The Future of Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS)

Cloud computing has evolved quickly over the past couple years, but the advancement has focused on ease of use and availability of resources. The competitive market has also been evolving quickly. The speed of advancement is evident in the Gartner Magic Quads for IaaS.

Here is the Gartner Magic Quad from August 2013.

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Amazon is way out in front in the upper right quadrant, with CSC, Rackspace, Terremark, and Savvis chasing.

Now compare this against the Magic Quad from May of 2014, just nine months later.

Gartner-Magic-Quadrant-IAAS

Amazon is still the leader in the upper right quadrant, but Microsoft, IBM, and Google are now chasing. CenturyLink is / was Savvis, and CSC is still in a leader position.

Another way to evaluate this growth is by market share and year-over-year growth.

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This bar chart is a little deceptive, since it does include more than strictly commercial IaaS. However, the leaders in growth and market share do mirror the Gartner findings. It also highlights how volatile and immature the IaaS market is. While the cloud market grew in 2014 to approximately $16 billion, it was only a small fraction of the $4 trillion spent globally on IT.

Holistically, we have a volatile market with disruption occurring constantly and rapidly. Anyone running IT projects would see this as a risk, so what will cloud computing in the future look like? By examining current patterns and predicting future trends, we can reduce the risk.

As infrastructure becomes more commoditized and behaves more like a utility, there will be a race to zero. Competitors will start driving costs down, cutting margin in favor of market share. I imagine a marketplace similar to the stock exchange, with prices fluctuating based on factors like demand and available resources. This trend will continue to the point of taking into account the cost of power, with factors like time of day and season playing a part as data centers become more expensive to cool in the middle of the day in July, as compared to the dead of night in winter.

As a business, what will allow an organization to take advantage of these rapid price fluctuations? How does an organization assure that the IaaS providers are meeting Service Level Agreements (SLA)? Perhaps most importantly, how does an organization ensure that customers are getting the best user experience for these IaaS hosted workloads?

There are multiple factors to consider, obviously, but the two on the forefront of my mind are Application Portability and Application Performance Management (APM). Application Portability is protection to ensure that your organization does not get vendor-locked into a specific IaaS provider. Amazon, Google, Microsoft, and Rackspace all have their own image formats for hosting systems. However, all of these leading IaaS providers support the use of Docker images, allowing for those Dockerized containers to be moved from one commodity host to another. Additionally, what if your organization has invested in private data centers that you would like to continue to take advantage of? With the upcoming version of OpenShift, Docker containers will be manageable within a private data center and capable of migration to a commercial cloud vendor as well. The ability to rapidly provision, de-provision, and migrate cloud workloads to leverage constantly changing pricing among a diverse vendor portfolio will provide corporate cost savings and strategic advantage.

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Beyond the actual execution of cloud-based workloads, another concern will be the efficient use of those resources. What good is cost savings on cloud technologies if the workloads are running poorly, or if the customer experience is unsatisfactory? Being able to instrument transactions across your enterprise, either internal to your data center or while operating in commercial clouds, is critical to maximizing the IT investments being made. Products such as AppDynamics can provide performance monitoring of these services and workloads, easily identifying SLA violations, poor user experiences, and inefficient components of a system-of-systems.

Future proofing systems, along with reducing risks in a highly volatile technology sector are of paramount concern right now. Application Portability and APM are both key technologies to consider when planning future IaaS use. Products such as OpenShift, Docker, and AppDynamics help ensure that investments made today are not lost when costs and capabilities start shifting rapidly. If you are interested in discussing enterprise planning for IaaS and future proofing your IT investments, Shadow-Soft can help.