IT Seeks Cloud Experts

The cloud is having a major impact on how organizations manage their IT organizations, ranging from personnel to vendor management. The latest evidence of that is documented in a study released this week.

According to the report conducted by IDG Research Services and funded by CA Technologies, 60 percent of those surveyed said demand for personnel with cloud computing expertise has risen over the past five years, while 63 percent anticipate demand will continue to grow over the next two years.

Experience in managing service providers is the skill most likely to increase in importance over the next two years, 66 percent said. And 72 percent said their enterprises are spending more time on cloud providers or managing outsourced IT providers now compared with five years ago.

What impact is the cloud having on your organization? Drop me a line at jschwartz@1105media.com.

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on March 10, 2011 at 11:58 AM0 comments


Rackspace To Help Others Build Clouds with OpenStack

In a departure from its traditional cloud hosting business, Rackspace today launched a new service that will help those who want to build their own clouds.

The company's new Rackspace Cloud Builders program is a training, certification and deployment offering based on the OpenStack cloud compute and storage platform. As I recently wrote, the open source OpenStack effort is gaining momentum with more than 50 members now supporting it since the project was formed eight months ago.

The OpenStack cloud operating system originated with code developed by Rackspace and NASA, which built the NASA Nebula Cloud Computing Platform. A new telco-grade version of OpenStack, code-named Cactus, is due next month.

Now companies will be able to contract with Rackspace, which will train and support them as they build their own OpenStack-based clouds. Specifically, Rackspace Cloud Builders will offer formal training and certification, deployment services, and support and management.

That Rackspace is helping others build clouds is a major shift for the company, which has never offered services outside its datacenter before. "For the first time, people will be running the same software that we write and that we operate at scale," said Mark Collier, VP of marketing and business development for Rackspace Cloud Builders.

Rackspace will be offering the paid service to those who want to build their own private clouds, including businesses and government agencies, as well as service providers. But why would Rackspace want to enable service providers, who are potential competitors? Collier sees it as broadening the market for OpenStack.

"Our crown jewels are not technology. It's the people, it's the service and support that we're known for," he said. "If you put aside cloud and just think about managed hosting, which has been the historical business we've been in, we have the exact same technology as everyone else. We want to see technology standardized. That's good for our industry and it floats all boats in the end. We're actually good with that outcome."

Rackspace is able to offer this service thanks to last month's acquisition of Anso Labs, a professional services firm that has already helped a number of large businesses and government agencies build private clouds based on the OpenStack platform, including NASA's Nebula.

The goal with OpenStack is to provide a viable ecosystem that can scale in order to provide an alternative to the market leader, Amazon Web Services, Collier explained. "There are very few alternatives out there that can help you scale to Amazon's scale and meet the aggressive price points to be competitive, and we know for a fact you can achieve that with OpenStack," Collier said. "The OpenStack code base is designed to run on standard hardware across the industry. It's not tied to any proprietary high-end storage or proprietary databases, and the software itself is free."

While Rackspace believes OpenStack will help provide an alternative open source cloud environment, it does not see its new Cloud Builders offering as a major revenue booster. "We are not expecting it to be material for the foreseeable future," Collier said. "Time will tell how much money there is in it, but we definitely think there is a huge demand for OpenStack and we want to see that succeed and that's our first priority."

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on March 08, 2011 at 11:58 AM0 comments


How Many Enterprises Are Deploying Google Apps?

A survey by cloud migration services consultancy White Stratus suggests that nearly 20 percent of enterprises have, to some degree, deployed Google Apps.

It's an interesting finding because the percentage of Google's 3 million enterprises and 30 million customers that are using Google Apps in actual deployments is still an open question.

Of the 19.5 percent that say they have used Google Apps, nearly half, or 47.8 percent, are using it in pilot mode, while 19.4 percent are no longer using it. That leaves less than a third, or 32.8 percent, that have deployed it throughout their organizations.

"For us, [that] suggests that there is momentum behind the Google Apps product, which is encouraging," noted White Stratus CEO Tim Drury in an e-mail.

This is the first time New York-based White Status has conducted the survey, but it intends to continue to conduct it quarterly, Drury said. "I am keen to understand more about the rate of conversion from pilot to full-scale rollout, so we will be focusing on that in the next assessment," he said.

The current survey also found that of the 19.5 percent using Google Apps, 64 percent were using just the default products (Docs, Calendar, Sites, et cetera), while 35 percent were using that plus Gmail.

