Why boring workloads trump intergalactic scale in HP’s cloud biz

Although having a laugh at so-called “enterprise clouds” is a respected pastime in some circles, there’s an argument to be made that they do serve a legitimate purpose. Large-scale public clouds such as Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, and Google Compute Engine are cheap, easy and flexible, but a lot of companies looking to deploy applications on cloud architectures simply don’t need all of that all of the time.

So says Bill Hilf, the senior vice president of Helion (the company’s label for its cloud computing lineup) product management at [company]HP[/company]. He came on the Structure Show podcast this week to discuss some recent changes in HP’s cloud product line and personnel, as well as where the company fits in the cloud computing ecosystem. Here are some highlights of the interview, but anyone interested in the details of HP’s cloud business and how its customers are thinking about the cloud really should listen to the whole thing.

[soundcloud url=”https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/194323297″ params=”color=ff5500&auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false” width=”100%” height=”166″ iframe=”true” /]

Download This Episode

Subscribe in iTunes

The Structure Show RSS Feed

Amazon matters . . . and so does everything else

“First and foremost, our commitment and focus and investment in OpenStack hasn’t changed or wavered at all,” Hilf said. “It’s only increased, frankly. We are fully committed to OpenStack as our core infrastructure-as-a-service platform.” HP has been a large backer of the open source project for years now, and was building out an OpenStack-based cloud platform exclusively before acquiring Eucalyptus and its Amazon-Web-Services-compatible cloud technology in September.

However, he added, “As we started working with customers around what they were looking for in their overall cloud environment, we did hear the signal loud and clear that the AWS design pattern is incredibly relevant to them.” Often times, he explained, that means either hoping to bring an application into a private cloud from Amazon or perhaps moving an application from a private cloud into Amazon.

[pullquote person=”” attribution=”” id=”919622″]”People often use the term ‘lock-in’ or ‘proprietary.’ I think the vendors get too wrapped up in this.”[/pullquote]

Hilf thinks vendors targeting enterprise customers need to make sure they’re selling enterprise what they actually want and need, rather than what’s technologically awesome. “Our approach, from their feedback, is to take an application-down approach, rather than an infrastructure-up approach,” he said. “How do we think about a cloud environment that helps an application at all parts of its lifecycle, not just giving them the ability to spin up compute instances or virtual machines as fast as possible.”

Below is our post-Eucalyptus-acquisition podcast interview with Hilf, former Eucalyptus CEO Marten Mickos and HP CTO Martin Fink.

[soundcloud url=”https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/167435404″ params=”color=ff5500&auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false” width=”100%” height=”166″ iframe=”true” /]

Enterprise applications might be boring, and that’s OK

Whatever HP’s initial promises were about challenging [company]Amazon[/company] or [company]Microsoft[/company] in the public cloud space, that vision is all but dead. HP still maintains a public cloud, Hilf explained, bu does so as much to learn from the experience of managing OpenStack at scale as it does to make any real money from it. “It not only teaches us, but allows us to build things for people who are going to run our own [private-cloud] products at scale,” he said.

But most of the time, he said, the companies that are looking to deploy OpenStack or a private cloud aren’t super-concerned with concepts such as “webscale,” so it’s not really in HP’s financial interests to go down that path:

“[W]e don’t have an intention to go spend billions and billions of dollars to build the infrastructure required for, let’s say, an AWS or an Azure. . . . . It’s not because ‘Oh, we don’t want to write a billion-dollar check,’ it’s because [with] the types of customers we’re going after, that’s not at the top of their priority list. They’re not looking for a hundred thousand servers spread across the globe. . . . Things like security are much higher on their list than the intergalactic scale of a public cloud.”

Hilf added:

“What we typically hear day-to-day, honestly, is actually pretty unexciting and mundane from customers. They’re not all trying to stream the Olympics or to build Netflix. Like 99 percent of the enterprise in the world are doing boring things like server refreshes or their lease in a data center is expiring. It’s really boring stuff, but it matters to them.”

“If a customer came to me and said, ‘Hey I need to spin up a billion instances to do whatever,'” he said, “. . . I’d say, ‘Go talk to AWS or Azure.’”

Get over the talk about lock-in

Despite the fact that it’s pushing a lineup of Helion cloud products that’s based on the open source OpenStack technology, Hilf is remarkably realistic about the dreaded concept of vendor lock-in. Essentially, he acknowledged, HP, Amazon and everyone else building any sort of technology is going to make a management interface and experience that’s designed to work great with their particular technology, and customers are probably going to be running multiple platforms in different places.

