Cloud Computing, a Vendor Survey

In my last two postings, I discussed the definition, some of the major factors and the Pros and Cons about cloud computing.  This posting will highlight five (5) vendors who claim to offer cloud computing.

Please note, there are hundreds of vendors proposing to offer cloud computing. I have  selected five vendors and reviewed them at a very high level to see how they address our major considerations/filters (costs/capital expenditures, scale, instant access, business applications).   So as you read ask yourself if these vendors meet the minimum criteria for cloud computing

Microsoft’s Azure – Windows Azure offers an environment for developers (Web, ISV, business. etc.)  to create cloud applications and services.  So right off the bat; Azure is a developer’s “kit” not actual cloud provider. Microsoft’s Azure pricing is consumption based (usage) and they offer a SLA agreement (could not find any details).  Part of Microsoft cloud computing developer’s platform will be incorporated in data centers for off- premise applications for the final end user. 

 Callidus Software – Bring Sales into the Picture

Callidus, who provides Sales Performance Management (SPM) software, is expanding its suite on the Force.com platform to offer entire sales life-cycle from on-boarding deployment and payment, to talent development, while providing visibility into sales operations and financial performance. Basically this is an enhancement of SPM and it is supported by a “cloud” environment that provides scalability and uniform access.

 
 Rackspace – Fanatics about cloud computing

Rackspace’s offering is usage based ($10.95/mo or 1.5¢/hr) with no long-term contract AND free technical support.   One can scale up & down at any time and access the cloud via Open Source APIs. Bandwidth is available for 7¢/GB in and 22¢/GB out.

According to Rackspace it is a three (3) step process; 1-Select your size of the cloud, 2-then the operating systems and 3- the rest is done by Rackspace    One note about their SLA guarantee. Cloud Files service will be available 99.9% of the time in a given billing cycle; if not you get a credit on your next bill.   Personally, this is not a good SLA component. 

 Zetta – Enterprise Cloud Storage on Demand

Zetta claims to provide cloud on – demand (scale) with pay (Zetta Enterprise Cloud Storage pricing starts at $0.25/GB/month) as you go. Zetta provides a Total Cost of ownership calculator so you can quickly compare your current costs to Zetta managed storage costs.  Along with the performance is performance assurance (assume some sort of SLA).  Not sure about instant access to business applications.

Stratascale – The world’s first physical cloud

They provide servers, firewalls and storage that are scalability (4 levels of clouds, which consist of 70GB/server, 1 Gbps bandwidth between servers, secure and reliability).  I did not find anything about their pricing structure or SLA agreements, so no comments.

This is really a hosted/managed service for servers with fire walling. Not sure how far they can scale and where are the business applications.

Bottom line, given this was a random sample: technically, none of these met all of the criteria for being a cloud computing vendor.  Most are offering some sort of storage/server solution with some uniqueness like added security or a management tool. Their specific offering may well meet a foundation or infrastructure component; but one would still have to find other vendors to help provide the complete solution.  Given this situation the pros might not outweigh the cons in your decision process.

Lesson learned, do a complete due diligence before you sign on the dotted line.

Happy researching in the cloud or it pays to keep your head in the clouds!

 

RHL   3/3/10

14 comments to Cloud Computing, a Vendor Survey

  • Jason Sherron

    Hi,

    (Disclaimer: I’m a MSFT employee, but I’m writing this reply on my own.)

    First, thanks for the preceding articles and the survey of the market — I learned of a few offerings here that I didn’t know. I think your research and taxonomy is solid for the most part.

    However, I have to take issue with your assertion that “Azure is a developer’s ‘kit’ not actual cloud provider”. On the contrary, while MSFT offers a strong Windows Azure SDK and development environment in Visual Studio, that’s only a fraction of the broader service offering from Windows Azure.

    Let’s use your own definitions:

    “Cloud computing consists of shared computing resources that are virtualized and accessed as a service, through an API.”

    This fits Windows Azure to a tee. We’re already agreed that Windows Azure offers an API/dev kit; you can deploy your Azure-targeted application to the Windows Azure infrastructure on demand. The environment offers service including (but not limited to) compute instances, table and blob storage, and Content Delivery Network services that you can consume as you needed, scaling up or down. They may or may not be shared/virtualized but frankly you as the service consumer doesn’t care.

    “…Cloud computing is like the lawn care company; all the hardware (except for some form of a terminal), applications and services are in the internet cloud.”

    This is absolutely true about Windows Azure. You develop your application and deploy it to the Windows Azure platform. You can manage your application through the portal, APIs and config files, or even the new PowerShell CmdLets — but at no point do you have to install any sort of physical hardware on your premises.

    “With cloud computing you not only can scale but you only pay for what you are actually using.”