The survey was based on a sample of 2,030 enterprises in the United States with more than 250 employees. White Stratus, it bears noting, is a Google Authorized Reseller. A copy of the report is available for download.

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on March 07, 2011 at 11:58 AM1 comments


Cisco Launches Cloud Partner Initiative

Count Cisco Systems as the latest major IT provider to launch a cloud partner program.

The networking giant rolled out its Cisco Cloud Partner Program (CPP) at the company's annual Cisco Partner Summit, taking place this week in New Orleans. Cisco has established three tracks for partners: Cloud Builder, Cloud Provider and Cloud Reseller.

"Cloud Computing is transforming the way organizations consume and deploy IT resources. For our channel partners, cloud computing opens up additional market opportunities for them to design and build clouds or offer cloud services to the market," said Ralph Nimergood, vice president of datacenter and cloud for Cisco's Worldwide Partner Organization, in a pre-recorded video statement. "Our program provides a well defined roadmap to assist partners in determining what roles they want to play with Cisco in the cloud market."

Here's a description of the three tracks:

  • Cloud Builder: This is for partners who, as the name implies, design and implement private clouds for customers. The partner with the Cloud Builder Badge must hold sales and implementation competencies in cloud infrastructure and cloud management, and it requires a Cloud Professional Services Practice.

  • Cloud Provider: These are partners that want to offer public cloud services. "Our program supports these partners by enabling their Cisco-powered cloud service creation with enablement tools and reference architecture support," Nimergood explained. "Both the Cloud Builder and the Cloud Provider tracks offer many benefits, including branding, offer creation support, our Jumpstart financing, market development funding and access to channel partners as a route to market." Cisco's own salesforce will be compensated on the Cisco-powered cloud offerings that its providers sell to encourage engagement with the Cisco's salesforce, he added.

  • Cloud Reseller: These are partners who OEM or resell the Cloud Providers' offerings. In concert with the Cloud Provider, Cisco will recruit and train partners and support them in their demand-generation activities, Nimergood said.

 The program will roll out in the summer timeframe, Cisco said.

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on March 03, 2011 at 11:58 AM0 comments


Rackspace Kicks Off Unified Partner Program

Rackspace Hosting on Tuesday launched a new partner program that combined four separate programs into one. The company hopes the revamped program will incent partners to offer a broader range of Rackspace's hosted and cloud offerings.

Once a dedicated sales organization, the company now boasts 4,500 channel partners. CEO Lanham Napier said on the company's most recent earnings call last month that channel-influenced sales have more than doubled in 2010. "We will continue to invest in the channel and think there is a whole lot more performance and upside that we can get there," Napier told investors.

The program combines managed hosting; cloud hosting, including its Cloud Servers, Cloud Files and Cloud Sites offerings; Hosted E-mail (Microsoft Exchange and SharePoint); and Rackspace Cloud Drive (a backup and recovery service). By combining the four key lines into a common program, Rackspace is offering a centralized partner portal, single compensation structure and new tiered partner levels.

The new levels are Platinum, Gold, Silver and Member, where channel partners can reach any tier by selling any of the company's product lines, explained Robert Fuller, Rackspace's VP of worldwide channel sales. "Generally, there's little overlap between the partners in one program and the other, so we think there will be a good opportunity here to cross-sell services," Fuller said.

"When a partner is offering mail, it will be very easy for them to offer Jungle Disk [the backup service], which is of course a natural extension of the business for security purposes, and maybe offer some cloud. The small-business area is where we are seeing so much of our cloud business."

Kenan Rappuchi, VP of business development at WebSiteMovers.com, is a Rackspace partner who also works with other hosting providers. But the new program is likely to make it more appealing to upsell Rackspace's services.

"It's much easier for us to not have to worry about multiple providers and be able to keep it under one roof and be able to manage it simply and to have a very elastic solution that fits in," Rappuchi said.

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on March 03, 2011 at 11:58 AM0 comments


HP Ties 3PAR to CloudSystem

When Hewlett-Packard dropped a jaw-dropping $2.4 billion for cloud storage provider 3PAR, it left many scratching their heads.

HP paid so much for 3PAR, a company with about $200 million in revenues, after a protracted and very public bidding war against Dell as the two companies looked to shore up their cloud storage offerings. Now the company is making the 3PAR technology available with HP's new CloudSystem.

CloudSystem, launched in mid-January, is a turnkey appliance based on HP's converged BladeSystem server-, storage- and network-based hardware and loaded with the company's Cloud Service Automation (CSA) software.

