The enterprise cloud industry is starting to take on some semblance of order as both providers and consumers gain a clearer understanding of how it is to function within the broader data ecosystem.
To be sure, there are still many questions regarding deployment, configuration, services and a host of other factors when creating individual clouds, but in general the need to establish robust hybrid infrastructure that can accommodate legacy applications and emerging services for mobile, Big Data and IoT functions is coming into focus.
This clarity is also driving much of the deal-making on both the provider and infrastructure layers, not the least of which is Amazon’s recent tie-in with VMware. As Information Week’s Charles Babcock noted recently, the deal gives Amazon something it desperately needed to combat chief rival Microsoft: a means to easily port workloads from legacy infrastructure to its largely proprietary cloud architecture. VMware fills the bill nicely because it provides the virtual format to shift workloads without bothering with a lot of hardware configuration, and it has one of the largest installed bases of enterprise customers on the planet.
Indeed, says Fortune Magazine, it’s not hard to count up all the losers in the Amazon-VMware deal: Just look at virtually anyone who is trying to provide enterprise-class services and infrastructure. This would include not only Microsoft, Google and other hyperscale providers, but IBM and a host of VMware partners in the telecom space and elsewhere through which the company was trying to build a standalone hybrid environment based on the vCloud Air platform. Now that Amazon is there to provide scale-out cloud services to VMware users, these organizations will have a tougher time differentiating themselves in an increasingly competitive marketplace.
Except, perhaps, for Microsoft. Redmond may not have as many virtualization customers as VMware, but it has an extensive reach into the enterprise operating system, and many applications benefit from a common OS at home and in the cloud as much, or even more so, than a common virtual layer. And now the company has taken the added step of integrating Docker into Windows Server 2016, giving the enterprise a strong reason to utilize the Azure cloud for emerging microservices and other highly portable applications that support collaboration, file-sharing and other tools favored by younger knowledge workers. This isn’t an exclusive deal, of course, since virtually everyone in the IT industry has been trying to cozy up to Docker in one form or another, but Microsoft has the advantage of drawing more workloads to its cloud as part of the server refresh cycle that virtually all enterprises employ.
For Google’s part, the company has committed itself to drawing more of the enterprise workload and is already out in front of the container wave with management platforms like Kubernetes, but it is hard to see how it can go up against Amazon and Microsoft without a more compelling use case. The company recently unveiled a new suite of storage services that offer low-cost archival and near-line capabilities on regional and multi-regional footprints, but with cloud pricing already at rock bottom it is unclear how this alone would draw significant enterprise migration. The one area still untapped by a major cloud provider, however, is open source infrastructure, so this may offer Google an opportunity to draw workloads from organizations that wish to avoid vendor lock-in for their abstract data architectures.
As well, this should by no means suggest that life is over for the myriad local and regional cloud providers, many of which provide highly customized services that hyperscalers cannot match. These niches could become particularly lucrative as the enterprise grows more comfortable with pushing critical workloads on the cloud, but not necessarily to a provider that tailors its offering for mass appeal rather than personalized service.
No matter who emerges as the enterprise cloud’s top dog, then, it seems clear that the overall market will provide the diversity required of a dynamic enterprise ecosystem for some time to come.
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 and Carpathia. Follow Art on Twitter @acole602.