Hilf thinks that’s a good thing and the nature of business, and it provides an opportunity for vendors (like HP, coincidentally) with tools to help companies get at least some view into what’s happening across all these different platforms.

“People often use the term ‘lock-in’ or ‘proprietary.’ I think the vendors get too wrapped up in this,” he said. “The enterprise is already through the looking glass. They all know they’re going to have some degree of lock-in, it’s just where.”

AWS maintains lead in public cloud, but Azure inches forward

Amazon Web Services continues to dominate public cloud usage across the board, but Microsoft Azure is making strides at least in business accounts, according to a new RightScale survey.

[company]Amazon[/company] cloud adoption leads the pack with 57 percent of respondents reporting use of AWS (up from 54 percent last year) while 12 percent said they run [company]Microsoft[/company] Azure Infrastructure as a Service, up 6 percent from last year’s survey.

Among business or enterprise users, though, while AWS still leads with 50 percent, up slightly from 49 percent, Azure IaaS scored 19 percent, up from 11 percent.  [company]Rackspace[/company] and [company]Google[/company] App Engine are the next most popular clouds in this category, while vCloud Air logged 7 percent adoption, down from 18 percent. (Could the rebranding of vCloud Hybrid Services to vCloud Air have been a factor here?)

The Rackspace callout is interesting since the company said Tuesday it will stop breaking out public cloud and private cloud revenue and report them together. Rackspace is now focusing on private, managed cloud, in what some say shows it is ceding public cloud to the big guys.

RightScale Enterprise Cloud 2014-2015

All of these numbers are based on RightScale’s survey (downloadable here) of 930 cloud users, 24 percent of whom are RightScale customers.

Private cloud boosters won’t like this part: The new numbers show overall adoption of private cloud pretty much holding steady compared to last year. [company]VMware[/company] vSphere virtualized environments led with 53 percent of enterprise customers who reported that they use it as a private cloud. (Another 13 percent said they use vCloud Director as cloud.) This echoes last year’s survey in which many customers equated their virtualized server rooms with private cloud.

While private cloud appears to be in a bit of a swoon, it’s no surprise that Docker usage is hot. Per the survey, that containerization technology, while relatively new, is already used by 13 percent of respondents, while more than a third of the rest (35 percent) said they are planning to implement it.

Rightscale Public Clouds 2014OpenStack showed the greatest traction this year, with 13 percent adoption, growing by three percent year over year and still garnering big interest from companies whether they use it or not. A full 30 percent of respondents said they were evaluating or interested in using OpenStack over time. Microsoft’s relatively new Azure Pack showed a respectable seven  percent usage. Azure Pack, which mirrors Microsoft’s internal Azure usage, can run in a company’s own data centers or server rooms to provide an Azure-on-Azure hybrid.

Overall, Santa Barbara, California–based RightScale concluded from its research that cloud adoption is “a given” and hybrid cloud is the preferred mode of adoption. Of course RightScale offers multi-cloud management tools so that works out nicely for them.

RightScale VP of Marketing Kim Weins was our Structure Show guest after last year’s survey and had some interesting insights that might be helpful to compare and contrast. Check out the podcast below.

[soundcloud url=”https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/143987938?secret_token=s-6kZD6″ params=”color=ff5500&auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_artwork=true” width=”100%” height=”166″ iframe=”true” /]

Private cloud? Public cloud? Rackspace erases the difference

Rackspace is going to stop distinguishing between the money it makes from public cloud and what it derives from “dedicated” cloud, a category that encompasses a bunch of options.

Well that’s one way to sidestep the whole “is private cloud dead?” debate.

The move may show a fanatical obsession on managed cloud or indicate that Rackspace is giving up on public cloud where leader, [company]Amazon[/company] Web Services, is contending with growing threats from [company]Microsoft[/company] Azure and[company] Google[/company] Cloud Platform. Or both. Tomato, tomahto.

On the fourth quarter earnings call Tuesday, CEO Taylor Rhodes reiterated that “managed cloud” versus the wild-west of unmanaged public cloud is where [company]Rackspace[/company] is focused. And its financial earnings will reflect that going forward. No longer will Rackspace put its public cloud revenue in one bucket and combined private cloud, managed hosting, managed services all into the dedicated cloud revenue bucket.

