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Is as-a-Service in it’s ascendancy or decline?

The classic work of English historical literature “The Decline and Fall of Roman Empire” is a book written by the English historian Edward Gibbon, which traces the trajectory of Western civilization from the height of the Roman Empire to the fall of Byzantium.   I’m using this comparison to bring to light discussions that my team and I have conducted over the past few years on the topic of as- a-Service (IaaS, PaaS, SaaS, etc.) in the Public and Private Clouds.

Shifting your workloads to the cloud, whether public or private, looks attractive in a number of ways.  You conceptually see the gains from quick and readily available infrastructure by just clicking a button or two, your service from a new virtual machine in the cloud appears ready as you need it.   The initial gains materialize as on-demand capacity, high availability, and disaster tolerance to name a few.   What about the costs of building all of this and has anyone ever seen a positive gain?  Has anyone really seen a gain from IaaS alone?

Public and Private cloud services models are still maturing but the overall question that we are hearing, is it worth it?   We’ve come across several articles that look at the features, and functions of as-a-Service offerings (to include PaaS, IaaS, SaaS, etc) along with theoretical return on investment (ROI) of each.   What we have seen is the shift in focus that sole IaaS eventually plays into higher delivery models like BPaaS (Business Process as-a-Service),  or SaaS (Software as-a-Service) etc.   Of course the message is different between Enterprises and Service Providers where this could help focus more reliable revenue flows for Service Provider’s and a more deliberate approach for Enterprises.

In the months spent researching this, we never found a definitive paper or published research outside of system integrators or service providers that had actual projected financials for SP or Enterprise.   Also, given the financial calculations were heavily weighted on the ROI models from specific vendor equipment vs any diversity in mixed infrastructure environments.  In further calculation of the costs for IaaS, requirements from Service Providers or Enterprise do not involve simple scenarios where the predictable medium based Virtual Machine would suffice as a definitive control point for those calculations.   We’ve seen the requirements need to align in the form of complex workloads such as database and transaction processing that require more robust, and more expensive IaaS-class VMs within diverse infrastructure, distributed about multiple tiers.  Regardless of the requirements category, multiple small scale and diverse control projects are needed to gather precise cost, performance, and availability metrics to validate the real cost and ROI IaaS models.  IaaS,  for the most part, has to increase it’s service offerings to go further into areas like Virtualized Desktops (VDI),  offer enhanced security for data,  and potentially pay-per-use capacity on demand services just to name a few.  At that point, IaaS is moved from it’s rudimentary form to more of a superset like PaaS, BPaaS, SaaS, etc.  One thing to keep in mind, PaaS is very closely associated to the lower end services similar to IaaS where it’s monetization and revenue generation is almost identical.

In summary, we see the Cloud is here to stay but there is a decline in the need for just a simplistic offering of services beyond what is IaaS.  The enhanced subset of services must move away from IaaS to be more like BPaaS, SaaS and other models to cost effective.  Businesses, whether SP or Enterprise, are going to leverage those services in their market and effect significant changes in the way they operate.  The budgets that once filled groups of individual business units (speaking in the context of the Enterprise) to accommodate for their own IT presence, are now consolidated to larger capital and revenue budgets for enhanced IT subscription services that go far beyond what used to be just cloud infrastructure.

Authors:

Marc Buraczynski, Solutions Architect, Cisco Systems, Inc, Cisco Advanced Services (Boston, MA)

Chris Shockey, Solutions Architect, Cisco Systems, Inc, Cisco Advanced Services. (Seattle, WA)

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The Future of Cloud, Part 5: The Value of Integration to Cloud Services

(This is part 5 of a 7-part series sharing insights from Cisco partners about the Future of Cloud.)

“A lot of things go into building out a cloud practice that most people don’t realize until they get into it.  Because we have been a systems integrator, we know the on-premises environment very well.  That gives us an advantage over some cloud providers who may be more like service providers.  They just don’t understand the integration piece. ”

This was just one of the insights Chris Ludwig, SVP GTM Cloud and Hosted Solutions from NWN Corporation, shared with me at Cisco Live!  NWN is a provider of Cisco Powered cloud and managed services.  Their first service offering, hosted collaboration, has created substantial pull-through for the later IaaS services they have added.

Integration is an important part of a successful migration to cloud, according to Ludwig. Cisco has a whole ecosystem that has built applications to integrate with on-premises equipment.  When moving to cloud, all of these integrations still have to work.  “That was something we did a lot of research on, to make sure that all of the third party companies that we work with on-premises are going to work in the cloud.”

For NWN, the value of the Cisco partner ecosystem cannot be underestimated.  Regarding which partners to work with, Ludwig said, “We certainly look to Cisco for guidance.  We don’t want to pick a partner and then find out something doesn’t work right.

