The benefits of migrating workloads between different cloud providers or between private and public clouds can only truly be redeemed with an understanding of the cloud business model and cloud workload management. It seems that cloud adoption has reached the phase where advanced cloud users are creating their own hybrid solutions or migrating between clouds while striving to achieve interoperability values within their systems. This article aims to answer some of the questions that arise when managing cloud workloads.
Over the last year I had endless conversations with companies that strive to adopt the cloud – specifically the Amazon cloud. Of those I met, I can say that ClickSoftware is one of the leading traditional ISVs that managed to adopt the cloud. The Amazon cloud is with no doubt the most advanced cloud computing facility, leading the market. In my previous job I was involved in the ClickSoftware cloud initiative, from decision making with regards to Amazon cloud all the way to taking the initial steps to educate and support the company’s different parties in providing an On-Demand SaaS offering.
ClickSoftware provides a comprehensive range of workforce management software solutions designed to help service organizations face head-on the challenges of inefficiency. With maximizing the utilization of your resources is the lifeblood of your service organization and has developed a suite of solutions and services that reach the heart of the problem.
Every day I talk, write and comment about the “Cloud”. Every time I mention the cloud I try to make sure that I add the name of the relevant cloud operator, “Rackspace Cloud, “MS Cloud” (Azure) or “HP Cloud”. Somehow all of these cloud titles don’t right to me – it seems the only title that really works for me is the “Amazon Cloud”. In this post, I will elaborate about the competition in the IaaS market and I will explain further why I think this is so.
HP vs. Amazon AWS
Earlier this month, HP announced release of a public cloud offering based on Openstack in a public bet. Zorowar Biri Singh, SVP and GM for HP Cloud Services, admitted that HP is really late to market and he also added that:
HP believes that startups – particularly those that sell services to enterprises – will want to move off Amazon as they grow but won’t want to build their own data centers. Read more
Last year I attend the HP cloud tech day. It was amazing to see this giant fighting for its life on the IT field. It is one thing to be able to promote public cloud, but you also need to select your words carefully. Singh’s statements aren’t in line with a public cloud strategy; on the contrary, they focus on the fact that HP’s state of mind is not ready for delivering a true public cloud. Establishing a public cloud is one thing, but leading with the right strategy is what counts – trivial isn’t it?
We’re not necessarily the first place a startup is going to look for in getting going. But I can assure you we’ve also got the type global footprint and an SLA and a business-grade point of view that understands the enterprise. That’s what we’re betting on.
I strongly suggest Mr. Singh be more careful. Specifically, these types of statements remind me of Kodak – they claimed to have a strong hold on the market, they maintained that as people shoot more digital photos eventually they will print more. On January this year the 131-year-old company filed for bankruptcy.
SAP on Amazon AWS
AWS and SAP Announced Certification of AWS Infrastructure for SAP Business All-in-One Solutions Research Study Shows Infrastructure Cost Savings of up to 69% when Running SAP Solutions on AWS Read More
Due to market demand forces, SAP was forced to find its way in the cloud. In 2007, SAP announced the launch of BusinessByDesign, its (SaaS) On-Demand initiative, with no success while their customer base drifted to companies like Salesforce and Netsuite. This month SAP finally announced that they believe in the public cloud by making an interesting supportive move and partnering with the Cloud – Amazon AWS.
Customers now have the flexibility to deploy their SAP solutions and landscapes on the scalable, on-demand AWS platform without making required long-term commitments or costly capital expenditures for their underlying infrastructure. Learn more about the offering. Read More
This SAP certification strengthens the AWS position in the enterprise (for your attention Mr. Singh). IMHO SAP made a great decision to “go with the flow” and not resist it.
Openstack vs. Eucalyptus for Amazon AWS
Openstack was initiated by Rackspace and NASA in 2010. Today this cloud open source project is supported by about 150 IT and hardware companies such as Dell and HP, which trust this platform and are investing in building their public cloud with it.
It’s maybe two or three years before OpenStack will have matured to the point where it has enough features to be useful. The challenge that everyone else has is Amazon is not only bigger than them, it’s accelerating away from them. –Netflix cloud architect Adrian Cockcroft
In March of this year, Amazon guys published their belief in the private and hybrid cloud by announcing their signed alliance with Eucalyptus, which delivers open-source software for building an AWS compatible private cloud. In April, Eucalyptus published its $30M series C funding. Together with Amazon and SAP’s joining of forces, this accentuates the fact that Amazon AWS is very seriously about conquering a share of the enterprise IT market (again ..for your attention Mr. Singh). This week I attend IGTCloud OpenStack 2012 summit in Tel Aviv. I was hoping to hear some news about the progress and the improvement of this platform and I found nothing that can harm the AWS princess for the next few years. OpenStack is mainly ready for vendors who wants to run into the market with a really immature and naive cloud offering. I do believe that the giant vendors’ “Openstack Consortium” will be able to present an IaaS platform, but how much time will it take? Does the open cloud platform perception accelerate its development or the other way around? Still, for now, Amazon is the only Cloud.
