompanied by dozens of breakout sessions, presentations, roundtables and press conferences – too much information for one person to absorb. However, a few noteworthy themes nonetheless emerged.
Cloud Enabling Big Data Access
Access to big data sources is improving daily and the cloud is a major enabler. Cloud service providers (CSPs) operate many of the most scalable, available, secure and technologically advanced data centers in the world. CSPs are also among the early adopters – and deliverers – of advanced, disruptive technologies such as enterprise SSD or Flash storage to vastly improve response time, services and applications to improve usability and enable choice. Several CSPs offer a variety of infrastructure options from bare metal to fully configured operating system environments (e.g. Windows or Linux) that can be up and running in minutes.
According to Cisco, “30% of all data will live in or pass through the cloud by 2020” and 70% of all enterprises already use enterprise-class cloud technologies. An IBM Cloud Survey indicates that by next year, 90% of all organizations they surveyed including small, medium and large enterprises, will have either implemented or piloted a cloud solution. In effect, this makes the aggregate of cloud providers the world’s biggest and fastest growing data repository.
The cloud enables business models like Google and Amazon that rely on consumer driven big data analytics as well as the next cloud-based start-up. In addition, Consumerization of IT is forcing CIOs and their staff to deploy and offer solutions that provide their internal customers with greater flexibility and faster time to value. To quote Cloud Expo speaker Dennis Quan, VP for IBM’s Smart Cloud Infrastructure, “The Cloud was born from consumer demand.”
Disruptive Cloud Solution Providers
Innovation is often synonymous with disruptive technologies. The following is a short list of companies, great, medium sized and small, who are delivering innovative solutions to meet the needs of a consumer-driven, cloud-enabled marketplace. Consumers can be individuals, IT organizations or corporations.
Disruptive cloud solution providers (DCSP) possess one or more of the following attributes:
1 – DCSPs leverage open standards and open source solutions
2 – Provide innovative service offerings and flexible pricing models
3 – Develop or leverage advanced technologies to boost app performance
4 – Create software to make cloud deployment and management easier
5 – Increase IT effectiveness and lower capital costs
6 – Offer customers modularity and choice
DCSPs are listed in four broad categories: Infrastructure, Applications, Services and Storage:
Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)
Logicworks provides public, private and hybrid cloud hosting solutions and dedicated, managed services and technical support to enterprise customers and SaaS solution providers. Unlike many CSPs, Logicworks focuses on specific industries including healthcare, media, financial services and marketing/advertising. Not coincidentally, its focus on compliance and privacy issues such as HIPAA for healthcare and PCI DSS for financial organizations make their services more appealing for those industries. Logicworks Private Cloud is fully dedicated to each customer and runs on VMware’s virtualization platform while its public cloud offering incorporates CloudStack and utilizes EMC’s Isilon storage archiving solution. Logicworks also provides AWS managed services adding a layer on top of Amazon’s cloud to “help companies strategize, architect, implement and scale AWS cloud instances and tools for their own applications.” Logicworks also offers managed database services for Big Data applications utilizing Hadoop clustering technology.
Rackspace is one of the largest and most successful CSPs noted for “combining performance, reliability, security, low total cost of ownership (TCO) and Fanatical Support” within their Hybrid Cloud offerings. Rackspace founders helped create OpenStack which is fast becoming the de facto cloud operating systems standard, supported by more than 150 vendors, which allows administrators to manage large pools of compute, storage and networking resources and gives their users the ability to provision their own resources. Hybrid Cloud combines public cloud, private cloud and dedicated bare metal computing into a single solution in effect allowing customers to build their own applications instead of forcing them into a specific application framework. Customers range from startups to Fortune 500 companies. Rackspace builds and supports many of its own applications to help customers more easily manage their cloud environments. Rackspace has also made recent acquisitions, including Exceptional Cloud Services, to increase its Openstack services and support capabilities, and Object Rocket, a year-old provider of cloud-based MongoDB services known as a Database as a Service (DBaaS) solution. Both acquisitions help Rackspace compete with similar services from Amazon Web Services (AWS), the world’s largest CSP, and other IaaS solution providers.
