Oct
30
2018
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The hybrid cloud market just got a heck of a lot more compelling

Let’s start with a basic premise that the vast majority of the world’s workloads remain in private data centers. Cloud infrastructure vendors are working hard to shift those workloads, but technology always moves a lot slower than we think. That is the lens through which many cloud companies operate.

The idea that you operate both on prem and in the cloud with multiple vendors is the whole idea behind the notion of the hybrid cloud. It’s where companies like Microsoft, IBM, Dell and Oracle are placing their bets. These died-in-the-wool enterprise companies see their large customers making a slower slog to the cloud than you would imagine, and they want to provide them with the tools and technologies to manage across both worlds, while helping them shift when they are ready.

Cloud-native computing developed in part to provide a single management fabric across on prem and cloud, freeing IT from having two sets of tools and trying somehow to bridge the gap between the two worlds.

What every cloud vendor wants

Red Hat — you know, that company that was sold to IBM for $34 billion this week — has operated in this world. While most people think of the company as the one responsible for bringing Linux to the enterprise, over the last several years, it has been helping customers manage this transition and build applications that could live partly on prem and partly in the cloud.

As an example, it has built OpenShift, its version of Kubernetes. As CEO Jim Whitehurst told me last year, “Our hottest product is OpenShift. People talk about containers and they forget it’s a feature of Linux,” he said. That is an operating system that Red Hat knows a thing or two about.

With Red Hat in the fold, IBM can contend that being open source; they can build modern applications on top of open source tools and run them on IBM’s cloud or any of their competitors, a real hybrid approach.

Microsoft has a huge advantage here, of course, because it has a massive presence in the enterprise already. Many companies out there could be described as Microsoft shops, and for those companies moving from on prem Microsoft to cloud Microsoft represents a less daunting challenge than starting from scratch.

Oracle brings similar value with its core database products. Companies using Oracle databases — just about everyone — might find it easier to move that valuable data to Oracle’s cloud, although the numbers don’t suggest that’s necessarily happening (and Oracle has stopped breaking out its cloud revenue).

Dell, which spent $67 billion for EMC, making the Red Hat purchase pale by comparison, has been trying to pull together a hybrid solution by combining VMware, Pivotal and Dell/EMC hardware.

Cloud vendors reporting

You could argue that hybrid is a temporary state, that at some point, the vast majority of workloads will eventually be running in the cloud and the hybrid business as we know it today will continually shrink over time. We are certainly seeing cloud infrastructure revenue skyrocketing with no signs of slowing down as more workloads move to the cloud.

In their latest earnings reports, those who break out such things, the successful ones, reported growth in their cloud business. It’s important to note that these companies define cloud revenue in different ways, but you can see the trend is definitely up:

  • AWS reported revenue of $6.7 billion in revenue for the quarter, up from $4.58 billion the previous year.
  • Microsoft Intelligent Cloud, which incorporates things like Azure and server products and enterprise services, was at $8.6 billion, up from $6.9 billion.
  • IBM Technology Services and Cloud Platforms, which includes infrastructure services, technical support services and integration software reported revenue of $8.6 billion, up from $8.5 billion the previous year.
  • Others like Oracle and Google didn’t break out their cloud revenue.

Show me the money

All of this is to say, there is a lot of money on the table here and companies are moving more workloads at an increasingly rapid pace.  You might also have noticed that IBM’s growth is flat compared to the others. Yesterday in a call with analysts and press, IBM CEO Ginni Rometty projected that revenue for the hybrid cloud (however you define that) could reach $1 trillion by 2020. Whether that number is exaggerated or not, there is clearly a significant amount of business here, and IBM might see it as a way out of its revenue problems, especially if they can leverage consulting/services along with it.

There is probably so much business that there is room for more than one winner, but if you asked before Sunday if IBM had a shot in this mix against its formidable competitors, especially those born in the cloud like AWS and Google, most probably wouldn’t have given them much chance.

When Red Hat eventually joins forces with IBM, it at least gives their sales teams a compelling argument, one that could get them into the conversation — and that is probably why they were willing to spend so much money to get it. It puts them back in the game, and after years of struggling, that is something. And in the process, it has stirred up the hybrid cloud market in a way we didn’t see coming last week before this deal.