The HP 3PAR Utility Storage offering can now be managed by CloudSystem, which company officials said will simplify the deployment of cloud solutions. Available now, initial configurations will be customized until next quarter, when a configuration tool will provide SKUs and more standardized pricing, according to the company.

Furthermore, HP has integrated the 3PAR Utility Storage with the HP X9300 Network Storage Gateway based on networked attached storage (NAS) technology it acquired from IBRIX in 2009. In so doing, HP said it will be easier for cloud providers to add both block and file-based storage capacity on demand. Pricing starts at $45,500.

HP has also integrated 3PAR technology available with its BladeSystem Matrix orchestration platform. "Now we can orchestrate, manage and provision applications across both the server and the network and now also the 3Par storage environment," said Tom Joyce, VP of marketing strategy and operations for HP's enterprise storage business.  "So we have comprehensive management across the top of the whole thing, combined file and block solutions."

Available now, HP BladeSystem Matrix starts at $190,000. HP will add support for its Storage Provisioning Manager next quarter.

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on March 03, 2011 at 11:58 AM0 comments


IBM Launches Cloud Partner Program

IBM is kicking off a new program intended to make it easier for partners to sell the company's cloud-based products.

Big Blue unveiled the new Cloud Computing Specialty at its PartnerWorld Leadership Conference in Orlando last week. Up until now, the company lacked a cohesive go-to-market strategy for its various cloud initiatives.

"We did have a couple of programs that were in certain areas but as we looked at what cloud has become, there are so many more opportunities now," said Dave Mitchell, director of strategy and emerging business for IBM's ISV and developer relations organization. "Our portfolio has become so much wider, and our capabilities have become so much broader, that we felt it was a good time to really see how we could bring this together into a single story."

The company has identified five types of cloud partners it is addressing:

  • Cloud Application Providers: Typically, these are ISVs that are moving toward the Software as a Service (SaaS) model.
  • Cloud Builders: Systems integrators, consultants and solution providers that build private clouds for customers.
  • Cloud Infrastructure Providers: Telcos, regional hosters and managed service providers, and anyone building out cloud infrastructure.
  • Cloud Services Solution Providers: Those that resell multiple cloud services to offer custom or vertical solutions for customers.
  • Cloud Technology Providers: Companies that provide tools aimed at extending the value of public clouds, such as cloud management, billing and monitoring software.

Each of the five parts of the program has its own defined criteria for skills, revenue and references that partners can establish, Mitchell said. And in return, there's detailed go-to-market benefits and technical support benefits that are customized for each of the paths.

Using its LotusLive network, IBM is also linking partners together so they can collaborate on deals, Mitchell added.

While the Cloud Computing Specialty is aimed at partner development, IBM last week also launched its first authorization and certification program for its software resellers. The IBM Cloud Computing Authorization program is an extension of the company's existing software reseller program known as the IBM Software Value Plus program.

"These two programs are very complementary," Mitchell said, referring to the skills and specialties required.

Partners who join the program and get certifications in the right combination of products, including the WebSphere CloudBurst appliance, Tivoli Service Manager, Tivoli Provisioning Manager, IBM Solution Delivery Manager and some of the cloud development tools in the Rational development suite, will be eligible for incremental margin incentives.

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on February 24, 2011 at 11:58 AM0 comments


Axcient Brings Data Protection to Cloud for SMBs

Axcient is the latest provider of data protection technology that lets small and medium-sized enterprises use the cloud for disaster recovery and business continuity.

Though not a well-known company, Axcient supplies appliances that offer multiple levels of backup and recovery. Here's how it works: The customer pays a monthly fee for the appliances that consist of servers loaded with Axcient's software, storage and network infrastructure and are controlled by a Web-based interface. Files and data from both clients and servers can be backed up to the appliance, which also provides backup to the vendor's cloud-based facilities.

"We've built a platform that basically provides an SMB total access to data, regardless of what happens, total continuity and total disaster recovery," said Justin Moore, Axcient's CEO. The appliance, Moore explained, is the only component a customer needs to deploy. "It eliminates the need to install a single piece of software on the network," he said.

Moore said Axcient has 1,000 customers with 50,000 devices installed. While there are a number of players in this space, Axcient is looking to differentiate itself. It is hoping a partnership announced last week with Hewlett-Packard Co. will give it a more consistent hardware stack and access to the larger company's channel partners to extend its reach.

"We are not a hardware company, we are a software and Software as a Service platform, company," he explained. "Now our entire platform, from the on-premise appliance to our cloud compute infrastructure, is all going to be on HP's platform."

