Seattle vs. San Francisco: Who is tops in the cloud?

In football, city livability rankings — and now in the cloud — San Francisco and Seattle are shaping up as fierce rivals.

Who’s winning? Seattle, for now. It’s due mostly to the great work, vision and huge head-start of Amazon and Microsoft, the two top dogs in the fast-growing and increasingly vital cloud infrastructure services market. Cloud infrastructure services, also called IaaS, for Infrastructure as a Service, is that unique segment of the cloud market that enables dreamers, start-ups and established companies to roll-out innovative new applications and reach customers anytime, anywhere, from nearly any device.

Amazon Web Services (AWS) holds a commanding 29 percent share of the market. Microsoft (Azure), is second, with 10 percent. Silicon Valley’s Google remains well behind, as does San Francisco-based Salesforce (not shown in the graph below).

cloud leaders

The Emerald city shines

I spoke with Tim Porter, a managing director for Seattle-based Madrona Venture Group. Porter told me that “Seattle has clearly emerged as the cloud computing capital.  Beyond the obvious influence of AWS and strong No. 2, (Microsoft) Azure, Seattle has also been the destination of choice for other large players to set up their cloud engineering offices.  We’ve seen this from companies like Oracle, Hewlett-Packard, Apple and others.”

Seattle is also home to industry leaders ConcurChef, and Socrata, all of whom can only exist thanks to the cloud, and to 2nd Watch, which exists to help businesses successfully transition to the cloud. Google and Dropbox have also set up operations in the Emerald City to take advantage of the region’s cloud expertise. Not surprisingly, the New York Times said “Seattle has quickly become the center of the most intensive engineering in cloud computing.”

Seattle has another weapon at its disposal, one too quickly dismissed in the Bay Area: stability. Washington has tougher non-compete clauses than California, preventing some budding entrepreneurs from leaving the mother ship to start their own company. The consequence of such laws can lead to larger, more stable businesses, with the same employees interfacing with customers over many years. In the cloud, dependability is key to customers, many of whom are still hesitant to move all their operations off-premise.

Job hopping is also less of an issue. Jeff Ferry, who monitors enterprise cloud companies for the Daily Cloud, told me that while “Silicon Valley is great at taking a single idea and turning it into a really successful company, Seattle is better for building really big companies.”

The reason for this, he said, is that there are simply more jobs for skilled programmers and computing professionals in the Bay Area, making it easier to hop from job to job, place to place. This go-go environment may help grow Silicon Valley’s tech ecosystem, but it’s not necessarily the best environment for those hoping to create a scalable, sustainable cloud business. As Ferry says, “running a cloud involves a lot of painstaking detail.” This requires expertise, experience, and stability.

San Francisco (and Silicon Valley)

The battle is far from over. The San Francisco Bay Area has a sizable cloud presence, and it’s growing. Cisco and HP are tops in public and private cloud infrastructure. Rising star Box, which provides cloud-based storage and collaboration tools, started in the Seattle area but now has its corporate office in Silicon Valley. E-commerce giant Alibaba, which just so happens to operate the largest public cloud services company in China, recently announced that its first cloud computing center would be set up in Silicon Valley.

That’s just for starters.

I spoke with Byron Deeter, partner at Bessemer Venture Partners (BVP), which tracks the cloud industry. He told me that five largest “pure play” cloud companies by market cap are all in the Bay Area: Salesforce, LinkedIn, Workday, ServiceNow and NetSuite.

The Bay Area also has money. Lots of money. According to the National Venture Capital Association, nearly $50 billion in venture capital was invested last year. A whopping 57 percent went to California firms, with San Francisco, San Jose and Oakland garnering a rather astounding $24 billion. The Seattle area received only $1.2 billion.

venture capital by region

The Bay Area’s confluence of talent, rules and money will no doubt continue to foster a virtuous and self-sustaining ecosystem, one that encourages well-compensated employees to leave the nest, start their own business, and launch the next evolution in cloud innovation. If Seattle has big and focused, San Francisco has many and iterative.

The cloudy forecast

Admittedly, this isn’t sports. There’s no clock to run out and not everyone keeps score exactly the same. Just try to pin down Microsoft’s Azure revenues, for example. It’s also worth noting that the two regions do not compete on an even playing field. Washington has no personal or corporate income tax, and that is no doubt appealing to many — along with the mercifully lower price of real estate, both home and office.

The cloud powers healthcare, finance, retail, entertainment, our digital lives. It is increasingly vital to our always-on, from anywhere-economy, and a key driver of technical and business model innovation. If software is eating the world, the cloud is where it all goes to get digested. Here’s hoping both cities keep winning.

