Widespread Cloud Adoption: What's Taking So Long?


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In this paper, Cartesian gives an overview of the ongoing barriers to cloud computing adoption and ways in which vendors are trying to addressing them.

We divide the paper into 5 sections:
• Baby Steps: The Use Case for Hybrid Cloud
• Private Cloud: Allowing IT to Sleep at Night
• Standardizing the Cloud: The Battle over APIs
• Thinking Outside the Box: Network Virtualization
• The Biggest Fear of All: Security

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Widespread Cloud Adoption: What's Taking So Long?

  1. 1. Widespread Cloud Adoption What’s Taking So Long? By Graham Neray and Susan Simmons There’s a steady stream of cloud computing news, acquisitions, incubators, investments, theories and frameworks, product launches, and startups. Forrester is forecasting 40% market growth rates through 2015. Amazon Web Services (AWS) is releasing on average two new services or updates to its cloud per week. Oracle and IBM are making acquisitions in the hundreds of millions and billions of dollars. Yet despite all this activity, cloud computing is still an immature market, with several factors holding back widespread adoption. What’s taking so long? June 2012
  2. 2. Cartesian: Widespread Cloud Adoption Copyright © 2014 The Management Network Group, Inc. d/b/a Cartesian. All rights reserved. 1 Cloud computing is relatively new and unknown. It can be expensive and complex to migrate to the cloud. It doesn’t always perform well. And when it goes down, the IT guys can’t do a thing about it. In this paper, we discuss these barriers to adoption and outline five ways in which vendors are addressing them. Baby Steps: The Use Case for Hybrid Cloud A recent Cisco survey found that 60% of businesses cite performance as a top challenge associated with deploying their apps in the cloud. Another survey found that 40% of businesses experience service outages with the public cloud. Even in cases where the long-term economic efficiencies and benefits of scalability are clear, performance and reliability remain key obstacles to full-scale cloud adoption. A more likely scenario is that companies will start to move bits and pieces of their IT infrastructure to the cloud when and where it makes sense, keeping some of it on-site. A business might choose to keep its data in-house but use the cloud for running complex batch analytics jobs. In this case, uptime is less important than having access to massive amounts of cheap processing power for short periods of time. Another enterprise might use a hybrid cloud for “cold” data storage, keeping older, less relevant data in the cloud while keeping more recent data on-site. The ability to provide hybrid solutions that work well (e.g., aren’t painfully slow, integrate with existing systems) will be a valuable cloud enabler. Massachusetts-based Nasuni and Panzura, in San Jose, for instance, offer solutions that make such hybrid cloud file systems possible. Private Cloud: Allowing IT to Sleep at Night A core advantage of the public cloud is that IT doesn’t have to manage the servers; the flipside of that advantage is a loss of control over those servers and how they’re set up. Leveraging shared resources via the public cloud is what makes cloud computing so cheap; by the same token, this also gives rise to security concerns, as one company’s data may be hosted on the same physical infrastructure as that of someone else who wants to steal it. Private cloud, however, wags its finger at these barriers (most of them, anyway). Private cloud refers to infrastructure-as-a-service that lives behind the corporate firewall. Customers get the benefits of public cloud – scalability, elasticity, etc. – but the security and control of traditional IT. The catch? One typically has to pay for it all upfront. For those enterprises not yet ready to plunge into the public cloud, those with special regulatory requirements that prohibit them from doing so, or other companies so large that building their own private clouds is actually the most cost-effective route, private cloud will be the deployment of choice. But the underlying technology – often referred to as orchestration – is barely defined, let alone led by any one player. Orchestration generally refers to the intelligence that dynamically and efficiently provisions cloud resources (i.e., compute, storage, and network) across the data center.1 This ability, which goes hand in hand with virtualization, is what enables so-called cloud economics. A good solution here makes the cloud. A number of vendors have released orchestration platforms that enterprises can use to build and manage 1 Amazon, Google, Salesforce.com, and other leading cloud players have developed their own proprietary orchestration solutions.
  3. 3. Cartesian: Widespread Cloud Adoption Copyright © 2014 The Management Network Group, Inc. d/b/a Cartesian. All rights reserved. 2 their own private clouds. California-based start-ups Nimbula and Joyent have their own proprietary commercial platforms. Eucalpytus has an open-source and enterprise edition of its cloud platform. Piston Cloud, of San Francisco, and Nebula, of Palo Alto, by contrast, are pushing competing platforms based on OpenStack, an open-source cloud platform originally developed by Rackspace and NASA. While companies are looking for a stable, scalable, and feature-rich avenue for building their own private clouds, vendor solutions (or at least the market’s faith in these solutions) remain relatively immature. Enterprise private cloud adoption will really accelerate when a few solutions begin to bubble to the top and vendors prove that their platforms can be trusted. Standardizing the Cloud: The Battle over APIs While orchestration dictates how the cloud engine works under the hood, APIs dictate how IT interacts with the cloud (public or private). APIs define the means of communication with the cloud – the nouns, verbs, and adjectives of what you can configure and how. These days, nearly every vendor and cloud service provider has its own API. Amazon Web Services (AWS), VMware, Eucalyptus, OpenStack, Rackspace – they all define their own ways of communicating with their clouds. Recently, APIs