Enterprise Strategy Group senior analyst David Chapa, who published a report this month on the backup-as-a-service market, said linking with HP promises to give Axcient greater recognition in the market. "They are starting to make a name for themselves and the announcement of the HP relationship certainly will help with that awareness," Chapa said.

As part of the pact, Axcient will use HP's ProLiant SL and DL servers, StorageWorks and networking products. The current solution is designed to handle 20 terabytes of compressed data and can failover to seven such appliances. Pricing starts at $150 for a 250 GB implementation.

Data and server images are automatically replicated to Axceint's data centers, which the company says is SAS 70 II-certified.

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on February 24, 2011 at 11:58 AM0 comments


Citrix Brings EMS-Cortex into the Fold

Citrix Systems has acquired EMS-Cortex, a company that provides cloud services provisioning and management software.

It was the first move made by the company's newly formed Cloud App Delivery Group, which is tasked with delivering products and programs for cloud services providers. Citrix said it has 800 cloud services providers certified to use the company's products to offer apps that are delivered from the cloud.

The acquisition of EMS-Cortex gives Citrix the company's Cortex Cloud Control Panel, which "makes it easy for service providers and their customers to set up, provision and maintain a wide variety of hosted services from a single, easy-to-use, self-service interface," wrote Bill Burley, VP and general manager of the new Citrix App Delivery Group, in a blog post this week.

"Using the Cortex Cloud Control Panel, your customers can log in to a Web site and with a few clicks, manage user accounts, assign desktops and add or change the applications or services they receive," he said. "Services are automatically provisioned, and moments later the user can log in and begin working. They can even check usage reports to be sure they are on track."

Service provider admins can instantly create new tenant accounts and delegate management rights to specific users, he continued, adding that leading app hosting providers around the world have already deployed Cortex Cloud Control Panel.

The cloud control panel can be used by service providers and customers "to manage the provisioning and delegation administration of hosted business applications in a cloud environment such as XenApp, Microsoft Exchange, BlackBerry Enterprise Server and a number of other critical business applications," said Forrester Research analyst John Rakowski in a blog post. "In theory this means that customers and vendors will be able to 'spin up' core business services quickly in a multi-tenant environment."

Citrix will continue to offer the Cortex Cloud Control Panel as a standalone product on a subscription basis for the time being, according to Burley, with the same terms prior to the acquisition.

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on February 24, 2011 at 11:58 AM1 comments


Government Plans 'Cloud-First' Policy in New IT Budget

The information technology portion of the 2012 federal budget proposal submitted by President Barak Obama this week calls for a "Cloud-First" policy, meaning agencies are being encouraged to use cloud-based solution when such an option exists.

The shift is outlined in a report released last week by Federal CIO Vivek Kundra. "This policy is intended to accelerate the pace at which the government will realize the value of cloud computing by requiring agencies to evaluate safe, secure cloud computing options before making any new investments," according to the report.

Obama's budget calls for a slight uptick in IT spending overall totaling $79.5 billion, a 1.9 increase over the current fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30. In the Federal Cloud Computing Strategy report, Kundra said $20 billion spent on IT, or 25 percent, can move to the cloud.

"By using the cloud computing model for IT services, we will be able to reduce our data center infrastructure expenditure by approximately 30 percent,"  the report states, pointing to inefficiencies in the current IT environment.

"Cloud computing has the potential to play a major part in addressing these inefficiencies and improving government service delivery. The cloud computing model can significantly help agencies grappling with the need to provide highly reliable, innovative services quickly despite resource constraints," according to the report.

But analyst Ray Bjorklund of Federal Sources, tells Computerworld that he is skeptical that the government can achieve such lofty goals.  "Trying to wave your wand and say we are going to achieve 30 percent savings is not that simple," he said.

Bjorklund has a point but the government's push into cloud computing will be an important barometer for the success and challenges of this shift in how IT is provided and managed.

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on February 17, 2011 at 11:58 AM0 comments


Marketplace for Cloud Capacity Debuts

Need to use 10,000 servers just for an hour or two? Or perhaps you have excess capacity that you'll never use or sell? If you are in either camp, now there's a marketplace aimed at matching buyers and sellers of cloud computing capacity.

Enter SpotCloud. Enomaly, a longtime provider of cloud computing infrastructure software, launched the public beta of SpotCloud on Monday. Cloud service providers can make unused capacity available on the exchange.