SoftLayer made tech news headlines earlier this month when IBM announced its intention to acquire the privately held IaaS firm to boost its ability to compete in the cloud space. The acquisition brings IBM over 20,000 new customers of all sizes while accelerating its ability to compete in the cloud space for coveted enterprise customers. According to its recent cloud survey, IBM believes the size of the worldwide cloud opportunity will likely exceed $200 billion per year by 2020, an opportunity far too big for them to ignore. Meanwhile, IBM can boost SoftLayer’s data center growth around the world – they now have 13 – along with deploying IBM hardware and leveraging IBM worldwide sales and services capabilities. IBM and SoftLayer are both committed to cloud-centric open source initiatives including OpenStack and CloudStack as well as partnering with many other open source solutions including 10Gen, creators of open source NoSQL data base MongoDB, to help enable mobile apps in the cloud. SoftLayer views their operational model as open cloud consumption paid for by the minute, hour or day. According to a SoftLayer spokesperson, “We have more Legos and more boxes for customers to build their own architecture from bare metal to fully configurable operating environments and 1,600 internally developed APIs to streamline the process.”
ActiveState is the creator of Stackato, “the application platform for creating your own private, secure and flexible enterprise Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) using any language on any stack on any cloud.” According to CTO Jeff Hobbs, “Stackato is an agile PaaS development environment that enables enterprise developers to leverage all the benefits of a public PaaS to deploy, manage, and monitor applications, while meeting the security and privacy requirements of enterprises. Stackato also allows developers to easily test applications in a production environment, self-serve, and get apps to the cloud in minutes, not weeks.” In December 2012, ActiveState penned an OEM deal with HP to provide Stackato for HP Cloud Public services clients. In addition, Stackato is also 100% Cloud Foundry compatible leading Hobbs to remark, “Stackato is open source compatible with no vendor lock-in and enterprises can integrate it within their existing IT infrastructure including databases, web servers and authentication systems, and customize it to support all the languages their developers need.”
Appcara provides “flexible and easy-to-use cloud application management software” called AppStack targeted at the service providers and enterprises who need to quickly stand-up apps, such as AWS in the cloud and then deploy and scale those apps accelerating application services and simplifying the management of distributed applications in the cloud. AppStack allows users of Hadoop or Hive-based Big Data analytics applications, as well as other multi-tier or distributed enterprise applications, to easily and holistically deploy and manage these applications as a single entity rather than server by server. An “easy-to-use portal for launching and managing these distributed applications either on an internal cloud, public cloud, or both, while preserving application portability, makes it possible for technical and less-technical users alike to manage cloud-based apps over their entire life cycle – not just the initial deployments.” Meanwhile, Appcara enables CSPs to “rapidly” deploy application services for their customers on public clouds such as AWS or Rackspace, or private cloud environments such as Citrix or VMware, or open platforms such as CloudStack.
AppEnsure delivers “Application Performance Ensurance in dynamic virtualized and cloud computing environments, enabling the cost benefit promise of utility computing while maintaining business-critical application performance.” Founded in 2011, AppEnsure has received a round of “Angel” investing as well as investment from the Citrix Startup Accelerator program. As CEO Colin L.M. Macnab, a veteran of several startups and IPOs, explains, “The problem with cloud infrastructure management is you have different views by different individuals within the enterprise. First you have Server, Storage and Network views. Then there’s the application view. It’s death by dashboard! AppEnsure works for all Apps; custom, legacy and purchased, in all locations; physical, virtual, private & public cloud. Apps are automatically discovered and through measuring the response time of all transaction between an App and its supporting infrastructure, whenever it deviates from the baseline norm, AppEnsure conducts a Root Cause Analysis, delivering clear cause and resolution to the Ops team.” AppEnsure primarily targets the apps ops person but also IT ops and system admins.
