Archive for the ‘Cloud’ Category
In the last year, Google has stampeded toward the enterprise. With advancements in Chromebooks and Chromeboxes, improved security, and incentive pricing; it’s obvious that Google is working hard to build out its portfolio of enterprise customers.
Another product that Google has been making more accessible to its business customers is its Cloud Platform. While Google has added value with new features, it is still uncertain whether or not it will be able to compete in a market dominated by Amazon AWS and Microsoft Azure.
The Google Cloud Platform is Google’s infrastructure-as-a-service where users can host and build scalable web applications. The Cloud Platform is technically a group of tools that cover the gamut of what most people need to build a business online. Currently, these are the tools that make up the Cloud Platform:
- Google App Engine
- Google Compute Engine
- Google Cloud Storage
- Google Cloud Datastore
- Google Cloud SQL
- Google BigQuery
- Google Cloud Endpoints
- Google Cloud DNS
Brian Goldfarb, head of marketing for the Google Cloud Platform, said that Google is working to leverage its “history and investments” in data centers and data processing technology to bring what they have learned to the public. The most exciting part for Goldfarb is the breadth of possibilities that the infrastructure provides for businesses.
“The beauty of being an infrastructure provider is that the use cases are, essentially, limitless,” Goldfarb said.
At the 2014 Google I/O developer conference keynote, Urs Hölzle and Greg DeMichillie announced a few more developer tools for Cloud Platform users. Google Cloud Dataflow is a way to create data pipelines that succeeds MapReduce. They also introduced a few minor tools such as Cloud Save, Cloud Debugger, and Cloud Trace.
According to James Staten, an analyst at Forrester, Google has been building its cloud offerings out for a while, but it has struggled to differentiate its products from its competitors.
“They continue to unveil some interesting things for developers, particularly those that are doing big data, which seems to be their only major differentiation as a cloud platform right now. So, they’re building on that,” Staten said.
When it comes to the numbers that Forrester has on cloud platform users, Google isn’t at the bottom of the list, but they are no where near the top five because of its lack of differentiation.
According to Goldfarb, however, Google differentiates itself in three key ways:
1. Price and performance. Google offers automatic discounting and unique aspects in its business model for the Cloud Platform.
2. Technical capability. “We are a cloud first company,” Goldfarb said. He notes that Google builds tools for their engineers to work on cloud production, which then get translated to the public-facing products.
3. Innovation. Customers will be the first to receive what Goldfarb calls “unique competitive advantages,” new technical features as soon as they are created by Google. For example, when speaking of the new Cloud Dataflow he said, “There is nothing like it in the world.”
Still, one of the primary issues is that the Google Cloud Platform wasn’t initially geared to accommodate bigger enterprises.
As a platform-as-a-service, it primarily appealed to startups as it only supported Python and didn’t have as robust an offering as needed by bigger companies. According to Staten, enterprises code not only in Python, but in PHP, Ruby, and Java as well; and if you only support one of those, it’s not very appealing.
Of course, Google has grown to accommodate other languages, and the appeal has gone up slightly; but, Staten said that Google still only has the basics. He said the real value for cloud platforms today is the ecosystem surrounding the infrastructure, and Google doesn’t yet have the ecosystem around the the Cloud Platform that it needs to be competitive.
“The battle is no longer around base infrasture-as-a-service,” Staten said. “It’s not about how many data centers you have, how fast those compute instances are and so forth. It’s all a battleground now around the services that are available above and beyond that platform and, more importantly, the ecosystem around those services.”
This is part of the reason why enterprise customers go to AWS or Azure. They go to those platforms because their peers are using it. They can draw on the experiences of their colleagues and peers for advice and best practices. Staten also notes that there are tons of available partners that many enterprises already know, and are already comfortable with. Some businesses are simply more comfortable working with companies such as Amazon, IBM, RackSpace, and Microsoft.
Still, some companies do trust their cloud offerings to Google. While its portfolio may not include as many Fortune 500 companies as some of its competitors, Google still boasts the likes of Khan Academy, Rovio, Gigya, Pulse, and Snapchat.
“Our fundamental goal with partners in the ecosystem is to empower them,” Goldfarb said.
