Enterprise Vendor or Cloud Provider: Who Makes the Better Partner?

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    When you’re an enterprise looking to move critical, or even marginally important, workloads into the cloud, is it better to go with a cloud vendor looking to expand into the enterprise or an enterprise vendor looking to expand into the cloud?

    The difference could be crucial. With the former, you get a company that is well-versed in where you want to go, but with the latter you get someone who knows where you’re coming from.

    Amazon is the first name that comes to mind when pondering the public cloud, and there is a reason why it is far and away the leading provider at the moment. It has world-class infrastructure that scales beyond any other single platform, and the company has proven itself to be highly flexible and adaptable to changing market conditions. But as SiliconANGLE’s Paul Gillin notes, the company is not without flaws. For one thing, there are no bare-metal options in the Amazon cloud, which is a bit of a deal-breaker when it comes to mission-critical workloads. Also, the company has stiff-armed OpenStack, Cloud Foundry and other open solutions that support hybrid cloud architectures – so when you sign with Amazon, you’re pretty much placing yourself entirely in their hands alone for your cloud needs.

    The key difference between AWS and hybrid solutions like vCloud Air is control, says TechRepublic’s Keith Townsend. Amazon essentially removes IT from the infrastructure-deployment process, handing it over to developers in the interests of speed and flexibility. vCloud maintains more of a traditional enterprise setting built on the company’s vSphere virtual platform. Naturally, Amazon is more disruptive to long-time enterprise processes, and thus requires more of a learning curve as workers become accustomed to the new environment. In the end, however, both platforms aim to deliver IT infrastructure that is flexible and forward-leaning, although neither has seen particularly strong growth in the enterprise so far.

    Enterprise vendors are also teaming up in a number of ways to either produce the kind of infrastructure that Amazon brings to the table or deliver value-added services that Amazon has not mastered. Fresh from pulling the plug on its own Helion public cloud, HP Enterprise has tapped Microsoft as a new strategic partner in a deal that will likely put more low-cost HP servers on the Azure Cloud. Both companies are part of the Open Compute Project, notes InformationWeek’s Charles Babcock, and both have substantial on-premises IT installations across the globe, which makes for a potentially powerful hybrid cloud combination.

    But perhaps the biggest spoiler in the enterprise cloud wars is Google. The company has admittedly struggled in its efforts to become a significant rival to Amazon in the consumer cloud, but enterprise markets are still largely untapped and the company is starting to sound like it is serious about supporting professional workloads. In recent months, Google has released a number of enterprise-class services like the BigQuery and Dataflow analytics platforms and is now concentrating on putting these and other tools in the hands of business users. To that end, the company has brought in industry veteran Diane Greene, co-founder and former CEO of VMware, to head up its enterprise cloud business.

    Like all decisions regarding infrastructure, cloud choices will come down largely to the type of workload being supported, the required level of integration with legacy systems and a host of other factors. So there are no easy answers when it comes to cloud providers versus IT vendors.

    But the level of abstraction emerging on enterprise platforms across the board is producing a high degree of flexibility when deciding where, when and how critical data functions are to be supported. And this makes it much easier to tweak deployment strategies, or start over from scratch, once real-world operating conditions come into play.

    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.

    Arthur Cole
    Arthur Cole
    With more than 20 years of experience in technology journalism, Arthur has written on the rise of everything from the first digital video editing platforms to virtualization, advanced cloud architectures and the Internet of Things. He is a regular contributor to IT Business Edge and Enterprise Networking Planet and provides blog posts and other web content to numerous company web sites in the high-tech and data communications industries.

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