Microsoft and Google vs. Amazon AWS
This month Derrick Harris published his scoop on GigaOm – “Google, Microsoft both targeting Amazon with new clouds”. I am not sure whether it is a real scoop. It is kind of obvious that both giants strive to find their place in Gartner’s Gartner Magic Quadrant report:
With regards to Microsoft, the concept of locking in the customer is in the company’s blood and has led the MSDN owner to present Azure with its “PaaS first” strategy. I had several discussions with MS Azure guys last year requesting to check the “trivial” IaaS option for self-provisioning of a cloud window instance. Already back then they said that it was on their roadmap and soon to be available.
This month AWS CTO Werner Vogells promoted the enablement of RDS services for MSSQL on his blog, noting:
You can run Amazon RDS for SQL Server under two different licensing models – “License Included” and Microsoft License Mobility. Under the License Included service model, you do not need to purchase SQL Server software licenses. “License Included” pricing starts at $0.035/hour and is inclusive of SQL Server software, hardware, and Amazon RDS management capabilities.
Is that good for Microsoft? It seems that Amazon AWS is the one to finally enable Microsoft platforms as pay-per-use service that is also compatible with the on-premise MS application deployments. One can say that by supporting this new AWS feature, Microsoft actually supports the natural evolution of AWS to become a PaaS vendor, putting their own PaaS offering at risk.
IMHO, Google is a hope. The giant web vendor has the XaaS concept running in its blood, so I believe that once Google presents it IaaS offering it will be a great competitor for AWS and Openstack ways. Another great advantage of AWS over these guys, and others, is its proven “economies of scale” and pricing agility. Microsoft and Google will need to take a deep breath and invest vast amounts of money to compete with the AWS – not only to build an IaaS vendor experience but to improve upon their pricing.
I can go on and discuss Rackspace cloud (managed services…) or IBM smart (enterprise…) cloud. Each of these great clouds has its own degree of immaturity in comparison to the Cloud.
Last week I had quick chat with Zohar Alon, CEO at Dome9, a cloud security start-up. The new start-up implemented its service across respectable amount of cloud operators.
I asked Mr. Alon to tell me, based on his experience, whether he agrees with me about the state of the IaaS market and the immaturity of the other cloud vendors in comparison to AWS cloud. He responded:
The foresight to include Security Groups, the inbound little firewalls that protect your instances from most network threats, was a key product decision, early on by Amazon AWS. Even today, years after Security Groups launched, other cloud providers don’t offer a viable comparable.
The cloud changed the way we consume computation and networking so we can’t (and shouldn’t be able to) call our cloud provider and ask them to “install an old-school firewall in front of my cloud”. Amazon AWS was the first to realize that, and turned what looked like a limitation of the cloud, into an advantage and a competitive differentiator! At Dome9 we work with DevOps running hundreds of instances in a multitude of regions and offer them next generation control, management and automation for their AWS security, leveraging the AWS Security Groups API.
I am sure that this basic security capability must be delivered by the cloud operator itself. Cloud company is a new perception, it is not technical – it is strategic. Amazon follows its strategy with some of cloud basic guidelines: Continuous Deployment, Fast Delivery, API first, Low level of lock in, Full visibility and honesty, and so on. When Amazon AWS started in 2006, people didn’t understand what they were doing though the company leaders understood the business potential. Without a doubt, for now anyway, the Cloud is Amazon.
(Cross-posted on CloudAve Cloud & Business Strategy)
This is the third and last post in regarding the cloud lock-in. In the first and the second parts I covered the vendor lock-in of IaaS and PaaS. The appealing registration and the low cost overwhelm the new SaaS consumers that often makes them forget that eventually the service will become something they just can’t live without. What will happen if one day your SaaS vendor goes out of business ? In this post I will try to cover the threats and the actions the enterprise should take in order to lower the level of the SaaS lock-in risk.
> > > How does the lock-in of a SaaS application differ from a traditional on-premise application?
SaaS use is actually the consumption of servers, operating systems, middle ware, network connections and more. Switching a SaaS vendor is much simpler as these are not located in your site – shifting to another vendor mainly includes migration of the data without the hassle of ripping and replacing the full app stack. This cheerful answer also provides a less costly and less complex switch than the painful effort and the risky investment of moving an on-site software.