Goldfarb noted that working with its partner ecosystem and engaging the open source community are some of Google’s highest priorities. He also believes that the heavy focus on open source is also a differentiator for Google among it competitors.
The first step, Staten said, is for Google to make a play around it’s existing products. For an ecosystem to grow and flourish, Google will need to give potential Cloud Platform customers a reason to use their other products.
“Right now if I want to build Android applications, or I want to extend the Google applications, or I want to take advantage of any Google technologies, there’s not a compelling reason for me to do that on their Cloud Platform,” he said. “In fact, it’s going to be easier, and more effective, for me to do that on Amazon or any of the other cloud platforms that are out there.”
Conversely, Google also needs to focus on getting companies that are using its other products to use the Cloud Platform as well. Google needs a sticky value proposition if they want a strong enterprise appeal. Staten mentioned that this could play out as a suite offering or something similar.
It’s not that Google has a poor reputation among business customers. The bigger issue is that most of these incumbent enterprise partners have built a deeper trust among the enterprise by working with them for so long. In order to further build trust, Google will need to take a serious look at its ad-heavy revenue model.
Staten said, “the enterprise hates advertising. So, they’re very much on the antithesis of the Google historical model.” Which means that Google will have to change its approach to accommodate more enterprise customers, so that it’s known as more than just an advertising company. That could even serve to help diversity Google’s revenue model.
Google has done a good job, so far, with much of its pricing and aggressiveness going after deals, but there are some things it can do to better its interactions with the enterprise.
“The biggest thing for Google is understanding that having a relationship with an enterprise is way different than having a relationship with a consumer,” Staten said.
What Staten believes is that Google doesn’t sell like an enterprise sales organization. Enterprise customers don’t want to operate within a consumer-style sales model. Business customers value things like a specific, named sales rep that they can easily contact.
Enterprise customer also tend to be more apt to go where they can get customized support. They need customer support that doesn’t involve getting in line behind thousand of consumers with the same questions, and they, rightfully, expect the potential for custom SLAs. But, according to Goldfarb, Google recognizes the difference between enterprise and consumer customers.
“We’ve done a lot of the last 12 months to build out or enterprise sales and services support,” Goldfarb said.
Regarding enterprise customers of the Cloud Platform, Google offers a technical account management team with the potential for business customers to get connected to a specific, named sales representative. Goldfarb also mentioned a 24/7 multi-language support system and a team of more than 1,000 people dedicated to handling enterprise accounts.
According to Staten, Google certainly can compete with AWS and Azure, but they have some catching up to do if they want to be truly competitive.
“I think they are making some progress, but they probably are not making it as fast as they think they need to in this market,” Staten said. “What they have to do is balance catching up with Amazon, with differentiating their offering. That balance is tricky, and it’s not entirely obvious where that balance is.”
What do you think? Do you think the Google Cloud Platform can compete with products like AWS and Azure? Do you think Google is doing enough to accommodate enterprise customers?
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Altabel Group – Professional Software Development
Despite ongoing concerns about compliance and governance, the public cloud offers tempting benefits for some use cases. Here are the ones worth serious consideration.
Public cloud solutions remain mired in a sea of distrust because of their inability to overcome enterprise governance and reliability concerns. Yet, these solutions are still finding inroads into enterprises if they can present specific business solutions to line of business managers who are championing them. In today’s business settings, where are public cloud solutions most likely to succeed, and what can public cloud providers learn from this adoption to enhance their chances for future adoption?
First, offer a solution that delivers economy that enterprises can’t resist!
Several public cloud solutions are gaining traction in this area. Among them are:
#1 Application testing and staging
Public cloud IaaS (infrastructure as a service) enables enterprises to forego building new data centers or expanding existing ones. They do this by offloading their application development, testing and staging to third-party cloud providers. Since they can pay a baseline subscription that increments or decrements on a pay-as-you-go basis, enterprises incur no new capital expenses and they also reduce the risk of resources that sit idle during times when application development, testing and staging activities are slow. As long as a cloud provider has governance and data protection policies that meet enterprise standards, outsourcing is an option that can be extremely attractive to CIOs and CFOs.
