Wednesday
Dec082010

Salesforce gets the hat-trick: chatter.com, database.com, and Heroku

From Wikipedia (that authoritative source of all knowledge):

In sport, a hat-trick (or hat trick) means to achieve a positive feat in the sport three times during a game, or other achievements based on threes.

Tonight, John Furrier (@Furrier) of Silicon Angle asked a number of the Cloud Club Alumni what we thought about the Heroku acquisition that was announced this morning.  Bernard Golden (@bernardgolden) CEO of HyperStratus , Randy Bias (@randybias) CEO of Cloudscaling and I all weighed in.  I threw something together quickly, and then thought it might be worth posting.

The Heroku deal is one third of a tremendous three-fer: Chatter.com (which was announced, and should be in place in February 2011), database.com (a scalable, almost direct replacement for a MySQL service, with no need for admins), and Heroku.  

First, one of the areas in which Heroku has been very successful, and popular with the developer community, is as the basis for web-based applications that build on top of social media -- mostly Twitter and Facebook. Salesforce has just announced what could, arguably, become 'the Twitter of business' with the establishment of its 'freemium' social networking service (Chatter.com).  After successfully rolling it out as a value-added feature of Salesforce, Chatter is being expanded to cover communities well beyond those who use Salesforce.com (or Force.com). With the acquisition of Heroku, and the effort to make Chatter available through a variety of APIs,  the availability of Heroku as a development platform for web-based applications deriving value from social networks is near perfection.

Take another look at one of the most innovative and well executed aspects of Heroku -- the 'add-on' exchange, that excellent collection of other SaaS and functional platform services that Ruby on Rails developers have at their beck and call.  With the availability of database.com, a new hosted service will show up in the Add-on catalog, taking its place with other data-oriented services like Cloudant, Amazon RDS, MongoHQ, Redis and, of course, the venerable Memcached.  Now in the mix there will be a highly scalable SQL-like data base service with the same low administrative 'overhead' that users of Heroku have come to expect.  Throw in some effort for a nice integration, likely to be followed VERY closely by more pieces of the Force.com catalog, and the RoR developer community has just picked up some powerful new tools with which to work.

This is an environment that will encourage agile development, based on a devops model, without the concerns of managing and administering infrastructure.  Certainly, there will be questions raised about integration with the rest of the SFDC infrastructure, though it's not at all clear that's high on the priority list.  For some insight as to how Salesforce.com and Heroku are presenting the impending union, see this post by Ben Kepes.

Monday
Dec062010

BMC and Cisco join for cloud delivery automation. But, don't forget Acadia.

A friend and colleague dropped me a short email from the other side of the world today, asking about this announcement:
 Cisco and BMC Alliance Announcement – Service Orchestration and Network Containers . 
I read it quickly this morning, and then went about the day's meetings.  

On returning home, I saw Ben Kepes' reaction to the announcement, the title of which pretty much says it all:

 BMC and Cisco Combine to Automate Cloud Delivery–Imitation is the Sincerest Form of Flattery 
The money quote from Ben: 

It’s nothing new – EnomalyenStratusDatapipe and many, many other providers (see here) are playing in a similar space – regardless of that, the fact that two stalwarts of traditional IT such as Cisco and BMC are at least dabbling in the hybrid cloud space is a guarantee of two things. Firstly that cloud, if we didn’t need any other proof, has come of age. Secondly it’s an indication that enterprise IT leaders are looking for solutions from these more venerable providers.

I then realized that what had been bothering me all day about the original announcement.  This was, in reality, a three-party transaction.  The three parties?

  • The VCE coalition with Cisco acting on their behalf,
  • BMC, and
  • Acadia -- the joint venture originally founded by EMC and Cisco, and 'further capitalized by investments from VMware and Intel,' established to help partners and customers 'accelerate the transition to pervasive virtualization and the private cloud.'

Yep. Acadia is a party to the transaction that hasn't been mentioned.

What Cisco has done is secure a source of cloud delivery automation for vBlock which, in Ben's words, represents "…the seal of approval from a 'trusted' vendor (which) means a lot for many risk-averse CIOs."  

This is an arms deal, guys. And Acadia just got use of some serious firepower.  It would not have been the same had Cisco done the deal with the cutting edge, leading edge players that Ben mentions. They needed a non-affiliated source of management systems, with enterprise credibility, so as to properly equip Acadia.  With the BMC deal, they gave them a great present that should keep on giving for quite a while.

---

For those of you who've heard me hold forth on Acadia... you can stop reading here.

For those who haven't, here's the story in a nutshell: When VMware, EMC and Cisco announced the alliance around Cisco's UCS and the creation of Vblock infrastructure, it was clear that they were missing a key ingredient as part of the ecosystem: professional services. 

  • None of the three founders entered this market with a PS organization of sufficient weight and focus that they could (or would want to) dedicate it to the delivery of Vblock. 
  • Within the past few years, big infrastructure competitors have picked up major PS organizations, (e.g. HP's EDS and Dell's Perot Systems), and these organizations were not about to promote VCE's wares to their customer base.
  • Engaging and convincing the big independent PS organizations that are still 'non-aligned' would require serious resources in the form of incentives, enablement and marketing expenditure, with no assurance that it would succeed in generating sales or gaining support.
  • The most reasonable answer was to create their own captive PS organization - Acadia

 

Monday
Dec062010

Cloud Infrastructure Services and the European Market

Despite its well-reported economic oscillations, Europe represents an important opportunity for US-based cloud infrastructure services (IaaS).  The impression of many on this side of the pond is that there are fantastic opportunities and few 'local' European contenders to take advantage of them.  The facts of the matter are less clear cut.  