“It’s very helpful knowing that if they’re part of the ecosystem, we know that they are going to be a good partner.  That they are going to be around.  That they know how to work with the Cisco team and technology.”

You can also learn more about how providers are addressing the need for enterprise class services in the latest edition of Unleashing IT.

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Networking: Moving From Open to Closed (Part 1 of 2)

“The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”  -- William Faulkner

Networking which is built on open standards is steadily moving to closed and proprietary protocols and going back to the past of mainframes with closed architectures and technologies. With Massively Scalable Data Centers (MSDC) the compute and storage resource are increasingly being connected in proprietary ways. The networks and protocols in these MSDCs is becoming proprietary and potentially moving away from the open TCP/IP standards. And that is a very worrisome trend, not speaking as a vendor but as a networking technologist, who has been in this industry for over 20 years. Let me explain why.

The rise of MSDCs and the growing IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service) from the likes of Amazon, Microsoft, Google is well understood. This IaaS trend is causing more and more enterprises to move their infrastructure into these clouds, instead of buying and maintaining them. Obviously this is affecting networking infrastructure vendors, like Cisco, Juniper et al, and also managed service providers. The effect on infrastructure vendors is simple: their TAM is shrinking, and rapidly so. For managed service providers, the need for rich networking services, when enterprises maintained their own infrastructure, is dwindling rapidly as well. With IaaS, enterprises just need a simple connection to get to the Amazon, Microsoft and Google clouds and do not heavily depend on managed service providers. Usually the service providers such as AT&T, Verizon, Comcast are also managed service providers and are increasingly becoming cloud service providers as well to mitigate this effect and still be relevant to these enterprise customers. But, how is this making networking closed off?

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The Future of Cloud, Part 3: Transparency in the High Performance Cloud

(This is part 3 of a 7-part series sharing insights from Cisco partners about the Future of Cloud.)

At CiscoLive!, attendees had the chance to meet with many companies offering cloud services.  Dusten Tornow, Director of Infrastructure Products at OneNeck IT Solutions, shared some of his thoughts on the world of many clouds with me.

OneNeck offers a variety of services related to cloud, everything from basic collocation services to ReliaCloud, the company’s infrastructure as a service (IaaS) offering.  “ReliaCloud serves as a platform for a host of services that we can run on top of it.  We have a lot of customers migrating their enterprise workloads from on-premises onto ReliaCloud.  Then we provide managed services for them and run the whole infrastructure from start to finish.

OneNeck’s focus has been on enterprise workloads that need a high performance cloud.  Their service is a Cisco Powered service, meaning they have gone through a rigorous certification and third-party audit of their offering.  I asked him why OneNeck would choose to offer a service that has such a high bar when there are so many alternatives that don’t require an audit.

“When we decided to build out our cloud infrastructure,” said Tornow, “we knew that we wanted to align with enterprise vendors like Cisco because their technologies resonant with our customers as being high performance.  They recognize that if they were to go out and build their own cloud, it would likely look and feel a lot like what we’ve built.  Being able to be transparent with what our equipment is made out of and built upon is a huge advantage for us.

“Using the Cisco Powered reference architecture is a no-brainer.  It’s a great place to start.”

You can also learn more about how providers are addressing the need for enterprise class services in the latest edition of Unleashing IT.

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The Future of Cloud, Part 2: Adding Value to the Cloud

(This is part 2 of a 7-part series sharing insights from Cisco partners about the Future of Cloud.)

Chris Kemmerer, Director, Mobility Solutions, Verizon, had a lot to share with me at CiscoLive! “What I’m seeing this year is very transformational,” said Kemmerer. “What we’re seeing is how to take some of these foundation services and layer applications and more value on top of them.

“For example, our Cisco Powered hosted collaboration service has been very successful as we see the market shifting from premises-based phone services to cloud-base phone systems. Our traditional focus in the cloud space has been infrastructure as a service (IaaS). We’ve taken the underlying infrastructure of our IaaS platform and started to layer applications to provide software as a service (SaaS) on top of that with some key partners.”

Organizations can benefit greatly from these value-added services. “Why put your communications in the cloud? I think customers learn very quickly about the speed with which they can execute in a reliable, responsible manner. When customers are looking to stand up new locations, in the old days, it would be a month or two just for planning. Now we’re doing it in weeks.”

However, not all clouds are created equal. “Being a carrier, there’s an expectation from our customers that we are five 9s reliable, however you want to calculate that,” said Kemmerer. “The way we look at it, when we say we’re providing an enterprise-class service, it’s going to be over an application-aware network. It’s going to be secure. It’s going to offer SLAs. These are the things that, in my mind, are going to differentiate our services from say a commodity or best effort service.”

You can also learn more about how providers are addressing the need for enterprise class services in the latest edition of Unleashing IT.

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