#2 Temporary processing and storage needs
During peak processing times like the holiday retail season, enterprises can increment processing and storage by “renting” the resources they need from the cloud. The financial benefit is much the same as it is for application testing and staging.
#3 Data archiving
Again assuming that the cloud provider can meet corporate governance standards, some enterprises are opting to offload historical data from their data centers to the cloud. This assumes that the data will not be needed for big data trends analytics, and is for long term storage purposes only.
#4 Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI)
The jury is still out on VDI, which began as a “hot” idea to reduce office software licensing fees, but resulted in both performance and management issues for VDI–but it is still on corporate CIOs’ radars.
Next, offer a solution that solves an issue that enterprises can’t solve on their own!
#5 Supplier management
ERP (enterprise requirements planning system) was designed for internal processes and operational integration within the walls of the enterprise. Unfortunately, businesses going global need to manage thousands of suppliers worldwide through a series of external business processes and data exchanges that their internal systems are ill-suited for. A number of cloud-based providers are making a splash in the supply chain area by offering integrated networks of suppliers and companies—all with secure access to a uniform data repository.
#6 Back-office optimization
So much work has gone into revenue generation that enterprises still find themselves losing on profit margins because of inefficient back-office operations that eat up profits, and that they can’t seem to fix. Especially in industries like brokerage and financial services, there are now cloud-based analytics solutions that determine where back-office “profit bleed” is occurring—and stop it.
#7 Sales force management
Field-based operations like sales are another example of an external business function that is difficult for traditional enterprise systems to address. A plethora of cloud-based solutions are being utilized by enterprises that enable real time access to sales management and customer relationship management systems, giving everyone in sales, marketing, service and the C-Suite 360-degree visibility of the customer and of sales progress.
#8 Project management and collaboration
Project management activities in enterprises have suffered for years because of inefficient and monolithic project management systems that depended on a central project administrator to keep tasks updated as information came in. Needless to say, the accuracy of project status suffered—often spelling disaster for project timelines and deliverables. Now there are cloud-based solutions that link together every project participant and stakeholder, enabling real time updates to projects and real time collaboration that project managers have never seen before.
While these use cases are promising for public cloud providers, it doesn’t change the fact that many public cloud providers are still struggling to attain the market shares they want because of continuing enterprise skepticism over the strength of their governance—and their ability to deliver solutions that are significantly better than what the enterprise already has. No doubt, these perceptions will continue to haunt public cloud providers in the near term. This makes it more important than ever to fill a need that enterprises can’t meet—or to deliver a cost savings proposition that is so compelling that it is impossible to ignore.
Posted October 19, 2013on:
The pundits would have you believe there is a popular debate and a difficult decision among IT architects – whether to go with a private cloud deployment, public cloud deployment, or a hybrid combination. They say the decision comes down to factors that are individual to each organization. But the truth is, there really is no debate at all (at least there shouldn’t be).
Private cloud is inefficient. It is built on a model that encourages bad overprovisioning. In fact in order to get maximum benefit from private cloud – true elasticity – you have to overprovision. The public cloud, on the other hand, is the most widely applicable and delivers the most value to a majority of businesses.
Here is why the public cloud should be your only consideration:
#1 The need for regulatory compliance. Security or privacy regulations and audits are often years behind the industry, but their rules can be challenged. We’ve seen customers exceeding auditors’ expectations, make a case for their architecture, and win the day, providing them with all the benefits of a public cloud architecture with all the security needed by common regulatory requirements, even HIPAA, SOX, or DOD standards. This is hard to replicate with private clouds, because with internal data protection you are going to have internal SLAs and internal compliance checklists, which require frequent upkeep, higher costs and a more complicated infrastructure.
#2 Start-up companies need the public cloud. These companies are often involved in development with uncertain requirements. They don’t know what they might need day-to-day. And many can be on a very tight timeline to get their products to market. These situations mandate a public cloud deployment, like AWS, where more or less resources can be configured and absorbed in a matter of minutes. While they might maintain a small infrastructure onsite, the majority of their infrastructure simply has to be in the public cloud.
