Vendors such as Google, Microsoft and Oracle are increasingly bending to give customers public cloud in their own data centres, but will it ever be suitable for everyone?
Whilst public cloud vendors such as Amazon Web Services, Microsoft and Google are dominating headlines and revenues alike with some serious growth, how do their strategies fit in with the enterprises and businesses that need flexible, hybrid cloud solutions to not only be able to cater for various customer needs but adhere to legal and regulatory cloud privacy laws?
This battle for the enterprise customer has heated up somewhat over the last few months.
Google, during its annual cloud gathering in San Francisco in March, spent a number of days explaining how new innovations on its Google Cloud Platform can directly benefit business users.
Enterprise cloud battle
Google is, depending on how you look at it, the third or fourth in the public cloud computing race.
Whilst already counting a large number of Fortune 500 companies as customers, the company has made it clear it knows it has to meet existing and potential cloud customers where they want to be, rather than where Google wants them to be.
A raft of new hyperlocal data centres will go some way in helping the company attract customers worried about data privacy.
“In the last year, cloud has gone from being the untrusted option to being seen as a more secure option for many companies,” said Brian Stevens, vice president of product management for Google Cloud Platform.
“We know that compliance, support and integration with existing IT investments is critical for businesses trying to use public cloud services to accelerate into new markets.”
Then we have Oracle, who unlike Google, is at the other end of the stick. Oracle has been successful in the enterprise world for decades now, and has to prove to customers there’s no need to leave when it comes to cloud migration, because it also has attractive cloud offerings that can suit enterprises. Oracle’s offering comes in the form of Oracle Cloud Machine’s Cloud at Customer.
According to an IT trends report released in March from IT management provider SolarWinds, just 7 percent of IT pros in the UK say their enterprise organisation has not yet made any shift of their infrastructure to the cloud, so it’s clear in 2016 that we’ve reached a fairly maturing stage of cloud migration within businesses.
But what the SolarWinds report highlighted was that IT professionals are faced with a dual mandate: increase efficiency through cloud services whilst also ensuring critical systems, databases and applications are secure. Can that be achieved with public cloud?
Mostly not, many seem to think. So this desire from the public vendors to scoop up enterprise customers has been materialised into products such as Azure Stack from Microsoft, and Oracle’s Cloud at Customer – products that promise both efficiency and security to the enterprise.
These products essentially offer a hybrid type of cloud platform with the vendor’s public cloud products. “Microsoft Azure Stack is a new hybrid cloud platform product that enables your organisation to deliver Azure services from your own data centre to help you achieve more,” reads Microsoft’s own description.
Kong Yang, ‘Head Geek’ at SolarWinds, told TechWeekEurope that these new offerings are a clear move from companies such as Microsoft and Oracle to compete with AWS in the race for both cloud uptake and enterprise viability.
“The new Azure Stack and Oracle Cloud at Customer are critically important for Microsoft and Oracle because they represent initiatives to take on the market leader, Amazon Web Services (AWS), by trying to provide frictionless consumption of their cloud services for their customers through a software overlay that seamlessly integrates and delivers their public cloud services to on-premises data centres,” said Yang.
“It effectively extends the services and benefits of their public clouds to any customer’s data centres; thus, normalizing the end-user consumption and delivery experience.
“Successful adoption will be defined by how well an IT organization can monitor with discipline and manage the continuous integration and delivery of these services, which places the onus on Azure Stack and Oracle Cloud at Customer to remove all major barriers of consumption similar to what AWS is doing with their services.”
It’s also essential for enterprise customers to be able to pivot their designs and cloud uses as technology and regulations change.
Public but private
TechWeekEurope spoke to Oracle engineered systems and public technology cloud leader John Abel about what he thinks Oracle’s own public-to-hybrid offerings can give customers.
“I see the hybrid cloud in every customer,” Abel said.
“In certain industries, like public sector or financial, we have something called community cloud appearing, where they’re wanting to isolate a community set of customers or a community set of business users because the regulatory requirements that set has, such as data privacy and location, means they want to have an absolute known state for their data.
“It gives the customer in either a private cloud or a community cloud absolute assurance of where data will reside.”
But Abel added that Oracle’s product is effectively public cloud, delivered privately.
“The other thing it gives the customer is exactly the same experience as our public cloud, commercially and technically. I think it’s fair to say we jumped a huge chasm, because every customer I work with in the enterprise landscape, or in highly regulatory industries, desperately wants to know they can isolate their cloud if required.
“The beauty with Oracle is that the same is what’s in the public cloud is the same as no cloud. Customers can move their workloads between the various different types of cloud depending how those regulatory changes are occurring. I think that’s a really unique element to our strategy. When I look at Amazon, Google, and Microsoft, I never actually compete with any of them, because not a single one can achieve what Oracle can do.
“It’s a new era of mature cloud customers, this enterprise era of cloud, customers are starting to use their enterprise DNA to challenge vendors, and not be bent to the point where they break with key elements of their business to fit the cloud model.”
No one size fits all
Oracle’s model aligns with the findings from SolarWinds. The company’s report painted a fairly clear picture: cloud adoption is nearly ubiquitous, but it isn’t – and won’t be for the forseeable future – suitable for all workloads.
“The resulting dynamic—one set of critical on-premises services connected with another set of services in the cloud—is hybrid IT,” said SolarWinds CIO Joel Dolisy.
“And at the centre of this evolution is the IT professional who needs to ensure always-on performance of applications, devices, networks and systems—regardless of location. They need to be empowered with the support to gain the skills and tools required to properly manage hybrid IT environments, which in turn will allow businesses to truly unlock the potential of the cloud.”
The only certainty, for now, is that there’s gold to be had in the enterprise cloud market.
Analyst house IDC reported this week that spending on private cloud IT infrastructure will grow by 11.1 percent year over year to $13.9 billion (£9.75bn), geared toward on-premises private cloud deployments. Spending on public cloud IT infrastructure will increase by more: 14.1 percent in 2016 to $24.4 billion (£17.1bn).
“For the majority of corporate and public organizations, IT is not a core business but rather an enabler for their core businesses and operations,” said Natalya Yezhkova, IDC research director, Storage Systems. “Expansion of cloud offerings creates new opportunities for these businesses to focus efforts on core competences while leveraging the flexibility of service-based IT.”