    Again, on Windows Azure, you pay for the compute instances and egress, and other optional services if you choose.

    “Instant access; again in the current environment, applications might not be available or limited to the number of users it can support or not even exist.”

    I see this as two points — first, instant deployment; you can deploy a Windows Azure-targeted app from the portal and it is brought up live in a matter of minutes — that’s agility for a new project or business. Second, I think you’re getting at access to “scale on demand”, to avoid failures during demand spikes due to lack of capacity. Again, repeating myself, this is completely true on Windows Azure. You can add/remove capacity on demand.

    “Costs; your capital expenditures decrease considerably and you are paying on a usage basis, thus you are maximizing on your returns. For small businesses the barrier to entry is greatly reduced and thus one can compete with larger enterprises, by using the same applications.”

    You can start on an introductory price plan and ramp up any time you like on Windows Azure. I use it for my own personal uses outside of work, and my bill can range from $0.00/mo to much more depending on what I’ve used it for each month. That offers businesses flexibility as you discussed.

    Anyway, enough of the point-by-point discussion from me — do you specifically disagree with any response?

    Again, I’m not disagreeing with your taxonomy or discussion of the benefits — I agree with them — but I’d love to hear if there are other reason that you think that Windows Azure doesn’t fit your model, along with another big player in the field, Amazon EC2/S3.

    Finally, sorry that you had trouble finding them, but here are the relevant Windows Azure SLAs.

    http://www.microsoft.com/windowsazure/sla/

    Jason

  • Jason

    Jason, many thanks for your reply to my post regarding “Cloud Computing, a Vendor Survey.” It is always nice to get additional information from people closer to the topic.

    As for your question “do I agree or disagree with you?” I think the answer is more of interpretation then disagreement. Let me explain.

    One example is access to business applications, meaning a small or medium size enterprise that can not afford an ERP or SAP or Siebel application, but can, in theory, via the cloud access these applications on a usage cost basis and thus be competitive with the big boys while staying within their budget. End users, not developers, are looking at cloud computing for access to business applications, not developing them and moving them onto the cloud.

    Another interpretation is security, we all know that the Internet still has some security issues and thus it stands to reason that cloud computing has these and other issues yet to be discovered. An article in Network World that covered the RSA Conference, says that Brian Snow, a former technical director at NSA, is very concerned about vendors who not only are not fixing current security risks but are not addressing new areas of security risk that cloud computing has opened up. Vendors like Microsoft need to provide a variety of security functions including privacy, compliance, legal and disaster recovery just to name a few, in order for cloud computing to be viable. So again I think vendors have a way to go before they can say they offer true cloud computing.

    The last area of interpretation is in the area of SLA’s. SLA’s for cloud computing needs to cover a lot more then just connectivity or availability, both from the providers and users point of view. This, like security, still needs a lot more work

    Again thanks for the comments and I sure we will all get to cloud computing as areas are addressed and formalized.

  • Jason Sherron

    Dick,

    We’re actually in agreement on those points.

    The use of “software as a service” (particularly apps like ERP and large suites like you mention) offer small/med businesses access to capabilities they might never have been able to afford. As you state, this is “end users” (who I’d roughly define as “CIOs”) who need a business software package. Naturally, SalesForce.com comes to mind, and I myself have been a user of the Microsoft Dynamics CRM package on a hosted environment.

    This mode of “cloud” delivery is parallel to “primitives” like Windows Azure and Amazon EC2 where, as you rightly call out, developers are looking to build and deploy custom logic, and CIOs look to change from capital to operating expenses for their application delivery. This is no more or less “cloud” than the SaaS model, IMHO.

    We’re absolutely in agreement that all forms of “cloud” computing bring with them a host of new security and availability concerns. It’s part of what makes it so hard! You named a couple of areas — compliance and legal — that we hear from customers all the time. Every customer is different, and every service will have different capabilities, so customers (developers, CIOs, and their legal teams) will need to parse out what is an acceptable level of risk. (I doubt that any provider will ever be able to check EVERY box for compliance etc. Having been through PCI audits before, I can guess that some providers will opt to invest in this, while others won’t, for example.)

    I do take minor issue with your implication that the providers specifically “own” availability (you said “disaster recovery). I 100% agree that every service provider needs to offer clear SLAs and state what they do and do not offer (as well as publish good, transparent incident reports/RCAs), but ultimately it *is* the responsibility of any application architect to “own” their availability. This means deeply understanding your execution environment and designing a system that meets your requirements for performance and availability. (This is no different from dedicated hardware, etc.) Just because you start using “cloud” doesn’t liberate you from your responsibility of proper design. (To quote an old boss, pointing at an SLA is meaningless when you’re losing money and goodwill by the second; making sure your app is up is what your management cares about, and you cannot abdicate this duty on any system.)

    Jason Sherron

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