#3 Security needs to be a primary concern for any cloud-based deployment. Web and cloud security can change very quickly; and some perceive a public cloud infrastructure to be more vulnerable than a private cloud, but that’s actually a misconception. A private cloud allows IT to control the perimeter; but it’s also responsible for staying on top of a rapidly shifting security landscape and making all required fixes, updates, and upgrades. Public clouds take care of all that. Data is protected by both managed security on a software and physical level, since large-scale data centers like those used by public cloud providers have state-of-the-art security. For example, more than half of the U.S. Government has moved to the public cloud; and surprisingly the banking industry holds the most activity (64 percent) in the public cloud – over social media, online gaming, photo applications, and file sharing. [IT Consultants’ Insight on Business Technology, NSK Inc., "7 Statistics You Didn’t Know About Cloud Computing."]
#4 The need for redundancy and disaster recovery. To truly make a private cloud redundant, you need to host virtual mirrors of the entire infrastructure across multiple hosted providers, which can be public clouds themselves. To keep it completely private, organizations need to run those data centers itself – a vastly expensive proposition. There really isn’t a better choice for this scenario than a well architected cloud deployment. Taking AWS as an example, this cloud can be incredibly redundant if you take advantage of its lesser known features. Region-to-region redundancy, for instance, means the infrastructure is backed up not just in different data centers in the same general region (like the US Northeast, for example), but also in a second, removed region (such as the Pacific Northwest). Many AWS customers don’t even consider this and feel that multiple zones in the same region are enough. That’s possible, but opting for region-to-region puts data and virtual infrastructure in two very different locations, and should anything happen to one, the odds are very small that anything happened to the other. AWS can get very granular with such deployments, too, offering around the world redundancy and even ensuring that certain data centers are located on different seismic plates. This can be mirrored with a private cloud deployment, but the cost is colossal.
#5 Which brings us to the issue of cost. Budget is, of course, a huge factor in this decision and becomes a highly individual consideration with multiple factors that can affect a decision. Companies with large amounts of infrastructure already installed might find it cheaper to implement a private cloud, since in many cases they already have not only the hardware but also the operating systems and management tools required to build a private cloud. But the flip side is that hardware infrastructure, and the demands made on it by software, especially operating systems, changes about every 3-5 years.
Public cloud deployments are entirely virtual, which means the hardware hosting those virtual machines is irrelevant because it’s on the provider to keep that infrastructure current. That represents significant cost savings long term. Smaller companies that need to stretch their investment as far as it can go will see those benefits right away. These organizations will be very attracted to not only the infrastructure services offered by the public cloud, but also the application-level services offered by partners and other customers of providers like AWS. In this case, an organizations is not only deploying servers in the cloud, it’s feeding end-user applications on a subscription basis, bypassing the cost of software licensing, deployment, and updating. That’s very attractive to companies that want to be agile, regardless of the size of the company, with limited IT resources, and even companies who analyze their annual expenditures and find a public cloud deployment compares favorably to that cost.
Most IT professionals and market researchers contend that while the majority of businesses today are eyeing a hybrid deployment, that’s really because they’re being conservative. Yet we know that data centers are a single point of failure. So can we really afford to be conservative? How many private cloud deployments are fully redundant across multiple physical buildings on separate flood plains and earthquake zones? For the small group that has implemented full redundancy at the data center level – try asking for their hypervisor license bill and their maintenance and support labor costs.
Private vs. public is a hot debate among technical circles, but in most cases, taking a long, careful look at the public cloud will show it to be the best-case answer. Is successful private cloud deployment possible? Of course. Is it efficient? No.
Developers are in a unique position to educate and to capitalize on cloud opportunities. Unlike learning new programming techniques or Frameworks, cloud learning moves beyond development. There are infrastructure aspects to consider as well as potential organizational process and policy changes. However, developers know the application and cloud administration is a much lower bar, than, for example network administration. If you’re looking for a strategy to follow to cloud enlightenment; you’re reading the right article.
Give the Cloud a Whirl
When it comes to the cloud, don’t wait for the storm to hit you, but rather educate yourself; there is no substitute for experimentation and hands-on experience. Start by separating reality from marketing. Almost every cloud vendor offers a free trial. For example: Microsoft Azure offers a free trial. If you are truly new to cloud development; imagine borrowing a company server for 3 months; only there is no setup time. Just turn in on and away you go.
