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.

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Oh IBM, what are we going to do with you?

The week in cloud

The past few weeks were not great for IBM but they did not bring the bloodbath — 110,000 job cuts or about 26 percent of total headcount — predicted by one reporter.

As for the round of layoffs that did kick off, [company]IBM[/company] wasn’t officially forthcoming about the number. One insider who requested anonymity said a “few thousand” workers were affected, with costs covered by a previously announced $600 million restructuring charge. And, The [email protected]a union-affiliated advocacy group for IBM workers, put the tally at 5,000 as of late last week. In a January 26 research note,  Sanford Bernstein analyst Toni Sacconaghi estimated that the $600 million charge would cover a layoff of about 8,000 people. That’s not nothing, but it’s also not anywhere near 26 percent of IBM’s workforce.

The problem is no one thinks this will be the end of cuts at IBM, which has thus far managed to avoid the sweeping layoffs HP, for example, has endured over the past few years. And, as political analysts would say, the optics were bad — as long-time IBMers were getting the boot, CEO Ginni Rometty was getting a raise (and a bonus.) 

On the bright side, IBM last week said it won a big cloud computing deal with Marriott International. Details were scant but a spokesman said this is a three-year contract on which major rivals, including [company]Amazon[/company] Web Services (AWS), [company]Microsoft[/company] and [company]Oracle[/company] also bid. (I’ve asked those three companies for comment and will update this post as needed.) Update: Oracle and Microsoft declined to comment.

Here’s the thing about IBM: It competes with an array of competitors including old IT adversaries like HP, Oracle and Microsoft but more importantly it faces AWS, which has set its sights on the sorts of enterprise workloads that are IBM’s bread and butter. And AWS is not used to the sorts of enterprise margins once enjoyed by IBM (although I would note that people who think AWS is unprofitable are mistaken.)

But, what’s particularly concerning to some IBM watchers (raising hand here) is that the company is known for buying its way into new businesses, as it did with SoftLayer two years ago, then slowly sucking the new company into the overall IBM borg. Sometimes that works fine. But my feeling all along vis-a-vis SoftLayer was that IBM needed the smaller company’s nimbler startup mentality and non-IBM worldview almost as much as it needed its technology.

Here’s what I wrote when the acquisition was announced in June 2013.

IBM is a big, important company, but its ability to turn out innovative  stuff has been constrained by a hairball of legacy technologies. The question now is whether it will take what is good about SoftLayer and infuse that into the rest of the IBM cloud (one hopes!) or muddies what is great about SoftLayer. And, to IBM’s point, we are still early in the cloud adoption cycle and the stakes are huge.

So even though it’s normal for startup execs to fly the coop within a year or so of selling their baby to a big company, it is still concerning that a chunk of the SoftLayer brain trust has already left the building — co-founder and Chief Scientist Nathan Day left IBM/SoftLayer last April, for example. Former CTO Duke Skarda apparently left late last year although his LinkedIN profile is ambiguous. And co-founder and former CEO Lance Crosby left recently; Crosby was expected to stay until at least July, which will be the second anniversary of the acquisition closing. Those who hoped for a shake up to the IBM way wanted to see a SoftLayer person — or perhaps some other relative newcomer — lead the cloud charge. That is not going to happen.

VMware’s Bill Fathers: Businesses want a business-focused cloud

When it comes to enterprise workloads, another company IBM competes with is [company]VMware[/company]. On this week’s Structure Show, VMware’s cloud EVP and GM Bill Fathers didn’t pull any punches. In a world where many people equate cloud computing with AWS, Fathers is an unrepentant critic, saying that big companies are not convinced that they can run hybrid clouds in conjunction with AWS. He cites Harley Davidson as an example of a customer which tried to go with AWS for a new application and ended up coming to VMware.

Harley Davidson created a front-end iPad app for its CRM systems so dealers could check inventories. “They tried to do it on Amazon but physically could not connect it to their existing Oracle database of record from a networking perspective and they gave up,” Fathers said. “We used NSX [VMware network virtualization] to craft a connection from their on premises environment to vCloud Air and integrated it back to applications living on premises.”

Then the money quote aka fighting words:

“I am not spending a second working out how you solve what I think is an unsolvable problem of a client who’s marooned an application in AWS and is desperately trying to get it connected securely back to an on-premises app.”