SOA Software powers the “API Economy with products that enable customers to plan, build, run and share APIs through comprehensive cloud and on-premise solutions for API lifecycle, security, management and developer engagement.” According to CTO Alistair Farquharson, “APIs are a superset of services. An API is a channel to the business. SOA became technical but it should be business focused. APIs have business focus, they are not technical. APIs help to drive revenue or help in supporting new channels. There are APIs for enabling micro-payments or for mobile apps that support business people in focusing on business opportunities and SOA Software provides the most complete, end-to-end API management solution available.” SOA Software is very active in the travel industry with footprints in the finance industry, healthcare and other industries. SOA Software provides industry leading products for API Management, Integrated SOA Governance. Three recent products announcements: SOA Software’s API Gateway – a high performance API proxy server providing security, monitoring, mediation and other run time capabilities; SOA Software’s Lifecycle Manager– provides API and App Lifecycle management capabilities to help customers build APIs that meet current and future business requirements; SOA Software’s OAuth Server is a standards-based, enterprise-grade authentication and authorization product that integrates the most common identity and access management systems, including LDAP, Active Directory, CA SiteMinder, Oracle Access Manager, IBM TAM and RSA ClearTrust in order to simplify cloud identity challenges faced by most end-user organizations.
Dell Cloud Computing Services works with enterprise customers who seek support for planning and building their own cloud environment whether that be a private, public or hybrid approach. “Dell Cloud Services speed time to value at each stage of the process: from an initial workshop or overview of cloud technology, to a full assessment of an organization’s infrastructure and business needs, to design and implementation.” Project Crowbar is Dell’s open source software framework that allows customers to install cloud software across clusters, such as Hadoop, and scale out systems along with offering network monitoring and discovery, and gathering of performance data. Dell is a supporter of and contributor to OpenStack and remains one of Intel’s biggest partners. However, Dell Ventures has invested in several disruptive technology companies including Flash Storage innovator Skyera whose profile is included below. Dell is also partnering with VMware to deliver the VCloud Datacenter Service for its enterprise customers.
SHI is a $4 billion, privately held global provider of IT products and services ranging from software and hardware procurement to deployment planning, configuration, data center optimization, IT asset management and cloud computing. The current owner since 1989 has grown entirely organically “through neither merger nor acquisition, the direct result of backing a highly-skilled and tenured sales force with software volume licensing experts, hardware procurement specialists and certified IT services professionals.” SHI technology partners include Cisco, EMC, HP, Intel, SUSE and VMware. Cloud services run the gamut from managed services, IaaS, consulting, back-up as a service, planning and implementation services, cloud security offerings and solutions as well as partnering with co-location providers, SaaS and MSP providers. SHI is one of the consummate sales and reseller organizations entering the cloud space and has plans to offer additional cloud-based software service later this year.
SUSE Cloud program is SUSE’s channel program for CSPs. SUSE has “tailored” its licensing model to attract CSPs to its Linux Enterprise Product portfolio to fit the cloud business model. This includes pay-per-use-pricing, simplified workload deployment and management utilizing SUSE Studio, the strongest partner ecosystem in the Linux world and SUSE’s “world-class” support. SUSE Linux Enterprise Server running on Windows Azure is a proven platform for Windows environments, and SUSE supports Amazon AWS which provides a highly reliable, scalable and low cost infrastructure platform. With the SUSE Studio, customers can “build their own optimized SUSE Linux Enterprise operating system images and application workloads, and deploy them into the cloud with just a few mouse clicks. SUSE Manager lets clients manage workloads in the cloud just like they would in their own data center.”
High Performance Data Storage
Coraid offers a scale-out SAN solution providing enterprises of all sizes with flexible, scale-out, high performance storage as well as a family of NAS servers that combines an “innovative and feature-rich file system with scale-out, massively parallel Ethernet SAN technology ideally suited for public and private cloud environments.” In addition, Coraid EtherCloud is “the industry’s first software-defined storage platform for architects of the modern data center. EtherCloud enhances business agility by radically simplifying delivery of scale-out infrastructure. Combined with Coraid EtherDrive scale-out (NAS) storage, EtherCloud allows enterprise and cloud customers to deploy and manage petabytes of block and file storage with relative ease.” Coraid storage solutions combine traditional hard disk drive (HDD) technology, to help keep storage costs, and solid state drive (SSD) technologies for high performance applications along with a variety of management features such as vCenter integration, programmable storage management and control via REST API, policy-based application deployment to dynamically allocate and manage storage according to application requirements, and self-service provisioning for application owners in a multi-tenanted environment.
