Tag Archives: azure

Amazon and VMware: Strange Allies In The Game Of Clouds

Before cloud there was datacenter virtualization. The king of virtualization was VMware, who had ruled enterprise datacenters for decades uninterruptedly. Then a new force arose – Public Cloud – ruled by the reincarnated online retailer Amazon, which swiftly won the hearts of startups and web apps alike. As enterprises started exploring the cloud, VMware adapted its offering in the form of Private Cloud in attempt to keep the lucrative enterprises under its dominion, while Amazon has been fighting to convert them to its public cloud, with relentless price cuts and innovative services. War was fierce.

But in the Game of Clouds strange alliances are formed…

Now VMware is striking an alliance with Amazon. The new strategic partnership announced this month brings forth a hybrid child: VMware Cloud on AWS, which promises to let enterprises have their cake and eat it too – keeping them working in their good-old VMware vSphere environment while letting VMware operate it for them as a managed service on the Amazon Web Services (AWS) bare metal infrastructure. The new service is currently in Technology Preview, with general availability expected mid-2017.

vmware-aws

What could bring together these bitter rivals? In the land of private cloud VMware has been suffering fierce competition from OpenStack open source community, so fierce that ultimately VMware jumped on the OpenStack bandwagon. Flanked by OpenStack from private cloud and by Amazon from public cloud, VMware came to realize what HP, Verizon and others learned the hard way – that hybrid cloud can be the alternative. A similar strategy change brought the got Rackspace acquired a couple of months ago.

And what’s Amazon’s angle with WMware you ask? Amazon has been eyeing the lucrative enterprises for a long time, but has largely failed to convert them to the public cloud. Microsoft, Amazon’s public cloud competitor, identified that and launched Azure Stack (currently in Technical Preview 2), a flavor of its Azure public cloud that can extends to the enterprise’s datacenter. Amazon so far has been dogmatic in its public cloud vision, preaching full migration to the public cloud and refusing to provide variants for private cloud. But market forces are stronger, and Amazon’s way off the proverbial tree was found in the form of VMware. With Microsoft’s Azure Stack expected in general availability mid-2017, Amazon had to prepare its counter move towards the same mark.

In the Game of Clouds great forces are at play. With private and public clouds, open source communities and vendor-locked solutions, incumbents and startups all at play. And everyone’s eyeing the holy grail of enterprises.

Who will win the Cloud Throne?

iron-throne

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Can Hybrid Cloud Present An Alternative To Amazon, Microsoft, Google?

It’s not easy to be a public cloud vendor these days. The public cloud world has been undergoing serious consolidation in the past few years. Amazon, the pioneer of the cloud, has been keeping a clear lead, while Microsoft and Google have been pulling in, utilizing their accumulated experience, global data centers and software platforms, and positioned themselves as next in line. Together this trio serve the vast majority of the workloads running on public cloud.

This consolidation drove out many vendors, including some big incumbent names such as HP that shut down its cloud late last year and Verizon that did the same a couple of months ago.

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So what’s their answer? I’d say it’s threefold:

  1. Multi-cloud model: If you can’t beat them, join them. Support Amazon, Microsoft, Google public clouds. If done via a good generic platform, it can help avoid vendor lock-in.
  2. Hybrid model: mix the public cloud support with support for private cloud and bare-metal to offer public-private-hosted hybrid approach.
  3. Private model: concentrate on strictly private cloud. The popular open-source project OpenStack is a leading candidate for this strategy. This approach is useful for the customers insisting to run things on their own premises.

HP (now HPE), after shutting down its public cloud, moved to a hybrid cloud strategy with a series of acquisitions and by endorsing OpenStack private cloud open source project.  Verizon went for the private cloud approach.

An interesting case is Rackspace, which eased off on its own cloud and managed services, and started offering third-party support for the public clouds of Amazon and Microsoft, leveraging its Fanatical Support brand. Also, in parallel to supporting leading public cloud vendors, Rackspace keeps its longstanding support of private cloud deployments based on OpenStack, the popular open-source platform which it co-founded.

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Rackspace’s strategy seems to have hit well. quarterly results published this week show quarterly revenue $518 million, up 7.9% from the year-ago-quarter. Executives noted Rackspace’s success was buoyed particularly by a growing number of Fanatical Support customers for its Microsoft Azure and Amazon Web Services (AWS) offerings as well as customers on its OpenStack private cloud.

Hybrid cloud strategies gain traction with enterprises. While Amazon, Microsoft and Google try to convince enterprises to go all-in on the public cloud, it’s too big a change to swallow for most. Even Microsoft realized that hurdle and tried bringing its Azure cloud to the enterprise’s datacenter. Hybrid cloud seems to have demand, and may also be the focus of those who failed to take the lead in the public cloud.

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Mesosphere Open-Sources Its Containers Management System

The containers movement received major news yesterday when Mesosphere announced it has open-sourced  its Data Center Operating System (DC/OS). The core will be released under Apache 2.0 open source license, with enterprise-grade tools and features such as security, performance, compliance, and monitoring, kept for the paid enterprise version. The new DC/OS community already has more than 60 partner companies, including major names such as Microsoft, HPE, Cisco, Accenture and Verizon. There are also important names from the DevOps automation including Chef and Puppet.