(Send cards and letters to VMware please, but also feel free comment below.)

But there’s far more. Father’s guest segment starts at about 12:30 in.

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Bill Fathers VMware Structure 2014


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Why VMware is going ‘space-age’ with Google and embracing OpenStack

VMware has developed a reputation in some circles as being proprietary and less innovative than it was when the company made server virtualization a household word in the IT space, and it’s trying to change that. Yeah, its bread and butter is still in supporting existing applications on existing virtual infrastructure, but there’s a lot opportunity to make that a much better experience.

Bill Fathers, VMware’s executive vice president and general manager of cloud services, came on the Structure Show podcast this week to explain what [company]VMware[/company] is up to in the cloud computing space and how it’s trying to keep pushing the envelope. Here are some of the better quotes from the interview, but you’ll probably want to listen to the whole thing, including for some rather candid assessments and defenses of the company’s business, and the increasing importance of the network.

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OpenStack out of necessity

“What we’re seeing is a lot of our clients are starting to embrace OpenStack, they almost reach a glass ceiling in terms of how far they can deploy, and that they’re looking for somebody who can (a) take care of the integration with vSphere and (b) provide support,” Fathers said. “And so basically, what we have done, I guess, is become a distributor of OpenStack, created VMware-integrated OpenStack.”

Starting small with vCloud Air

“To some extent, attracting thousands of clients wasn’t really just the objective,” Fathers explained. “The real objective is to secure hundreds of what we call ‘beachhead clients,’ which are clients that are using vCloud Air and seeing genuine value from the compatibility, on-premises and in the vCloud Air . . . and the integration we’ve done, specifically in the networking layer. Pleased to say we have not only now thousands of clients — we aren’t being more precise than that — but I can be precise in saying we have hundreds of beachhead clients.”

When asked whether the cloud business is just complementary to the legacy business, he predicted strong growth over time. “Will [the hybrid cloud] become a multi-billion-dollar business?” he said. “Yeah, probably. I suspect it will.”

The VMware hybrid cloud, in a diagram.

The VMware hybrid cloud, in a diagram.

VMware’s hybrid cloud is about VMware’s hybrid cloud

“I am not spending a second working out how you solve what I think is an unsolvable problem of a client who’s marooned an application in AWS and is desperately trying to get it connected securely back to an on-premises app,” Fathers said.

Partnering with Google is about giving clients the best technology

“We just felt like the Google BigQuery service, coupled with their NoSQL database and the object storage, you’re not going to beat it,” Fathers said. “I mean, it’s space-age. There’s no way you’re going to compete with that.”

And what of all the database and analytics technology VMware and [company]EMC[/company] offloaded as part of their Pivotal spinoff a couple years ago? “I personally haven’t yet parsed how you’d segment the analytic capabilities that Pivotal will offer versus using something like BigQuery,” he said. “My sense is that BigQuery is sort of a space-age, enormously capable service, but you need to conform to its APIs, whereas the Pivotal world I think is far more scoped into customization and you can create your own analytics.” (On a related note, some of those Pivotal services might soon be getting a forced open source facelift.)

Bill Fathers VMware Structure 2014

Bill Fathers at Structure 2014

“Either way,” he added, “both are probably cheaper, candidly, than buying Exadata or HANA.” Exadata is Oracle’s converged server-database-combo and HANA is SAP’s in-memory database that is now the focal point of its next-gen business applications.

Asked whether there might be a way to expand the new relationship with [company]Google[/company] beyond BigQuery and some select services, Fathers said they’re taking it slowly. But … “This could do a long way,” he noted. “They have very complementary offerings, as opposed to competitive, and they actually target an entirely different client base, as well.”

Network integration: A big challenge that “sends clients to sleep”

“If there’s one thing we’ve found [that’s critical to delivering hybrid clouds for clients] . . .it’s the network integration,” Fathers explained. “It’s the biggest problem clients got and they don’t yet know it, and it’s kind of tough to pitch it because they’re not yet aware that the integration challenges of trying to connect your LAN to a public cloud are way harder than people realize. We’re going to have to find a better way of marketing it, basically.”