Oct
24
2018
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Oracle’s Larry Ellison keeps poking AWS because he has no choice

Larry Ellison gave his Oracle Openworld keynote on Monday and of course he took several shots at AWS. In his view, his company’s cloud products were cheaper, better and faster than AWS, but then what would you expect him to say?

He rolled out a slide with all the facts and figures in case you doubted it. He wrapped it up in a neat little marketing package for the world to see. Oracle has an autonomous self-healing database. AWS? Nope. That much he’s right.

Slide: Oracle

He makes claims that his cloud products are faster and cheaper, claims that are hard to substantiate given how hard it is to nail down any vendor’s cloud prices and speeds. He says they have no disaster recovery, when they do. None of it matters.

This was about showmanship. It was about chest beating and it’s about going after the market leader because frankly, the man has little choice. By now, it’s well documented that Oracle was late to the cloud. Larry Ellison was never a fan and he made it clear over the years, but today as the world shifts to a cloud model, his company has had to move with it.

It hasn’t been an easy transition. It required substantial investment on the part of the company to build its infrastructure to support a cloud model. It took a big change in the way their sales people sell the product. The cloud is based on a subscription model, and it requires more of a partnership approach with customers. Oracle doesn’t exactly have a reputation for playing nicely.

To make matters worse, Oracle’s late start puts it well behind market leader AWS. Hence, Ellison shouting from the rooftops how much better his company’s solutions are and how insecure the competitors are. Synergy Research, which follows the cloud market closely, has pegged Amazon’s cloud market share at around 35 percent. It has Oracle in the single digits in the most recent data from last summer (and the market hasn’t shifted dramatically since it came out with this data).

At the time, Synergy identified the four biggest players as Amazon, Microsoft, Google and IBM with Alibaba coming up fast. Synergy chief analyst John Dinsdale says Oracle is falling behind. “We have seen Oracle losing market share over the last few quarters in IaaS, PaaS and managed private cloud,” he said. “In a market that is growing at 50 percent per year, Microsoft, Google and Alibaba are all gaining market share, while the share of market leader AWS is holding steady,” he added.

To its credit, the company has seen some gains via its SaaS business. “As Oracle works to convert its huge on-premise software client base to SaaS, Oracle grew its share of enterprise SaaS markets in 2016 and 2017. Its market share then held steady in the first half of 2018,” Dinsdale pointed out.

Yet the company stopped breaking out its cloud revenue last June. As I wrote at the time, that isn’t usually a good sign:

That Oracle chose not to break out cloud revenue this quarter can’t be seen as a good sign. To be fair, we haven’t really seen Google break out their cloud revenue either with one exception in February. But when the guys at the top of the market shout about their growth, and the guys further down don’t, you can draw your own conclusions.

Further Oracle has been quite vocal about protesting the Pentagon’s $10 billion JEDI contract, believing that it has been written to favor Amazon over other vendors, a charge the Pentagon has denied. It hasn’t stopped Oracle from filing protests or even bringing their case directly to the president.

At least Ellison might have had some good news yesterday. CNBC reported that the big Amazon Prime outage in July might have been related to a transition away from Oracle databases that Amazon is currently undertaking. (Amazon’s Werner Vogels strongly denied  that assertion on Twitter.)

Regardless, Oracle finds itself in an unfamiliar position. After years of domination, it is stuck behind in the pack. When you find yourself in such a position, you need to have a strong bark and Ellison is going after AWS hard. As the clear market leader, he has few other options right now.

Sep
29
2018
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What each cloud company could bring to the Pentagon’s $10 B JEDI cloud contract

The Pentagon is going to make one cloud vendor exceedingly happy when it chooses the winner of the $10 billion, ten-year enterprise cloud project dubbed the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (or JEDI for short). The contract is designed to establish the cloud technology strategy for the military over the next 10 years as it begins to take advantage of current trends like Internet of Things, artificial intelligence and big data.

Ten billion dollars spread out over ten years may not entirely alter a market that’s expected to reach $100 billion a year very soon, but it is substantial enough give a lesser vendor much greater visibility, and possibly deeper entree into other government and private sector business. The cloud companies certainly recognize that.

Photo: Glowimages/Getty Images

That could explain why they are tripping over themselves to change the contract dynamics, insisting, maybe rightly, that a multi-vendor approach would make more sense.