Intel has made it clear that it wants to be a dominate player in the SSD and Flash storage space. Announcements this year announce the immediate availability of new drives to meet a variety of capacity, performance and application requirements. Introduced this month, the Intel SSD DC S3500 Series “breaks through barriers – like the need for high throughput/low latency storage with a low total cost of ownership – to deliver the storage solution that meets the needs of the cloud, and its demand for storage, which has exploded in recent years,” said Rob Crooke, Intel corporate vice president and general manager for the Non-Volatile Memory Solutions Group. “Intel’s data center family of SSDs helps make cloud computing faster and more reliable, enabling more transactions and richer experiences.” The S3500 is optimized for read-heavy applications, whereas the S3700 Series, introduced earlier this year, is built for more write-intensive workloads such as OLTP or analytics. Both solutions are priced competitively for performance-centric applications where low latency is key – as opposed to ultra-low latency, high-performance apps where in-memory processing is required. The SSDs are offered in capacity ranges from 80 to 800 GBs and are available through Intel partners and resellers including a 5 year warranty which suggests Intel has done its homework in hardening the SSD controllers and management software to extend the useful life of their drives.
Skyera is a “disruptive provider of enterprise solid state storage systems designed to enable a large class of applications with extraordinarily high performance, exceptionally lower power consumption and cost effectiveness relative to existing enterprise storage systems. Founded by the executives who previously developed the world’s most-advanced flash memory controller, Skyera is backed by key technology and financial partnerships (Dell Ventures) designed to position it at the forefront of the hyper-growth in the solid state storage sector.” Like many of its competitors, Skyera, uses enterprise-class, solid-state storage using commercial MLC (multi-level cell) NAND Flash memory. While MLC is not as durable at SLC (single-level cell) or as fast, it is much more cost effective. Skyera’s custom designed controller employs advanced flash management algorithms to reduce program/erase cycles and has implemented a “unique” approach to RAID, in conjunction with controller-based compression that “results in 10x fewer writes per Flash module” extending the useful life of the SSD drives.
Smart Storage Systems fabricates its own SSDs selling directly to storage system vendors such as IBM and SGI, CSPs and government agencies with high capacity, low latency application needs – and occasionally to large enterprise end-user customers. Earlier this year, Smart announced the availability of 2 TB SSDs, and they have a 4 TB SSD in the works. Interfaces include both SATA and SAS in a variety of form factors from 1.8 to 2.5 inches and various capacities. Smart offers two CloudSpeed SSD products, the 500 and the 1000 models, “designed specifically to address the growing need for SSDs that are optimized for mixed workload applications in enterprise server and cloud computing environments. Leveraging SMART’s proprietary Guardian Technology™ Platform, tier-one OEM-enterprise ready firmware, proven power fail data protection technology and 19nm MLC NAND flash, the CloudSpeed SSD product family offers all the features expected from an enterprise-class drive at the right value.” Smart touts the longevity and write endurance of its drives which provide additional TCO benefits beyond just speed, resilience and capacity.
With the market for cloud-related products and services anticipated to exceed $200 billion per year by 2020, the opportunities for CSPs and technology companies are enormous. At the same time, the Consumerization of IT is pushing technology solution providers, CSPs and application developers to improve services, user interfaces, APIs, security and self-service apps to the point where non-technical, line-of-business users can easily manage and provision their own solutions while accelerating time to value.
Cloud solutions are evolving quickly due, in large part, to the fact that lower cost of ownership and quicker implementation times are compelling users to experiment and adopt cloud solutions sooner than later. When it comes to computing, just about everyone wants faster and cheaper, as long as easy and secure are also in the cards.