In business, as in life, it’s always good to have choices. Unfortunately, when it comes to the cloud, IT organizations are often not given much of a choice. Many enterprises have been shoehorned into embracing the cloud service that their data users find most convenient, namely Amazon, rather than the one that makes the most business sense.
And that has turned out to be a growing problem for the enterprise. Despite the Web giant’s desire to become more enterprise friendly, its services still lack many of the management and control capabilities that large organizations require for their increasingly distributed infrastructure. On the flip side, however, no one has yet been able to match Amazon on sheer scale. Synergy Research, for one, estimates that Microsoft, Google and IMB combined measure only about two-thirds of Amazon’s user base.
But that may be about to change as new entrants—well-funded and technically savvy entrants—move into the public cloud space. The latest is Verizon, which this month took the wraps off the Verizon Cloud, which utilizes both the CloudStack protocol and the Xen hypervisor as a means to efficiently move virtual workloads across internal and external infrastructure. The service is actually built on a platform developed by Terremark, a Florida service provider that Verizon purchased about three years ago. The plan is to foster a cloud environment that is more in tune with enterprise needs, rather than those of individual users.
One of the ways it plans to do that is through multitier networking, according to technology analyst Brian Proffitt. This essentially brings multitenancy to the networking side of the cloud so that resource consumption by one user will not affect the performance of another. The system works by giving each virtual machine multiple network interfaces so applications can choose from simple client-server configurations to the more advanced presentation-business-data architectures favored by many Web applications and collaboration services. The drawback, however, is that if an app, or even the data itself, needs to switch VM’s, it has to negotiate a more complex network infrastructure, which adds latency. Verizon says it compensates for this through an ultra-flat network fabric that simplifies VM-to-VM communications, and quite frankly, if anyone has the chops to implement such a topology across a wide area, it’s Verizon.
This is certainly an innovative approach, says Gartner’s Lydia Leong, but is it enough to sway the enterprise community, which is notoriously cautious when it comes to pushing infrastructure onto public resources? If all goes according to plan, Verizon Cloud will be a true technological triumph—one that could put the company at the forefront of the professional cloud infrastructure service market. But the fact of the matter is that in many organizations, development teams control most of the IaaS purchasing, and they are usually drawn to rich feature sets and other enticements that make their jobs easier, not a bare bones architecture that needs a high level of customization. This isn’t to say that the Verizon Cloud won’t work, but that it needs to be fleshed out a little more before it can take on the likes of Amazon.
But as I said, choice is always a good thing in business, and even if Verizon does not offer everything Amazon has put in the field, it nonetheless provides a credible alternative that should keep the market leader on its toes for the time being. As we learned during the early PC era, dominance by one player in a crucial computing segment (back then it was the operating system) is not necessarily conducive to enhanced productivity in the community at large.