One look at the Request for Proposal (RFP) itself, which has dozens of documents outlining various criteria from security to training to the specification of the single award itself, shows the sheer complexity of this proposal. At the heart of it is a package of classified and unclassified infrastructure, platform and support services with other components around portability. Each of the main cloud vendors we’ll explore here offers these services. They are not unusual in themselves, but they do each bring a different set of skills and experiences to bear on a project like this.

It’s worth noting that it’s not just interested in technical chops, the DOD is also looking closely at pricing and has explicitly asked for specific discounts that would be applied to each component. The RFP process closes on October 12th and the winner is expected to be chosen next April.

Amazon

What can you say about Amazon? They are by far the dominant cloud infrastructure vendor. They have the advantage of having scored a large government contract in the past when they built the CIA’s private cloud in 2013, earning $600 million for their troubles. It offers GovCloud, which is the product that came out of this project designed to host sensitive data.

Jeff Bezos, Chairman and founder of Amazon.com. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Many of the other vendors worry that gives them a leg up on this deal. While five years is a long time, especially in technology terms, if anything, Amazon has tightened control of the market. Heck, most of the other players were just beginning to establish their cloud business in 2013. Amazon, which launched in 2006, has maturity the others lack and they are still innovating, introducing dozens of new features every year. That makes them difficult to compete with, but even the biggest player can be taken down with the right game plan.

Microsoft

If anyone can take Amazon on, it’s Microsoft. While they were somewhat late the cloud they have more than made up for it over the last several years. They are growing fast, yet are still far behind Amazon in terms of pure market share. Still, they have a lot to offer the Pentagon including a combination of Azure, their cloud platform and Office 365, the popular business suite that includes Word, PowerPoint, Excel and Outlook email. What’s more they have a fat contract with the DOD for $900 million, signed in 2016 for Windows and related hardware.

Microsoft CEO, Satya Nadella Photo: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Azure Stack is particularly well suited to a military scenario. It’s a private cloud you can stand up and have a mini private version of the Azure public cloud. It’s fully compatible with Azure’s public cloud in terms of APIs and tools. The company also has Azure Government Cloud, which is certified for use by many of the U.S. government’s branches, including DOD Level 5. Microsoft brings a lot of experience working inside large enterprises and government clients over the years, meaning it knows how to manage a large contract like this.

Google

When we talk about the cloud, we tend to think of the Big Three. The third member of that group is Google. They have been working hard to establish their enterprise cloud business since 2015 when they brought in Diane Greene to reorganize the cloud unit and give them some enterprise cred. They still have a relatively small share of the market, but they are taking the long view, knowing that there is plenty of market left to conquer.

Head of Google Cloud, Diane Greene Photo: TechCrunch

They have taken an approach of open sourcing a lot of the tools they used in-house, then offering cloud versions of those same services, arguing that who knows better how to manage large-scale operations than they do. They have a point, and that could play well in a bid for this contract, but they also stepped away from an artificial intelligence contract with DOD called Project Maven when a group of their employees objected. It’s not clear if that would be held against them or not in the bidding process here.

IBM

IBM has been using its checkbook to build a broad platform of cloud services since 2013 when it bought Softlayer to give it infrastructure services, while adding software and development tools over the years, and emphasizing AI, big data, security, blockchain and other services. All the while, it has been trying to take full advantage of their artificial intelligence engine, Watson.

IBM Chairman, President and CEO Ginni Romett Photo: Ethan Miller/Getty Images

As one of the primary technology brands of the 20th century, the company has vast experience working with contracts of this scope and with large enterprise clients and governments. It’s not clear if this translates to its more recently developed cloud services, or if it has the cloud maturity of the others, especially Microsoft and Amazon. In that light, it would have its work cut out for it to win a contract like this.

Oracle

Oracle has been complaining since last spring to anyone who will listen, including reportedly the president, that the JEDI RFP is unfairly written to favor Amazon, a charge that DOD firmly denies. They have even filed a formal protest against the process itself.

That could be a smoke screen because the company was late to the cloud, took years to take it seriously as a concept, and barely registers today in terms of market share. What it does bring to the table is broad enterprise experience over decades and one of the most popular enterprise databases in the last 40 years.

Larry Ellison, chairman of Oracle Corp.

Larry Ellison, chairman of Oracle. Photo: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images

It recently began offering a self-repairing database in the cloud that could prove attractive to DOD, but whether its other offerings are enough to help it win this contract remains to be to be seen.

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