In an interview after the call, Rhodes acknowledged that most new “greenfield” applications will be built for public cloud deployment over a ten-year time frame. But, there are also many legacy applications that will stay either stay where they are or move to a single-tenant private cloud situation. And there is demand for well-managed specialized clouds for different workloads, Rhodes said.

rax q4 2The accounting changes were made in part to keep Rackspace sales people from selling the wrong cloud to the wrong customer, he said. “We have a dilemma in that we switched from a horizontal position in cloud … to [cloud for] particular workloads. We want to be the best at supporting Oracle commerce and we will be the best at managing that with a highly opinionated point of view on whether Oracle commerce should be a single-tenant or multi-tenant implementation.” I’m guessing that single-tenant will be the answer here.

Rackspace sales people shouldn’t be rewarded “perversely” for selling multi-tenant when single tenant is best, he said.

Overall, the company posted net income of 26 cents per share, surpassing consensus estimates of 19 cents per share, but it missed on revenue, logging $472.2 million where analysts expected $474 million.

rax public cloud ytd

The poor private cloud gets no respect

Pity your private cloud, if you have one. If cloud analysts are to be believed, private cloud is losing ground as public cloud providers — chiefly Amazon Web Services, Google, and Microsoft — keep adding features and functions, many of which target enterprise IT buyers.

Last week, for example, Gartner analyst Thomas Bittman blogged that 95 percent of enterprise IT types he surveyed found something lacking in their own private clouds. Of course Bittman loaded the gun for them, distilling the reasons “your enterprise public cloud is failing”  into six key categories and then polling an audience about them at an event.

Part of the problem may be in definitions. Private cloud is not merely a highly virtualized data center. It needs to deliver on-demand services easily and offer the sort of scale-up-and-down-as-needed elasticity that is the hallmark of public clouds. In a response to one comment on his post Bittman defined private cloud as the

cloud computing style delivered with isolation. Fully private would be fully isolated. It doesn’t need to be owned and managed on-premises, but today it often is (I’d say, 90-95% of the time).

Of the 140 companies Bittman surveyed, the most common reason for dissatisfaction (noted by 31 percent of respondents) is that too much emphasis was placed on cost-cutting, not on providing agility in creating, spinning up and down capabilities as needed. The second most-cited complaint, for 19 percent of respondents, was that their private cloud doesn’t do enough. But check out the whole post, along with the comments.

In August Gigaom Research published its own analysis showing public cloud options outstripping private clouds (subscription required) for several reasons. Notably, even if you are running a real private cloud — not just a heavily virtualized server room — you are probably still buying, deploying and maintaining your own hardware and software.

Gigaom research analyst David Linthicum — who is also SVP at Cloud Technology Partners, which works with the big public cloud providers — noted in that report that security, or lack thereof, has been touted as a key private cloud selling point but is not necessarily a differentiator in the way most people expect. He wrote:

Private clouds, while they feel more secure since you can see the blinking servers in your data center, are as secure or less secure than public clouds, generally speaking. Enterprises are just discovering this fact, and are opting for public clouds as cloud projects come on-line.

Ouch. Private cloud purveyors, please feel free to comment below.

Philip Bertolini, CIO of Oakland County, Michigan, said to term private clouds as failures because there is not 100 percent satisfaction is unfair. In the Gartner blog post, he noted, Bittman discusses how 95 percent of the users have had problems but that doesn’t mean their efforts failed.

“Moving to the cloud is difficult and has to be planned out carefully. Any IT project requires good planning or the results can be less than desirable. I do believe that the is not the magic wand for everything that troubles us. Using the cloud wisely with good planning can be very successful,” Bertolini noted by email.

There is some merit to the private-cloud-doesn’t-meet-expectations argument. Vendors have fed into that by overselling the technology, for one thing. But, the notion that a small number of public cloud vendors (even vendors as huge as [company]Amazon[/company], [company]Google[/company] and [company]Microsoft[/company]) can fill every need is a stretch.

As more than a dozen vendors, many of them pitching OpenStack-based private clouds, duke it out, they need to counter this perception that public cloud is becoming the inevitable destination for many, many workloads going forward.

This story was updated on February 12 with quotes from Oakland County CIO Philip Bertolini and on February 13 with a note of David Linthicum’s affiliation with CTP.

The data center demands of selling Hadoop have Cloudera eyeing the cloud

Big data vendor Cloudera is no Google when it comes to data center footprint, but the cost and complexity of its infrastructure are growing with each passing year. Cloudera VP of engineering Peter Cooper-Ellis explains how better data centers and cloud computing help ease the burden.