The euro zone has serious infrastructure (IaaS) offerings that are home grown. … UK2Group's hosting companies and their newest offer, OnApp, are good examples.  In the realm of managed service providers catering to big enterprise, T-Systems and Orange Business Services represent formidable competition for the enterprise cloud services market.   Still, the US-based IaaS and, increasingly, PaaS players view Europe as an opportunity for which they have a technology advantage and, therefore, should also have a time advantage if they can get to market soon.

Among those most interested in the European markets are the 'pure play' specialists in cloud infrastructure. The group of players to which I refer are the companies that have developed their own, distinct approaches to cloud infrastructure or infrastructure management … the companies with a history of quickly implementing services in response to the demands of their cloud infrastructure clientele.  But in moving into the European market, conversations of competition generally end up with "What can we do to get into the market, and not find ourselves in a price competition with AWS as it expands into these territories?"  That seems to be the wrong question, based on the wrong premise.   

We've noticed that the interest in Europe exhibited by the 'pure play' infrastructure cloud service providers overshadows the respective efforts of competitive MSPs like AT&T and Verizon whose IaaS services have grown as extensions of conventional data communication and IT business services. The enterprise MSPs have enough of a challenge addressing their markets at home.  The enterprise ICT specialists like CSC Trusted Cloud or Unisys's Cloud Solutions don't make as much noise about their international / offshore efforts and may seem less geographically focused because their Global 1000 customers are already just that -- global.  For this group, considerations of different markets and the jurisdictional constraints with which they must comply are considerations at the outset.

In the course of Telematica's strategic consulting and our partnership with IVA, we're being asked directly by clients about how best to proceed into European and some Asia-Pacific markets and not be overwhelmed by other US players with deeper pockets.  

  • We first caution them to remember that they're not entering markets without indigenous services.  
  • Next, we find ourselves discussing with them the ways in which their offers can be made distinct and/or distinctly European.  
  • As important, we find ourselves often making the point that IaaS companies must enter the European markets on the basis of strategic relationships with 'local' professional services, system integrators and other channel partners. 

In the course of the next few weeks, we will be discussing some of our findings and a few 'deeply held opinions' about the kinds of differentiation these IaaS players can employ to make progress entering new markets. While the initial focus is Europe, we're doing our best to identify those aspects that are of general interest when entering foreign markets, as well as the specific aspects that impact market entry in Asia-Pacific and South America.  I hope you enjoy the discussion and make your own opinions known.

Monday
Dec062010

Route 53 makes its debut, but impact is yet to come.

Amazon AWS today announced the release into beta of their own, hightly scalable DNS service, called Route 53.  (The name is an 'inside joke' based on the standard for DNS, according to which the Directory Name Service responds to queries on port 53.)  Werner Vogels, CTO at Amazon.com, has a nice introduction to DNS, its significance and a quick description of Route 53. 

Amazon Route 53 is a new service in the Amazon Web Services suite that manages DNS names and answers DNS queries. Route 53 provides Authoritative DNS functionality implemented using a world-wide network of highly-available DNS servers. Amazon Route 53 sets itself apart from other DNS services that are being offered in several ways:

A familiar cloud business model: A complete self-service environment with no sales people in the loop. No upfront commitments are necessary and you only pay for what you have used. The pricing is transparent and no bundling is required and no overage fees are charged.

Very fast update propagation times: One of the difficulties with many of the existing DNS services are the very long update propagation times, sometimes it may even take up to 24 hours before updates are received at all replicas. Modern systems require much faster update propagation to for example deal with outages. We have designed Route 53 to propagate updates very quickly and give the customer the tools to find out when all changes have been propagated.

Low-latency query resolution The query resolution functionality of Route 53 is based on anycast, which will route the request automatically to the DNS server that is the closest. This achieves very low-latency for queries which is crucial for the overall performance of internet applications. Anycast is also very robust in the presence of network or server failures as requests are automatically routed to the next closest server.

No lock-in. While we have made sure that Route 53 works really well with other Amazon services such as Amazon EC2 and Amazon S3, it is not restricted to using it within AWS. You can use Route 53 with any of the resources and entities that you want to control, whether they are in the cloud or on premise.

At the risk of falling back on the old bromide (among internet types) that at the end of the day, it's ALWAYS a DNS problem, let's just say that this is as important a commercial offer as AWS has added in some time.  

I expect to read some fairly low-key responses to the introduction of Route 53.  Many will consider this another box to be checked when making a comparison of cloud infrastructure services.  And while most of us in the 'chattering class' haven't had the time yet to dig into it, nor get a feel for its performance, the importance of DNS to the composition of cloud-oriented applications should actually be appreciated as being massive.

Ultimately, cloud infrastructure and platforms offer the basis on which applications are composed, on which data is consumed after being squirrelled away and on which numerous assemblies get 'wired together'.  They depend on the discovery functionality of DNS, on the namespace management it affords and perhaps most importantly the resolution of 'identity' and 'location (in the network topology)'.

I'm looking forward to getting more details as to how else AWS and its customers will end up using Route 53.  Consider this: The extent to which internet-based applications, infrastructure and platforms use DNS is almost unfathomable. The patterns of DNS use generate exceptionally voluminous piles of data, but exceptionally valuable data which, through analysis tells an amazing amount about the applications and their end users.  These breadcrumbs and fingerprints are capable of being revealed by the cost-effective use of services like…wait for it… AWS.  I consider Route 53 to be a basis on which cloud infrastructure can be better monitored and managed, and a basis on which (for both good and evil) application behavior and application 'consumption' can be analyzed in exceptionally creative ways.