have been the subject of a heated debate: whose API should rule? On the one hand, having a common, if not perfect, API could foster interoperability and innovation, similar to the way HTTP was set as the standard for web services in the 1990s. Others argue that cloud infrastructure is too early in its development to settle on a standard. Still others argue that it will never and should never happen. Regardless, the lack of standardization and interoperability makes many enterprises reluctant to commit to any one technology. AWS is the most widely-used platform, which makes it the de facto standard. But many are concerned with making it the de jure standard, which would put a lot of power in the hands of one vendor. Some competitors have already begun to pledge fealty to AWS. Eucalyptus, for instance, recently announced that its customers will be able to use the AWS API to connect their Eucalyptus-based private clouds with AWS’ public cloud. Others, like Citrix, have splintered off from previously hatched coalitions with Openstack to launch their own proprietary APIs. As the battle continues, pay attention to the APIs from cloud service providers and platform vendors – whoever wins, wins big. If and when a standardization or consolidation of APIs comes to pass, it will significantly spur cloud adoption. Thinking Outside the Box: Network Virtualization The network is still a bottleneck in the cloud. Unlike storage and compute, which can be virtualized (and to a certain extent) orchestrated, networking (e.g., switching, firewalls) is still run on big, expensive, and inflexible boxes from the likes of Cisco and Alcatel-Lucent. As a result, it’s not easy to provision network resources dynamically and efficiently, which creates two problems. First, limitations of traditional switches and routers lead to underutilized network gear as well as underutilized servers and storage; this makes cloud more expensive than it theoretically could be. Second, it’s difficult to provide higher-level services like firewalls on a cost-effective basis. These challenges apply to both public cloud service providers and enterprises deploying their own private clouds.
  4. 4. Cartesian: Widespread Cloud Adoption Copyright © 2014 The Management Network Group, Inc. d/b/a Cartesian. All rights reserved. 3 A new wave of innovation dubbed ‘network virtualization’2 seeks to address these challenges. Network virtualization take a software-centric (vs. hardware-centric) approach to networking to decrease costs and increase flexibility. OpenFlow is an open-source initiative that is trying to create a standard protocol for communicating with routers and switches programmatically. Nicira, of Palo Alto, is a startup leading the network virtualization charge, focusing on lower-level network services (routing and switching); its software is to the network what VMware’s virtualization is to servers. Nicira’s software decouples virtual networks from the underlying physical network infrastructure, allowing a user to treat a collection of networking gear as a resource pool of capacity that can be consumed and repurposed on demand. Embrane, of Santa Clara, Calif., provides higher-level network services via a distributed software platform that runs on virtualized servers rather than expensive, custom boxes. This allows users to scale out and deploy firewalls and load balancers as needed, a feat previously unachievable. Making the network more agile will help drive cloud adoption because of its upfront fiscal benefits (Cisco box-huggers, watch out), its operational advantages (network administrators, you may become redundant), and its potential to enable to new services (don’t get too comfortable, AWS). The Biggest Fear of All: Security Concerns that ‘my stuff’ is touching ‘your stuff’ in the cloud continue to hamper public cloud adoption. Although having a private cloud may address this issue, private clouds are not affordable for the vast majority of businesses. Any company that can build security solutions optimized for the public cloud – and can prove its solutions work – will do well. But the industry isn’t exactly teeming with vendors addressing this need in novel ways. Cloud Passage, of San Francisco, offers a security Software-as-a-Service designed for cloud environments; it can scan your cloud for vulnerabilities and automate your firewalls. Bromium, a stealthy startup not yet out of private beta, plans to offer a security solution optimized for virtualized environments. Given the relative paucity of startups in this space, perhaps the security hurdle will prove to be the hardest to overcome along the path to cloud adoption. Conclusion Cloud computing’s promise of nearly limitless flexibility, accelerated time-to-market and low capital expenditure offers the potential for a paradigm shift in the way IT services are consumed and delivered. But to realize that shift, vendors and service providers must continue to develop novel solutions in hybrid cloud, private cloud, APIs, network virtualization, and security. Some of the resistance to cloud deployments is psychological and institutional, which means that cloud providers and enablers need to continue to innovate to demonstrate the overwhelming benefits of transitioning to the cloud and to mitigate the ever-present challenges of doing so. Eventually, a substantial portion of apps and data will live in the cloud. The question is: when? 2 The terms in this space are still in flux. Network virtualization and software-defined networking are often used interchangeably. For the purposes of this paper, we refer to all innovation in this space as network virtualization.
  5. 5. Cartesian is a specialist consulting firm of industry experts, focused exclusively on the communications, technology and digital media sector. For over 20 years, Cartesian has advised clients in strategy development and assisted them in execution against their goals. Our unique portfolio of professional services and managed solutions are tailored to the specific challenges faced by executives in these fast- moving industries. Combining strategic thinking and practical experience, we deliver superior results. www.cartesian.com For further information, please contact us at cartesian@cartesian.com