Infrastructure as a service (IaaS) is growing in popularity within the enterprise market, providing a convenient solution for increasing data loads and shrinking IT budgets.
But the enterprise is not the only one benefitting from this trend. Top platform developers like Oracle and Microsoft are also looking to IaaS to shore up their fortunes in the face of shrinking hardware and software sales.
Take Oracle, for example. The company recently launched a new IaaS strategy that allows the enterprise to deploy Oracle servers and other systems on site and then lease the capacity cloud-style, with enough headroom to handle bursts in traffic should the need arise. The strategy works on a number of levels in that it provides Oracle with an outlet to move new hardware while still allowing the enterprise to shift the cost of infrastructure from capex to opex. At the same time, the enterprise is able to build a highly dynamic private cloud infrastructure that provides both flexibility and security.
In Microsoft’s case, the company has been fairly successful at building IaaS capabilities into its Azure cloud, and has even taken steps to allow users to deploy non-Microsoft solutions, such as Linux OS. At the same time, it has added Big Data platforms like Hadoop to give the enterprise a fighting chance against large-volume data loads. The company’s cloud strategy may prove critical, given that the new virtual layer sitting atop raw hardware means the OS is no longer the arbiter of enterprise productivity. And if anyone stands a chance of breaking Amazon’s dominance on the cloud, it’s Microsoft.
Indeed, if there is a weakness in Amazon’s cloud strategy, it’s the enterprise, according to Virtustream chairman Rodney Rogers. AWS may own the public cloud market at the moment, but most enterprise deployments rest with simple storage or test and development. Once demand for real business applications mounts, Amazon may find that developers who have been working on the enterprise level for years — HP, IBM, Microsoft, etc. — will be able to match AWS on scale and seriously out-class it when it comes to actual services. Remember, in the enterprise performance always trumps infrastructure.
All this may be well and good for the vendor community, but how is the enterprise supposed to tell the difference between a solid IaaS partner and a pretender? According to tech consultant Matthew Ramsey, of LimeLight Technology Solutions, issues like bandwidth and capacity are important, but success or failure can often hinge on the smaller details, such as content delivery, database management and the ability to scale dynamically. And before you even get started, check into how well the provider accommodates data migration.
For both the vendor community and the enterprise, IaaS represents equal parts challenge and opportunity. The improvement in hardware utilization will lower infrastructure costs for the enterprise, which will hit vendors on the bottom line. But the expansion of infrastructure services will generate new revenue streams even as it enhances productivity and data flexibility for users.
In the end, though, IaaS will likely become the dominant data support platform precisely because it is both better and cheaper, regardless of any pain it causes in the interim.