It’s all Docker, containers and the cloud on the Structure Show

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It’s safe to say that Docker has had a momentous year with the container-management startup gaining a lot of developer interest and scoring a lot of support from big tech companies like AmazonGoogle, VMware and Microsoft.

Docker CEO Ben Golub came on to the Structure Show this week to talk about Docker’s year and what he envisions the company to be as it continues to grow (hint: it’s aiming for something similar to [company]VMware[/company]). Golub also talks about Docker’s raft of new orchestration features and shares his thoughts on the new CoreOS container technology and how that fits in with Docker.

If you listened to our recent Structure Show featuring CoreOS CEO Alex Polvi and are curious to hear Docker’s reaction and perspective on Rocket, you’ll definitely want to hear this week’s episode.

In other news, Derrick Harris and Barb Darrow kick things off by looking at how Hortonworks and New Relic shares were holding up and the good news is — they’re doing pretty well at the ripe old age of 1 week.

Also on the docket, [company]IBM[/company] continues its cloud push by bringing a pantload of new data centers online — in Frankfurt (for the all-important German market) as well as Mexico City and Tokyo. In October, IBM said it was working with local partner Tencent to add cloud services for the Chinese market, which reminds us that Amazon Web Services Beijing region remains in preview mode.


Ben Golub, CEO of Docker

Ben Golub, CEO of Docker


Hosts: Barbara Darrow, Derrick Harris and Jonathan Vanian

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Mo’ money, mo’ data, mo’ cloud on the Structure Show

Why CoreOS went its own way on containers

More from Facebook on its new networking architecture 

Do you find OSS hard to deploy? Say hey to ZerotoDocker

All about AWS Re:Invent and oh some Hortonworks and Microsoft news too


Microsoft open sources cloud framework that powers Halo

Microsoft is continuing its open-source push, this time announcing that it will open source its Project Orleans cloud computing web framework. The framework has supposedly been “used extensively” in the Azure cloud and is best known for powering the first-person shooter video game Halo 4.

The Project Orleans framework, which was previously made available as a preview by Microsoft in April 2014, is built on .NET and was designed to make it easier for coders to develop cloud services that need to scale a lot. This makes sense given that Microsoft uses it for multiplayer-centric video games in which gamers are notified of what their friends are doing online and need their gaming statistics transmitted back and forth across thousands of servers in seconds.

Project Orleans is basically a distributed version of what’s known as the Actor Model, a type of concurrent computing model that names collections of software objects as actors that can communicate with one another and behave differently each time they get pinged to handle a request.

While there are already frameworks like Erlang and Akka in existence that take advantage of the Actor Model, users still have to do a whole lot of legwork in making sure that those actors stay online and can handle failure and recovery. The Project Orleans framework supposedly takes that complexity and actor management into account and lets users code distributed projects without having to worry about it.

From the Microsoft blog post:

[blockquote person=”Microsoft” attribution=”Microsoft”]First, an Orleans actor always exists, virtually. It cannot be explicitly created or destroyed. Its existence transcends the lifetime of any of its in-memory instantiations, and thus transcends the lifetime of any particular server. Second, Orleans actors are automatically instantiated: if there is no in-memory instance of an actor, a message sent to the actor causes a new instance to be created on an available server. An unused actor instance is automatically reclaimed as part of runtime resource management.

[company]Microsoft[/company] said the open sourcing of Project Orleans should be complete by early 2015; Microsoft Research will release the code under an MIT license and will post it on GitHub.

Bitcasa CEO: Unlimited storage “a wildly money-losing proposition”

In an interview with Gigaom, Bitcasa CEO Brian Taptich explained that removing unlimited storage was not a pleasant experience but necessary for the company to get back on track financially. Bitcasa simply could not afford to keep unlimited-storage users as customers.

UK seeks to shutter Russian site streaming video from webcams

If you feel like someone’s watching you, you might be right. A mega peeping Tom site out of Russia is collecting video and images from poorly secured webcams, closed-circuit TV cameras, even baby monitors worldwide and is streaming the results.

Google for Work now has better customer service

Just a week after several of Google’s cloud services went offline, Google is rolling out better customer support, including a chat interface and easier access to support phone numbers.

IBM highlights a growing Watson ecosystem and API collection

IBM has announced a long list of new Watson customers and startup partners, ranging from standby industries such as health care to new ones such as cybersecurity and nonprofits. Perhaps more importantly, the company also gave developers a handful of new Watson-powered APIs.