Every year, I take a close look at the RightScale State of the Cloud Report. It’s an excellent annual summary of cloud adoption and market trends. As someone who has been actively in the cloud since 2008, I feel that we’ve been living the classic “10-year adoption cycle” you typically see with huge technology shifts. Cloud changes everything, upending established vendors and markets and causing IT leadership teams to fundamentally rethink their roles and strategies.
I’ve had the great opportunity for the past many years to work with early adopters of cloud – at CloudSwitch, my last venture, we helped enterprise customers think through their journeys to the cloud, and the adoption of a hybrid cloud model that has turned out to be the dominant model to this day. Along the way, there has been much debate and tension within enterprises about the roles of private vs public clouds. Private cloud initially seemed like an IT reaction to the sudden growth of public cloud usage by “rogue” development teams – who were avoiding slow and expensive IT infrastructure projects to get the resources they needed. IT leaders could both maintain control with private clouds, while also claiming they were “adopting” cloud by essentially rebranding their VMware environments as private clouds.
Then, with the emergence of OpenStack, Eucalyptus and other offerings, private cloud seemed to come into its own. The desire by enterprises to have at least some workloads remain in-house persists and is a mix of real concerns about ownership and control with a good dose of fear/uncertainty/doubt. To address this market demand, private clouds built on open source technologies were architected for more agility and on-demand access than the traditional VMware environments, at a much lower cost, and began to look more viable as an important component of the hybrid model. IT leaders started working closely with business teams to determine which workloads could and should move to the public clouds and which should stay in-house. “Own the base, rent the spike” was a mantra we repeated often at Verizon/Terremark.
But in the latest State of the Cloud Report, the story in 2015 seems like the more things change, the more they stay the same. Hybrid cloud remains the dominant approach to cloud adoption, with 82% of enterprises claiming a hybrid cloud strategy. Both public and private clouds are growing in number and size of deployments (public cloud growing faster but private cloud usage much deeper and more production oriented). AWS remains the public cloud leader by a mile. And over in the private cloud results, the leader is still…VMware. After all these years and the strong desire of IT teams to offer a real and compelling private cloud option to business users, why is there no real, breakthrough private cloud solution?
The answer seems to lie in the fine print of the report. The main challenges noted by enterprises for private clouds are how complex they are to build, and how hard it is to find talent to run them. It turns out that beyond just provisioning basic infrastructure on-demand, the public clouds (and AWS in particular) have raised the bar so significantly in terms of layered services and more sophisticated options that internal IT teams have a very hard road to catch up.
Expectations for cloud are very much tied to the experiences most development teams have already had in the public cloud, and the toolsets and technologies that exist for private cloud are simply far behind and much more limited. The open source tools are still mainly just that – tools that require a great deal of expertise and internal commitment to turn into a true cloud experience. And even using off the shelf offerings like VMware, it turns out to be extremely hard to build and run a large, highly-scalable and automated cloud service at reasonable cost.
So for the foreseeable future, enterprises will carry on mainly with VMware and small deployments of open source options. They will experiment with offerings from Rackspace, Azure, and others. And they will expect their IT teams to play a central role in guiding cloud strategy and technology deployments. But for many of the layers of the infrastructure stack, it may be that the gap is simply too large for internal IT to catch up. It seems that what’s needed in 2015 is a set of managed services that address enterprise needs for infrastructure on demand, combining cloud simplicity and economics with comprehensive enterprise capabilities. At ClearSky, we take these market findings very much to heart as we build our company.