It seems that the cloud has become such a common facet of the enterprise that the industry is starting to refer to it is a standard mode of data center functionality rather than an exotic new technology poised to upend everything we know about infrastructure.
And as such, it is natural to wonder who is going to dominate this new state of being, or indeed, will anyone?
Time Warner’s Navisite research arm recently released its latest survey highlighting many of the same trends that have been illuminated in the past: Namely, cloud adoption is growing but security and compliance remain top issues, particularly when weighing in-house solutions against public services. Most telling, however, is the finding that one-third of organizations have moved at least half of their workloads to the cloud, primarily to IaaS infrastructure deployed on private resources. For the traditional data center vendor community, this is about the best news that has come along in a while because it indicates that there will still be a diverse, vibrant, customer base even as hyperscale infrastructure emerges as a key component of the data ecosystem.
The question then becomes, who is in the best position to capitalize on the enterprise desire to build its own cloud? According to Synergy Research Group, the chief rivalry is shaping up to be HP vs. Cisco. Both companies are aggressively targeting the cloud infrastructure space, and both have the resources to make life miserable for the other. At the moment, Cisco has about 15 percent of the market while HP is close behind at 13 percent, although when you parse the data the picture is a bit more mixed. Cisco, naturally, has the lead in networking solutions while HP is tops in servers, and both are vying aggressively for each other’s turf.
Meanwhile, IBM is taking a completely different tack by shedding its server hardware line so it can concentrate more on the service side of the cloud. Analytics is now a top priority at the company in that it allows the enterprise to make more efficient use of both hardware and the software-based architectures that are emerging in the cloud. No matter how much we talk about “the” cloud, most organizations will incorporate many clouds, both internal and external, so IBM has set its sights on workload analysis and automation as a means to seamlessly shift workloads across disparate infrastructures.
Of course, we shouldn’t forget Microsoft in all this. In a way, the company has an easier time than most considering that software is a lot more flexible than hardware when it comes to tapping into new markets. In Microsoft’s case, the company is doing its best to leverage its installed Windows base for the Azure cloud, and we would probably be talking about a new era for Redmond if Amazon hadn’t gotten out of the gate first. Still, the company needs to walk a fine line between developing new cloud services and infrastructure and losing its hold on legacy systems due to poorly planned upgrades (ahem, Vista).
It seems clear, though, that even in the cloud, many of today’s data infrastructure providers will continue to be the primary drivers of innovation. This isn’t to say that some intriguing startups won’t be in the mix, but infrastructure will remain a complex and convoluted undertaking, both on the hardware and software level, and many an enterprise will find a technology partnership with an experienced vendor highly desirable, even in the cloud.
Arthur Cole writes about infrastructure for IT Business Edge. Cole has been covering the high-tech media and computing industries for more than 20 years, having served as editor of TV Technology, Video Technology News, Internet News and Multimedia Weekly. His contributions have appeared in Communications Today and Enterprise Networking Planet and as web content for numerous high-tech clients like TwinStrata, Carpathia and NetMagic.