Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Holy Trinity of Enterprise Public Cloud

It's only fair to use a religious reference when writing about the religious war public cloud computing is often subjected to in discourse.  Over the past five years we have established several immutable facts.  First, public cloud is cheaper than internal IT, period.  Second, the vast majority of security concerns surrounding public cloud are in fact nothing more than fear, uncertainty and doubt.  Third, companies cannot invest and innovate at the rate of cloud entrepreneurs and thus the gap between public and private cloud capabilities is widening at an increasing rate.  As a result the number of CIO's interested in adopting public cloud as part of their enterprise compute strategy is beginning to grow, particularly in the Fortune 1000.  It appears at this point we are down to three issues: noisy neighbor, guaranteed availability, and Internet security.

Noisy neighbors are just what you think; those neighbors who fill the air with sound disturbing the tranquility of shared spaces.  When people think of public cloud they think multi-tenant, often to the exclusion of any dedicated model.  I've heard speakers at conferences say it isn't cloud if it's not public, and it's not public cloud if it's not multi-tenant.  Such thinking created an impasse for many years as enterprise CIO's could not take the risk of having a noisy neighbor consume all the computing resources available on a given server starving out their virtual machines.  However the barriers are dropping as cloud providers are addressing the noisy neighbor concern.  Amazon AWS and Verizon Terremark for example allow users to provision environments with dedicated servers.  Of course no multi-tenancy means a higher cost, but only marginally higher and the value outweighs the increase.  As subscriptions to a dedicated model increase so will competition as others join the fray.

Guaranteed availability is a difficult requirement to address.  Enterprise CIO's are concerned that at some point when a new VM is needed the provider won't have any more space available.  It's an interesting theoretical possibility, yet like many theories it has not been proven in practice (which is why it remains a theory rather than a law).  Public cloud providers have stayed well ahead of the demand curve ensuring a steady supply of VM's available even during the incredible growth rate in cloud over the past several years.  Combine this track record with the best practice that software should be cloud agnostic capable of running on any cloud, the unlikeliness of a scenario where all providers are starved of capacity, and the availability of dedicated servers; and a starkly different reality emerges.  Done correctly, cloud guarantees greater availability than ANY company can achieve inside its four walls.

Finally we have the security concerns stemming from the use of the Internet to access public clouds.  What was true in 2010 is not true in 2013.  First we have providers such as Amazon AWS who support dedicated connections.  Although simple to understand on the surface, once the engineering is done to remove any single point of failure the implementation is quite complex.  Enter a much more sophisticated solution with AT&T NetBond, currently connecting clients via their private networks to IBM, Microsoft and CSC clouds.  NetBond eliminates the uncertainty of the Internet, connecting cloud provisioned resources seamlessly into the compute fabric of the enterprise.

Where do we stand today?  Although the market has addressed each of the individual issues of the trinity, we currently lack maturity and widespread adoption.  Few cloud providers deliver solutions to all three challenges.  Some of these solutions are new to the market with less than a year of experience under their belt.  However the change is real and we are now at the point where its time for customers to start voting with their checkbook.  In order to reach the ubiquitous cloud nirvana desired by all, the Enterprise CIO's need to start paying for all the things they've said they need in order to use public cloud.  It's time to put up and the next 24mo will determine the fate of cloud in the enterprise.  Will public cloud bring an economic argument unhinging businesses from the pace and skillset of their internal IT department?  Or will the market find new concerns to thwart progress and push the promise of public cloud further into the future?  From where I sit the die is cast.  Enterprises will find ways to adopt public cloud, and those who do so first will gain the greatest first mover advantage in the history of technology adoption.