Mesosphere’s open source strategy is primarily rooted in the fact it is the commercial backer of Apache Mesos open source project. But Mesosphere took additional steps and joined the founding team of the Open Container Initiative (OCI) and the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF) which were founded in the past year by big names such as Google, Microsoft, IBM and HPE to standardize on containers. In fact, on its announcement yesterday Mesosphere said it was considering hosting DC/OS externally under CNCF (among other alternatives).

Mesosphere’s open source move yesterday comes a month after Mesosphere joined the prestigious unicorn club when it finished its round C funding with $73.5 million funding at reportedly over $1 billion valuation. Not surprisingly, Mesosphere’s investors Microsoft and HPE, which also collaborate with Mesosphere at the Open Container Initiative, joined as founding members to the DC/OS project. In fact, Microsoft announced yesterday adding support for DC/OS in its Azure cloud, after it added support for Docker on Azure a year ago. This is part of the fierce cloud competition on containers (so fierce that it drove HP out of the race last year).

Google, a competitor of Microsoft in the public cloud, used a similar open source strategy last year when it decided to open-source its Kubernetes container management system and contribute it to CNCF on its foundation. Kubernetes powers Google’s Container Engine, Google’s own response in the cloud wars. While some consider Kubernetes a competitor for Mesosphere, Mesosphere took a collaborative strategy, providing support (namely package) for Kubernetes alongside its own Marathon product, as well as contributing code to the Kubernetes open source project.

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IBM, Microsoft Offer Blockchain In Their Cloud Services

Recently blockchain fans got major news, with two giants IBM and Microsoft announcing their support for Blockchain-as-a-Service (BaaS) in their cloud services. Are we going to see some cloud-based blockchain developments soon? sounds like it.

Blockchain emerged from Bitcoin cryptocurrency hype as the innovative distributed ledger technology behind Bitcoin. But while cryptocurrencies are well past Gartner’s peak of inflated expectations, blockchain is gaining growing interest from startups and enterprises alike. The interest in blockchain isn’t limited to just cryptocurrencies but also extends into other financial use cases, and even transcends FinTech realm into non-financial use cases such as electronic voting, smart contracts and ownership verification for art and diamonds.

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The interest that blockchain drove the creation of different “flavors” of the distributed ledger notion, beyond the initial one used for Bitcoin. One interesting initiative recently launched is the hyperledger project, a community-backed open-source standard for distributed ledger. It was launched December 2015 under the Linux Foundation by big financial services names such as J.P. Morgan, Wells Fargo, London Stock Exchange Group and Deutsche Börse, as well as equally big IT players such as IBM, Intel, Cisco and VMware. As part of joining Hyperledger, IBM has open sourced a significant chunk of the blockchain code it has been working on.

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IBM launched its blockchain-as-a-service in production February. In order to encourage adoption of its new cloud service, IBM also opens garages for blockchain app design and implementation in London, New York, Singapore and Tokyo.

Microsoft was first to move in on blockchain. Last November ETH-BaaSMicrosoft launched a Blockchain-as-a-Service on its Azure cloud based on Ethereum in partnership with ConsenSys. But while IBM bet on hyperledger project, Microsoft took a different approach and spread its bet across multiple projects and partnerships. During last month Microsoft added to its blockchain partnerships Augur, Lisk, BitShares, Syscoin and Slock.it, and this month also added Storj.

I estimate IBM and Microsoft would not remain alone in this game. Other vendors will join in to offer platforms and cloud services to accelerate the development of blockchain-based applications. This will be a serious enabler for innovation around this fascinating technology, whether for young innovative startups bootstrapping on low budget, or for financial institutions (and other enterprises) lacking in-house skills in this cutting-edge technology.

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HP Quits Public Cloud Race, Focusing On Hybrid Cloud For Enterprises

If you don’t see how the IT world is changing, just follow the recent tectonic shifts: while some tectonic plates merge (see Dell & EMC), others split (see HP split). The big players are assessing their play in this new world of IT where people and companies consume services rather than products, and where businesses run entire operations without owning “stuff” (think about the biggest taxi company not owning a single vehicle…). In this world, the game shifts from selling boxes and licenses to cloud-based services and open-source software and standards. And that’s a shift the big guys are now facing.

In its recent evaluation of the company’s future, HP (soon to be HP Enterprise) realized it cannot compete in the public cloud global arena, and decided to shut down its HP Helion Public Cloud offering on January 31, 2016. This arena is heavily dominated by Amazon, followed by Google and Microsoft, it requires a lot of upfront investment to gain significant global coverage, and it has a fierce war on price and performance.

hphelion

Instead, HP will focus on hybrid cloud, helping their traditional enterprise customers combine their on-premise data center with different public cloud vendors. This way HP actually plans to partner with the big public cloud vendors. In its recent blog post, Bill Hilf, SVP and GM, HP Cloud, stated that:

To support this new model, we will continue to aggressively grow our partner ecosystem and integrate different public cloud environments.

