Moving To The Cloud: The Last Easy Decision

By now, you’ve read all the analyst reports, news articles, press releases, and blogger ramblings regarding the benefits of cloud computing.  Begrudgingly, you understand that although Cloud Computing began as a marketing fad, the technology behind it is real and is here to stay.

Perhaps you are dabbling in virtualization while considering upgrading your aging networking and storage equipment.  You wonder about the risks associated with moving aggressively toward this new type of infrastructure while considering migrating entire services to Application Cloud providers such as Service-now, Salesforce, or Microsoft’s new Cloud offerings.

Privately, you worry about the demands and pressures placed on your current IT staff.  If Cloud computing is going to work then you must find a way to tear down the silos that have existed for decades.  A successful transition will require not only a well thought out plan but the flawless execution of said plan.

Finally, you wonder what role Amazon EC2, Rackspace, AT&T, Verizon, SAVVIS, and others will play in your future.  Costs are one thing, security and reliability is another.  After all, even Google struggles to provide the vaunted 5 9’s of reliability.  Even if you find the perfect provider, will they remain independent or fall victim to the inevitable consolidation of the industry?

Weighing all the risks, you decide to build a private cloud first while eyeing the benefits of a hybrid or public cloud architecture.  Confidently, you call in your IT Directors or Managers and instruct them to provide you with a detailed cost analysis of building your new architecture.

Unfortunately, the easy part is over; where do you begin?  Do you start with picking a server or compute vendor or a storage vendor?  Do you call in your trusted networking vendor to understand what they have to offer?  Do you exit your comfort zone and call one of these newer vendors with cloud ready equipment?

The server team loves HP and is pushing Matrix, but you’ve read a lot about Cisco UCS, Dell Datacenter/Cloud Solutions, and IBM’s new Blade offerings.  The storage team loves EMC, but you’re intrigued by HP’s purchase of 3Par and Dell’s purchase of Compellent, not to mention NetApp.  Your storage networking team is loyal to Brocade, but if you purchase Cisco UCS then why not implement the Nexus and MDS?  Your networking team is partial to Cisco and are all certified Cisco engineers, but you wonder if Brocade, Juniper, or upstarts like Aristra are the way to go?   Unified fabric or Qfabric?  Fibre channel, ISSCI, or fiber channel over Ethernet?  What about the impacts of multi-hop fiber channel over Ethernet?  Is it time to upgrade your power, cooling, cabling, racks, too?

Next come even tougher questions regarding the software vendors.  Do you choose Microsoft, VMware, Citrix, Red Hat, or Oracle, as your virtualization vendor?  Are your current software vendors certified on these platforms?  You’ve been reading about Vblocks, could this help or does it force you into purchasing Cisco, EMC, and VMware?  What about open source alternatives?

Finally, how do Openstack, Eucalyptus, and Nimbula fit into this equation?  What’s Dell UEC or Opscode’s Chef?   What do you do for backup and disaster recovery?  How are you going to manage and monitor this?  Can you really get a single pane of glass?  Can anyone really handle the dynamic nature of a Cloud where everything from networking to storage to servers to applications are all virtualized?  What about security?

Yes, Cloud computing is as revolutionary and as disruptive as you have been reading.  However, never underestimate the complexity or magnitude of the decisions you must make to implement this marvelous architecture.  In the end, the easiest decision you will make is to move to the Cloud.

Note To Dell: Forget Big Data and Go For Cloud Infrastructure

It seems like five seconds after HP purchased Vertica, the entire world focused on Dell and their big data strategy.  This was further compounded by the fact that Dell blew out their earnings with a $15.7 Billion fourth quarter and Michael Dell suggested that they would target smaller acquisitions to help their server and storage divisions.

Speculation is rising that Dell will purchase Aster Data Systems a Stanford University start-up that is backed by Sequoia Capital.  Aster’s nCluster sports a massively parallel processing (MPP) data warehouse with integrated MapReduce that is built on commodity hardware.  Whose commodity hardware?  You guessed it, Aster partners with Dell to provide the Aster Data MapReduce DW Appliance.

However innovative and powerful Aster’s solutions are, their rumored valuations are sky high.  According to Gigaom’s article Cloud Startup Values are Getting Insane published on September 24, 2010, Aster’s valuation is rumored, “somewhere between $85 and $120 million.”  Furthermore, Aster took issue with Gigaom’s assessment saying, “The valuation you/GigaOm stated recently is more reflective of the previous B round that closed Q4 2008, and while we don’t disclose the actual valuation of the latest C round it is in fact materially greater than the Series B.” Really?  Let’s get back on track.

Dell is a remarkable turnaround story that is predicated on their decisions to blaze their own trail in the industry.  Rather than purchase network equipment or security vendors, Dell has been acquiring interesting software companies such as Scalent, Boomi, and Insite One, with a purpose or focus on the Cloud.  Why change this focus?  When you think Dell do you think database warehousing? Software?

Dell’s future growth hinges on their Data Center Solutions (DCS) and Cloud Computing.  They have two choices; make a major market disrupting acquisition or take some risks by purchasing smaller but highly disruptive software companies.  It’s no secret that I am a proponent of Dell purchasing Rackspace, even in the face of a rising market valuation and the prospects of another bidding war.  Rackspace is that good and Dell knows it.

Enough, who else should Dell purchase?  There are the obvious, Joyent, and the obscure, Nimbula.  They could lean forward, OnApp, or take a risk, Appistry.  They could choose infrastructure, GoGrid, or go a bit crazy, Marathon Technologies.  They can go services, Appirio, or go international, ElasticHosts. And on, and on, and on, …

Regardless of what path Dell chooses, Michael Dell has done one incredible job of turning and changing the course of a $60 Billion company. While some have written that Dell is “yesterday’s company”, I’d watch out as they may just surprise you and the entire industry.