The enterprise is anxious to push more of its workload onto the cloud even as it strives to overcome many of the lingering trust issues that accompany the adoption of third-party infrastructure.
And while security remains a top concern, it goes much deeper than that. Particularly when critical data is on the line, most CIOs are rightly concerned about reliability, availability and provisioning the kinds of enterprise-class services that have driven data productivity over the past decade or more.
Naturally, the cloud industry is anxious to get over these hurdles, as they represent the last barrier to widespread adoption of their services. And for many providers who have already lost the consumer market to Amazon, the enterprise is the next big opportunity, and its demand for advanced functions promises to drive higher revenue streams than low-cost, commodity storage and processing.
In order to provide advanced services in the cloud, of course, it helps if you have experience providing them in the data center. This is where companies like IBM, HPE and Dell hope to shine even as they transition away from the lucrative hardware lines that fueled their data center businesses for so many years. IBM recently deployed Apple’s Swift language for server-side programming on its enterprise cloud platform, a move that not only makes it easier to integrate app development tools into cloud-based environments, but fosters the use of those services within the apps themselves. As knowledge workers increasingly adopt smartphones and tablets, particularly the iPhone and iPad, as their preferred client devices, integrating app development and usage into the cloud will become a key determinant as enterprises decide which cloud to align with. (Disclosure: I provide writing and content services to IBM.)
Other providers are targeting key functions like email as a means of drawing enterprise customers. Microsoft has successfully leveraged its Office ecosystem on the Azure cloud to garner more email traffic than rivals like Google, particularly from large entities with diverse workforces, according to Gartner. Microsoft has also been more cognizant of the data sovereignty issue that hampers cloud growth in regions like Europe. By storing data in clients’ host countries, Microsoft allows them to avoid many of the disclosure and privacy rules that kick in when data crosses international boundaries. Still, the cloud email market is wide open, as Gartner estimates that 87 percent of organizations still rely on on-premises servers or local hosting companies.
This, of course, is where the legions of smaller cloud providers hope to make their mark in the age of Amazon, Google and other hyperscalers – not just with email but other critical functions like storage. SoftLayer recently deployed the Isilon scale-out-NAS platform to enable a single, scalable, shared file-based storage pool that can extend across geographic regions. The platform features the OneFS operating system capable of supporting a wide range of enterprise functions, such as server and desktop virtualization, transactional workload support and disaster recovery, all of which can be scaled dynamically for delivery on an as-needed basis.
The need for high scalability and advanced feature support is also the reason many enterprises are gravitating toward private and hybrid clouds. A report from Washington, D.C. research firm Clutch showed that 90 percent of enterprises are planning to increase their cloud spend in the coming year, with public services seeing the brunt of basic storage and raw processing of non-critical workloads. For the more important stuff, which usually requires less scale but higher levels of services, organizations are more willing to endure the time and expense to set up their own internal or shared clouds, says researcher Alex Miller in an interview with Computerworld. If cloud vendors want more of that action, they will have to start achieving parity with what the enterprise already receives from their home-grown infrastructure.
To be sure, many start-ups are going the all-cloud route, building entire virtual data centers on hosted, distributed architectures. In many cases, however, this works until business takes off and the real cost of leasing by the GB or processor core starts to kick in.
In all likelihood, most organizations will eventually settle into an equilibrium of sorts between local and third-party infrastructure, hopefully with deployments matching the requirements of the workload. In a world of diverse data applications and ever-shifting traffic, it’s at least comforting to know that there is a variety of solutions, both at home and in the cloud, for handling whatever comes along.
Working Toward the Enterprise Cloud