Let’s consider a simple case where an enterprise uses a single application stored in a simple cluster, without any massive investment in middleware or integration. In such a case, switching from one SaaS solution to another is not so different from switching from one on-site application to another. The main issue regarding the SaaS vendor is to make sure that the data can be transferred to the hands of the enterprise at any time. Today the most common methods are to enable the export of reports in a CSV format and to download the full database. Even in this simple case the actual migration in the SaaS case will be easier because the company doesn’t need additional sets of hardware infrastructure for the migration to take place. Furthermore SaaS vendors develop import tools so that a new customer will can easily migrate the data, whether it is in a raw spreadsheet or even in the format of other SaaS vendors.
> > > The SaaS lock-in story gets complicated when integration and customization are needed.
The advantage of the ready-made, easy-to-use online application can sometimes be a disadvantage. The SaaS application might not be flexible enough to support the business needs and the enterprise might need to customize it or integrate it with other services. This integration leads to an increase of the lock-in level as the enterprise develops dependency on professionals such as the SaaS vendor team or a cloud integrator that will stitch the different solutions together to support the business complete work-flow. In this case the enterprise might find itself locked not only on each individual SaaS app, but also on the integrator’s skills and services.
The integration needs might be solved by SaaS vendors that are surrounded by a large ecosystem of plug-ins and out-of-the-box integrations with other online services. In his recent short post Geva Perry talks about the impotency of the eco-system by demonstrating the huge advantage of a cloud vendor that has a great “pre-integrated eco-system”:
“I was recently asked to recommend a CRM system to one of the startups I am on the advisory board of. As much as I dislike the complexity and poor performance of Salesforce.com, I had no choice but to tell them it’s the only way for them to go — for the simple reason that it’s the only CRM SaaS offering that is guaranteed to be pre-integrated not only with every app they need today, but also with ones they will need in the future, which may not even exist yet.”
IT management and control must be implemented and balance must be kept to avoid the uncontrolled sprawl of online services without a rational and orderly structure. The loss of control can lead not only to an extreme lock-in but also to problems with compliance and security. Considering this risk, the enterprise might find that the use of PaaS make sense and can fulfill some of its custom needs.
> > > My Conclusion: In the cloud the customer decides.
Lock-in is one of the basic hesitations of the enterprise when considering new technologies. Today, I can move my Power Point presentation to Google Docs or Slide Rocket. The developer can choose to store the DB on a local virtual machine or on an IaaS platform and later on migrate it into a DaaS platform. Experienced customers are burned out by the traditional IT vendors on the matter of lock-in and today they demand that the industry change and prove a low level of vendor lock-in.
Check out the following interview (brought to you by Bloomberg) with Mark Benioff, the CEO of Salesforce, the most veteran SaaS vendor in the world. Benioff talks about the Oracle false cloud and the traditional IT business in contrary to the new cloud world. In his words, I think that he brings the essence of what’s cloud is all about:
Cloud vendors invest a lot on making an intuitive UI/UX, to make sure that the learning curve of the new user will be short. They also develop and support migration tools and services to make it easier for the new customers to leave their competitors and quickly adopt their offering. Additional new online services are developed fast and the eco-system should not be compared to a traditional integration. It provides a real strategic business benefit for the customer as well as for the vendor and it is part and parcel of the cloud environment. Beyond all the considerations and thoughts I have in regards to cloud vendor lock-in, without any doubt the cloud supports a much more competitive and flexible IT world.
It always good to start with Wikipedia’s definition as it helps to initiate a structured discussion, here is Wiki’s definition for Lock-In:
“In economics, vendor lock-in, also known as proprietary lock-in or customer lock-in, makes a customer dependent on a vendor for products and services, unable to use another vendor without substantial switching costs. Lock-in costs which create barriers to market entry may result in antitrust action against a monopoly.” Read more on Wikipedia
Does the cloud present a major lock-in ? Does the move create substantial switching costs?
“Yes !” is the common answer I hear for those questions. In this article I will debate it basing my findings on real cloud adoption cases.
Generally in terms of cloud’s lock-in, we face the same issues as in the traditional world where the move includes re-implementation of the IT service. It involves issues such as data portability, users guidance and training, integration, etc.
“I think we’ve officially lost the war on defining the core attributes of cloud computing so that businesses and IT can make proper use of it. It’s now in the hands of marketing organizations and PR firms who, I’m sure, will take the concept on a rather wild ride over the next few years.”