HP’s strategic choice to focus on hybrid cloud should come as no surprise. With the agenda of bringing hybrid cloud to enterprises  HP acquired Stackato 3 months ago from ActiveState. Also, late last year HP acquired open-source software Eucalyptus to “accelerate hybrid cloud adoption in the enterprise“, which paved HP’s way to offering compatibility with Amazon’s AWS cloud. On the Microsoft front HP has been working to support Azure cloud and Office 365 SaaS offering. This may compete with Microsoft’s own hybrid cloud offering announced earlier this year. And Amazon is debating its position on hybrid cloud as well. so these partnerships will be interesting. If formed well, they could lead HP to a true multi-cloud offering.

hphelion

The big players are all eyeing how to bring hybrid model for the enterprises, where the big money lies, and where complex environments, systems and constraints mandate such hybrid models and enterprise-grade tooling. We’ll also be seeing more use of open-source, such as HP’s adoption of Eucalyptus, CloudFoundry (for PaaS), and OpenStack. In fact, today started the OpenStack Summit in Tokyo, it’d be interesting to hear what HP executives elaborate on the recent and expected moves for Helion.

You can read more on HP’s recent moves around cloud, containers, open-source, HP company split and more on this post.

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Microsoft Brings Azure Cloud To The Enterprise Datacenter

Cloud computing is a market with huge potential, as the financial reports from Amazon and Microsoft earlier this month showed. But the really big potential yet vastly untapped is the enterprise cloud. Enterprises find it difficult to transition their IT to the cloud with their large array of existing applications, datacenters and security requirements. This is the holy grail for the cloud providers.

While big cloud providers Amazon and Google come from the consumers and are now trying to make their way to the enterprises, for Microsoft enterprises are the traditional playground, and Microsoft is trying to build on that and position its Azure public cloud as the enterprise preferred cloud. When hearing Microsoft’s Scott Guthrie, Executive Vice President of the Cloud and Enterprise group, the man and the red shirt, lay out his vision this week, it was clear Microsoft is pushing it harder than ever.

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Now Microsoft wants to put Azure also in the enterprises’ data center, with its new service announced this week – Azure Stack. Built on the same core technology as Azure, the new service takes the compute, networking, storage and security solutions and brings them on-premise in a consistent way. Existing Microsoft-based customers will have the advantage of keeping their existing Microsoft assets in their data center, such as SQL Server, SharePoint, and Exchange, and connect them to modern distributed applications and services while maintaining centralized oversight.

The new Azure Stack will enable hybrid cloud strategy for the enterprises, so that the customer can create applications once and then decide where to deploy them later. This will give Microsoft the desired agent for transitioning enterprises to the public cloud in a gradual, controlled and smooth path.

A preview of Azure Stack will become available this summer. At first stage Azure Stack will focus on Linux and Windows virtual machines. But seeing how cloud and containers grow closer and Microsoft integrating Docker into Azure, I expect we’d be seeing container support pretty soon as well.

Check out the full details from Microsoft’s official site.

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Insight on Cloud Market from Amazon, Microsoft Latest Reports

Amazon owns the biggest public cloud to date, Amazon Web Services (AWS). It is the most veteran, reportedly running about a third of the world’s public cloud infrastructure, and some even say it’s bigger than the sum of all of its major competitors, including major players such as Google and Microsoft.

But how big is it actually? Up till now Amazon hasn’t disclosed its figures on its AWS business, reporting it under “Other” on the financial reports. But that’s now changed.

On its financial reports yesterday Amazon for the first time disclosed the explicit portion of its AWS unit, which shows a yearly run rate of $5 billion, and growing fast! The quarterly results of $1.6 billion show 50% increase year-to-year. On its statement, Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos said

Amazon Web Services is a $5 billion business and still growing fast — in fact it’s accelerating

Those who were debating how profitable it could be, with the aggressive price cuts Amazon has been employing, would be surprised to see Amazon reports an operating margin of nearly 17%. Quite impressive I’d say. And putting the rest of Amazon’s business in the shadow. If AWS were its own company, that would make a very strong player…

Microsoft also reported its cloud business, quoting $6.3 billion yearly. However, careful examination shows that this category doesn’t only include the Azure cloud business (which would be the equivalent of Amazon’s AWS) but also its other hosted services such as Office 365, and CRM. Microsoft hasn’t released figures around its operating margins to see how profitable the business is there.

These impressive figures show the size and growth of the cloud services business, and a glimpse at what’s we’re expected to see in coming years. Cloud is not only here to stay, it’s hear to take over IT, especially with the adoption of popular DevOps tools such as Docker.

And cloud doesn’t end with providing mere infrastructure (IaaS, Infrastructure-as-a-Service). On one of my last posts I covered the fierce fight between the cloud vendors on big data & analytics, a hot topic these days. Another hot is the Internet of Things (IoT), which Amazon, Microsoft and others are targeting. These higher-level services, commonly known as Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS), will ultimately enable constructing full offerings organically in the cloud, will free IT companies to focus on their core business value, and will enable lean start-up companies to jump in and bring innovation without need for major up-front investments.

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