Enomaly describes SpotCloud as the first structured marketplace where service providers can sell their excess computing capacity to an open field of buyers and resellers. The company vets all providers, who can have as little one 8-core server and 500 gigabytes of storage.

Buyers such as those dealing with brief spikes in workloads or shops that want to run performance tests of their applications are typical candidates, said Reuven Cohen, Enomaly's founder and CTO, in an interview this week. A buyer may need capacity in a certain part of the world or perhaps they want to acquire it from multiple distributed providers, Cohen explained.

The business model for Enomaly is it takes a commission for every transaction. Asked if there were enough suppliers interested in participating in such a marketplace, Cohen, said he has already received queries from hundreds of providers. "We certainly have had no issue getting a large group of suppliers," he said.

"People are willing to buy something from you that you weren't going to sell otherwise. It's pretty easy to convince someone to make their excess capacity available as long as you can show that you're doing so in a secure and structured way. It's not a hard pitch."

SpotCloud is a marketplace built using the company's Enomaly ECP platform (it will support other cloud infrastructure platforms in the future, the company says) and runs atop Google App Engine.

Here's how it works, according to the SpotCloud Web site:

  1. Buyers deposit an initial credit into the SpotCloud platform. (It's a pay as-you-go model)
  2. Buyers create a VM appliance using the Enomaly SpotCloud package builder.
  3. Then upload a VM appliance (SpotCloud can provide sample VM images with phone-home capabilities) using the SpotCloud management interface.
  4. Sellers can dynamically define hardware profiles, location information, duration of available capacity and associated resource costs.
  5. Buyers select providers based on a cost and location.
  6. VMs are automatically delivered to sellers' (who must have a SpotCloud-compatible IaaS cloud platform) cloud infrastructures where the VM packages are run according buyers requirements.
  7. SpotCloud monitors and debits buyers on an hourly utility basis with a notification sent when credits drop below minimum threshold.
  8. At the end of the month, sellers are paid directly for any capacity utilized via the SpotCloud marketplace.

A notable example of a clearinghouse like this date back more than a decade ago, when Enron launched a bandwidth marketplace, Cohen said. Of course that was unsuccessful for quite a few reasons but Cohen believes the time is right for a marketplace to exchange cloud capacity.

Will it evolve into a larger business than the company's core software infrastructure offering, Enomaly's core offering for more than six years? "If the numbers keep going the way we currently see it, I would say the future of our business is probably looking more like SpotCloud and less like traditional infrastructure-as-a-service software we've done in the past," Cohen said. "It's been very strong, we've had a significant number of people sign up who are paying for the service. It's looking very, very promising."

If you're a buyer or seller of cloud capacity, would you use a marketplace like SpotCloud? Drop me a line at jschwartz@1105media.com.

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on February 17, 2011 at 11:58 AM0 comments


CEO Insists Rackspace Is Not for Sale

With Verizon Communications agreeing to acquire Terremark for $1.4 billion last month and Time Warner Cable following up with a deal to buy NaviSite for $230 million, it begs the question: are we going to see a wave of consolidation in the cloud computing industry? The obvious answer is: of course.

One company that claims it's not in play is Rackspace Hosting. Rackspace would appear to be a natural acquirer or acquire. The company is one of the leading players in the cloud computing industry. Revenues in 2010 were up 24 percent topping $780 million, the company announced last week. At that run rate, Rackspace's revenues this year will fall just shy of $1 billion.

CEO Lanham Napier insists Rackspace is not for sale. His game plan is to grow Rackspace into a "giant" organization. "We are a committed long term player to this market," Napier said during the company's earnings call last week. "There is going to be a Web giant that emerges from this technology shift and we want to be that giant."

He put it more bluntly in an interview with Forbes: "Our company is not for sale, and we want to whup these guys," he said, acknowledging it would be his fiduciary obligation to shareholders to consider any kind of substantial bid. Considering we are in the midst of a cloud computing gold rush, there are some deep pocketed companies that could make Napier an offer hard to refuse. Naturally any company is for sale at the right price.

Committed to hitting that $1 billion revenue milestone in this, its 13th year, Napier believes the $2 billion goal is in sight along with growing from 130,000 customers to 1 million. "Today we believe it is very much within our reach and that we have a solid plan to get there," he said during the earnings call.

And that plan does not call for buying any rivals to grow share, he added. "We will continue to be an organic based growth company," he said. "We will do acquisitions like we just announced [such as the deal to buy Cloudkick in December] but these are acquisitions about building capability, not trying to buy revenue or scale."

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on February 17, 2011 at 11:58 AM0 comments


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