The above statement I bring from David Linthicum’s article “It’s official: ‘Cloud computing’ is now meaningless”. Due to my full consent with Linthicum on that matter, I will be accurate and try to make a clear assessment of the cloud lock-in issue by relating each of the three cloud layers (i.e. IPS aaS) separately.
In this part, I will relate to the most lower layer, the IaaS lock-in.
It is a fact that IT organizations take advantage of the IaaS platforms by moving part or even all of their physical resources to the public clouds. Furthermore, ISVs move at least their test and development environments and making serious plans to move (or already moved) part of their production environment to the public clouds.
Discussing with a public IaaS consumers, it always come to the point where I ask “do you feel locked on your cloud vendor ?” most, if not all of the companies’ leaders claim that the public clouds’ values (on-demand, elastic, agility,ect) overcomes the lock-in impact so they are willing to compromise. As a cloud enthusiastic it is great for me to see the industry leaders’ positive approach towards moving their businesses to the cloud (again too general – any of them refer to a different layer). I do not think that the lock-in is so serious.
For sometime this claim sounded pretty reasonable to me though on second thought I find that the discussion should start from a comparison with the traditional data center “locks”. Based on this comparison I can already state that one of the major public cloud advantages is the weak lock-in, simply because you don’t buy hardware. Furthermore, companies that still use the public cloud as an hosting extension to their internal data center, don’t acquire new (long term or temporary) assets that they can’t get rid of without having a major loss. In regards to its lock-in the public cloud is great !
Another important explanation related specifically to Amazon AWS products which support SaaS scalability and operations. Smart SaaS architect will plan the cloud integration layer, so that the application logic and workflow will be strongly tied with the underlying IaaS capabilities such as on-demand resources auto provisioning.
For example, the web can use the cloud integration layer to get on-demand EC2 resources for a specific point when a complex calculation occurs. In a superficial glance, the fact that the cloud API used as a part of the application run-time script holds an enormous lock-in risks. I disagree and let me explain why.
As a market leader, Amazon AWS will be (already is) followed by other IaaS vendors. Those will solve the same scalability and operational issues by the same sense and logic of AWS. Basically this means an evolution of IaaS platform standards. Smart cloud integration layer will enable “plug & play” a different IaaS platform or even orchestrate several in parallel. To strengthen my point I bring as an example several cloud start-ups (solving IaaS issues such as governance, usage and security) that developed their product to solve issues for Amazon AWS consumers and seriously target support of other IaaS vendors’ platforms such as Rackspace cloud and vCloud. In regards to lock-in the public cloud is great !
The IaaS vendors in the market recognize the common lock-in drawback of moving to the cloud. Vendors such as Rackspace brings the OpenStack which is a cloud software platform, so cloud vendors can build IaaS solutions upon it. Rackspace showing off on their blog site –
OpenStack™ is a massively scalable cloud operating system, powering the world’s leading clouds. Backed by more than 50 participating organizations, OpenStack is quickly becoming the industry standard for public and private clouds. Read More
It should be noted that applications and data switching between clouds is still complex and in some cases not feasible though believing in the public cloud’s future comes with understanding of its weak lock-in and will lead to visionary and long term strategic plans.
What about the private IaaS ?
Following my on going research on what is the best cloud option (i.e public, private or hybrid), I found that outsourcing the IT environment to a private or an hybrid includes a major lock-in. Implementation of a private or an hybrid cloud includes lots of customization, hence lack of standards. Private and Hybrid clouds have their benefits though lock-in is not one of them. The contract with the vendor is for 3 to 5 years at least (a data center’s typical depreciation period) on a non standard environment leads to an extreme, long term lock-in in terms of the “on-demand world”.
In order to decrease lock-in the IaaS consumer must prove the organization need for a private cloud by planning strategically for long term. Besides the ordinary due diligence to prove the vendor strength, the contract must include termination points and creative ideas that can weaken the lock-in. For example renewal of initial contract under re-assessing of the service standards, costs and terms in comparison with the cloud market, including the public one. The private cloud vendor must prove on-going efficiency improvements and costs reductions accordingly.
“by vendors to lock in their customers to particular cloud architecture and non-portable solutions, and heavy reliance on proprietary APIs. Lock-in drives costs higher and undermines the savings that can be achieved through technical efficiency. If not carefully managed, we risk taking steps backwards, even going toward replicating the 1980s, where users were heavily tied technologically and financially into one IT framework and were stuck there.”
Some of the private cloud offering today have similar characteristics as the traditional data center, to me it seems that the former comes with a stronger lock-in impacts. In case of an IT transition companies who decide to go that way should expect a considerable switching costs and long term recovery of their IT operations hence of their business.
The second part will discuss the cloud lock-in characteristics in regards to the SaaS and the PaaS layers.