AWS Hybrid Clouds Rise as Cloud Service Provider Market Matures

By Colby Dyess | May 16, 2014

Is the cloud provider market finally maturing? While technical services continue to evolve to power increasingly complex applications, on the vendor side things may be heading toward consolidation. With so many organizations now standardizing on Amazon Web Services, even major players such as Rackspace may be looking for an exit strategy. Renewed efforts by Microsoft, Google and other large organizations may also be pushing smaller players out of the game.

Rackspace May be Looking into Strategic Options

Forbes' Ben Kepes characterized Rackspace as being caught in a bind as it tries to compete with providers that can make massive capital investments. Previously, the San Antonio-based company co-founded the OpenStack project, which has produced some components that have and will continue to be integrated into others, but it has not taken off as the backbone of a commercial solution yet.

For example, Eucalyptus 4.0 features support for parts of the OpenStack ecosystem such as Ceph and RiakCS. In an ask me anything hosted by Yabbly, Eucalyptus CEO Marten Mickos stated that Red Hat may be in position to provide a full OpenStack distribution for data centers, especially in the wake of its acquisition of Ceph maker Inktank. OpenStack was created by Rackspace and NASA in 2010.

Kepes hypothesized that HP and AT&T could both be interested in Rackspace as it explores options with its bankers. The impact of an acquisition could be mixed, since it may change the direction of some open source projects and either restrict choice or make decisions much clearer, depending on one's perspective.

"On the one hand this news is sad – Rackspace has been an important player in the industry," wrote Kepes. "But it also indicates that we're seeing a real rationalization start to take shape. The removal of a few bit players and the consolidation of some others will leave us with less diversity, but also more clarity for customers when it comes to decision making time."

AWS Hybrid Clouds Are Now Front and Center for Enterprises

One of the areas in which Rackspace has tried to compete is private cloud, a sector that is quickly gathering momentum. Many companies no longer regard private infrastructure as a strict alternative to public cloud, but rather as something that can complement and augment a platform such as AWS.

Solutions such as Eucalyptus have enabled organizations to build flexible, scalable custom environments, in which on-premises systems are optimized for speed, security and cost and enhanced by AWS API compatibility. TechTarget's Beth Pariseau and Adam Hughes looked at the increasing trend of configuring different services in this way, setting up a blend of public and private resources. The public/private cloud dichotomy is gradually disappearing.

"None of the work we do is Amazon-only or private-cloud-only," said David Linthicum, senior vice president at Boston-based Cloud Technology Partners, according to TechTarget. "Deployments are usually very complex and very heterogeneous."

Naturally, vendors of all sizes have tried to carve out at least a niche in the maturing private cloud market. Amazon itself provides a number of tools for extending AWS into the data center. Enterprises can, for instance, integrate Active Directory with the AWS Identity and Access Management system.

Still, some companies need additional functionality and deeper integration in their hybrid cloud computing architectures. Eucalyptus works with common AWS APIs, enabling seamless migration of workloads between environments to save money and optimize performance. At the same time, users benefit from having granular control of data by handling it in their own systems.

Ultimately, a solution such as Eucalyptus ensures better utilization of hardware and a mix of private and cloud elements that is ideal for the user. ZDNet's Larry Dignan, examining the ongoing difficulties with spotting cloudwashing, noted that the hybrid cloud was becoming the standard for enterprises and that they must scrutinize products before making a procurement decisions.

"The reality is that most enterprises will use a hybrid cloud model," wrote Dignan. "They're not going to toss existing assets - that are depreciating and look good on the tax statement---to take their infrastructure to the cloud. Meanwhile, the pay-as-you-go model isn't perfect and can actually cost you more in certain situations. The headaches with on-premise software and hardware are also well known. But the best course between your data center and the public cloud lies somewhere in the middle."

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