VMware wants all those cloud workloads “marooned” in AWS

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Even though VMware initially called its Amazon competitor vCloud Hybrid Services, make no mistake, it’s the company’s public cloud (now renamed vCloud Air.)

And, [company]VMware[/company] really wants workloads that might run ow on [company]Amazon[/company] Web Services to come on over, says Bill Fathers, EVP and GM of cloud services for VMware.  That’s a tall order. Face it, AWS has been around as, an old boss would have said since “Hector was a pup.” The first services launched in 2006, and vCloud Air is, what?? a two-year old toddler. Fathers said VMware now has thousands of customers on vCloud Air  but said that wasn’t the plan. Initially, VMware wanted a few hundred key companies to act as “beachhead clients” who derive real value from its cloud, especially from vCloud Air’s networking infrastructure and has surpassed that goal, he said.

But Fathers point is that a small percentage of total computing is now running on any public cloud — he thinks it’s now 5 percent up from the two to three percent he thought it was last June at Structure. Which means that there’s a ton of work up for grabs.

And while AWS looks to be the enemy for VMware’s cloud, the same is not true for Google — VMware last week announced plans to offer and support four Google services including BigQuery, on vCloud Air.  This week it brought out its promised Integrated OpenStack. 

Fathers positions both the Google relationship and this week’s Partner Exchange announcements. And he’s clearly not backing away from a fight with the biggest of big clouds.

Bill Fathers, VMware EVP and GM cloud services

Beyond the VMware universe there was a bit of big data moving and shaking with Cloudera buying and its self-service query modeling expertise and Datastax picking up Aurelius, the keeper of the Titan graph database. Could this be a sign of even more M&A to come? That’s something we’ll hear more about at Structure Data from March 18-19 in New York from the CEOs of Cloudera, Hortonworks and other data powerhouses, so book your tickets now.

Ok, the gratuitous plug is now done, it’s time to listen.


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Don’t like your cloud vendor? Wait a second.

Hilary Mason on taking big data from theory to reality

On the importance of building privacy into apps and Reddit AMAs

Cheap cloud + open source = a great time for startups 

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






How well is vCloud Air doing? Who knows?

VMware has pinned high hopes on its vCloud Air hybrid cloud, the company’s response to public cloud competitors like Amazon Web Services. But there’s not a ton of information on just how well that cloud is doing in the market.

Those hoping for more details on the company’s fourth quarter conference call Tuesday night had to make do with this:

The category containing vCloud Air — VMware’s hybrid cloud and SaaS products — made up “just under five percent” of total revenue but showed a year-over-year growth rate of 100 percent, according to CFO Jonathan Chadwick. That would put revenue for that segment at about $85 million out of total revenue of $1.7 billion for the quarter ending December 31, 2014.

Chadwick also cited a new vCloud Air deal with”one of the largest pharmaceutical companies looking to shift their current on premise infrastructure to a hybrid model.”

[company]VMware[/company] thus becomes the fourth legacy IT company in two weeks — after IBM, Microsoft and [company]SAP[/company] — to prompt worries that the sales of shiny new stuff like SaaS and cloud is not close to replacing the dough generated from legacy cash cows that still sell a ton but whose growth is slowing.  In VMware’s case the cash cow would be vSphere and related virtualization gear that companies use to run their own data centers and server rooms.

Perhaps worse is that sales of the new stuff will cannibalize sales of the old stuff, which makes Wall Street nervous.

On the call, VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger stressed vCloud expansion over the past year — adding a new region in Australia in November, for example.

The worry among VMware partisans is that the company, as profitable as it is (it logged a profit of $326 million in Q4, down from $335 million the same time a year ago) cannot build out cloud on the scale the way [company]Amazon[/company] or [company]Microsoft[/company] can. To achieve that sort of scale, VMware hosts vCloud Air itself for large customers but also fields a network of third-party providers that offer vCloud Air. That gives it more scale but also sets up a scenario in which it is competing with its own service provider partners.

vCloud Air debuted in the summer of 2013 so it’s playing catchup with 9-year-old AWS. But, like Microsoft, VMware has tons of enterprise accounts and it’s banking that those companies will feel more comfortable using VMware’s enterprise-oriented cloud over a pure public option.

For more on VMware’s cloud strategy, check out VMware Cloud EVP Bill Fathers’ talk at Structure 2014.