Given that experimentation time is limited; go for breadth rather than depth. Get a taste of everything. What most developers find is; after some initial orientation and learning the experience becomes what they already know. For example: Azure has an ASP.NET based hosting model called Web Roles. After configuring and learning Web Role instrumentation, the development experience is ASP.NET. Learning Azure Web Roles amounts to learning some new administration and configuration skills; coupled with a handful of new classes. The rest of what you need to know is nothing new if you’ve done ASP.NET!
Developer must keep their time constrained. Struggling for hours with something new is often not worth the effort. One should question wide adoption of something that will be difficult to work with. Cloud offerings are typically not niche or differentiating skills like, for example, SQL Server tuning.
Whatever cloud option a developer starts with; understand the authentication options. Intranet developers typically take authentication for granted. ASP.NET makes authentication look easy. Consider all the moving parts involved in making authentication automatic and secure. Understanding authentication is especially important if parts of an application will live within the organization’s datacenter and within the cloud provider.
Finally, look for the right opportunities to apply these new skills.
Navigating the Fog
Most developers are adept at picking when to jump on new technology and when to pull back. Unlike adopting, for example, a new Web Services approach; adopting a cloud option entails learning a little more administration. The cloud can give a developer total control, but the cost is learning a bit more administration.
Developers may find themselves in new territory here. Typically a “hardware person” selects a machine and a “network person” selects and configures a firewall. Cloud portals make network and server configuration easier, but the portal doesn’t eliminate the configuration role. The public cloud handles the hardware; but the developer must choose, for example, how many; CPUs, servers, and load balancers will be needed. This lowers the administration bar, but also might place the burden on the developer.
The cloud will not be the right option for every project. Give the cloud a fair chance. Decision makers may have two reactions to cloud; outright rejection or wild-eyed embrace. Neither reaction is healthy. There is middle-ground. Don’t let unrealistic expectations set by marketing brochures guide the first project. A developer’s experiences described earlier in the article will be helpful here. Set the bar low. Make the first experience a good experience.
Supplementing with the Cloud
One potential approach is to supplement with the cloud. Let the cloud handle some part of the application. For example: requirements may dictate a web page to handle user registration. Registrations often have deadlines and, given human nature, people often procrastinate. Registration traffic is likely to spike the week or a few days before the deadline. Rather than purchasing servers to accommodate the spike; leaving usage idle for most of the year, do registration in the cloud. Dial up more servers the week before registrations are due and dial the server could back down the week after registrations are due.
Aside from technical change; cloud adoption may require organizational change.
Clouds Don’t Work in a Vacuum
I would bet good money that most developers reading this article have no idea which ports in their organization are closed to incoming TCP/IP connections. However knowing who to ask is far more important than what is known. In some sense every organization is its own private cloud. Networking professionals have been connecting things together longer than developers. Internet performance is considerably different than Intranet performance. Cultivate relationships with whoever operates your Firewall.
Passing through a Firewall is overhead. Your organization’s infrastructure may not be cloud ready. Though if your network people banter about DMZs; chances are your organization’s infrastructure is probably cloud ready. As stated earlier authentication is important to cover; forcing users to authenticate multiple times within an application is intolerable to most users.
Budgeting for servers may be different than budgeting for compute cycles. There may be concern over whether compute cycles will amount to more than purchasing a server or two. There is no shortcut here. Just like any other budgeting a developer must do the math. Again, this may be new territory for developers. Typically developers aren’t asked how much storage an application requires. Typically the storage cost is spread throughout the projects an organization conducts. Budgeting difficulties may be a good reason not to do a project. The upside is; after doing the math a developer will likely find that costs are far below buying the hardware.
The cloud gives a developer control over all components from administration to assemblies. Added control comes with a price. A developer must venture into some new territory. This article provided a path to follow.
What is your opinion on cloud opportunities? Is it worth to give a trial? What is your personal experience in adopting a cloud option? Maybe you have some thoughts to share!