Cloud

Apcera’s View of Trends in Creating Value in Next-Generation Cloud Computing Platforms

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Editor’s note: “In the future, IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS boundaries will fade away,” says Derek Collison, founder and CEO of cloud provider Apcera. He also warns that the industry must fix some difficult problems so that organizations can take advantage of the next-generation computing capabilities. In this interview he discusses the next-gen cloud platform and the most significant cloud changes coming in the next couple of years. 

SandHill.com: What are the top needs you have observed or heard from buyers in the market over the past 12 months, which need to be addressed in developing a next-generation cloud platform? 

Derek Collison: The main concern I’ve heard from enterprise customers is that while they have access to all kinds of new IT innovation, they still struggle to realize the aggregate innovation value and meet the ever-increasing needs of the business.   

With multiple delivery model options now available, compute resources available on demand, and the ability of developers to produce applications and services rapidly, why can’t IT meet the demands of the business? Fundamentally there are still too many disparate pieces of technology not working together well and not contemplating the compliance and policy needs of enterprise IT. 

To take advantage of the next-generation computing capabilities, we have to fix some hard problems. We have to think about a new platform that seamlessly manages workloads moving around all kinds of delivery models, a Platform-as-a-Service (Paas) model that enables speed and agility but doesn’t run out of runway, a platform that enables command and control at this new velocity, and finally a platform that brings governance, compliance and policy to the forefront of consideration.   

The vast majority of the technologies available today just don’t work well together and are basically first-generation attempts to solve these hard problems.   

SandHill.com: How does Apcera’s approach to these problems differ from others in the market? 

Derek Collison: As CIOs move to an IT-as-a-Service model, they are looking for the ability to harness the value of distributed utility computing and realize its benefits. To do this requires a well-integrated platform that is full of capabilities for the developer; contemplates the needs of DevOps; provides command, control and visibility for operations; and is policy driven, thereby meeting the governance and compliance needs. 

While the traditional approach is to rearrange existing technologies to solve the problem, we’ve chosen to approach the problem with a new next-generation cloud platform. 

SandHill.com: If buyers are considering a PaaS solution now, what are the top three to five criteria they should consider when seeking a provider?

Derek Collison: In the future, IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS boundaries will fade away. So it’s critical that organizations contemplate the overall vision and not restrict their criteria to just a PaaS. Today’s first-generation PaaS functionality will be a small feature set of a comprehensive platform that weaves these three delivery models together. In general these are key considerations: 

  • Can the system be both on-premises and off-premises, with hybrid capabilities as a core feature?
  • Does the technology embrace all of IT, not just developers and DevOps, and not be a black box that strips away IT control and visibility?
  • Is it a pluggable architecture from the inside out so that the system grows and expands with increased and diverse deployments? It should not have a “run out of runway” effect such that IT or DevOps are forced to abandon the platform altogether.
  • Is it infrastructure (vSphere, OpenStack, etc.) or IaaS (AWS, Azure, Google Compute Engine) agnostic and does it leverage existing IT infrastructure and investments to avoid vendor lock-in?
  • Does it minimize forced interaction models between users of the system? For example, developers should not have to recompile and/or re-deploy apps because the system forced policy-based behaviors into the client libraries.
  • Does it have frictionless onboarding that does not require a rewrite to your code base or the addition of large metadata that is specific to the system? 

SandHill.com: There have been some predictions that PaaS will disruptively “squeeze” AaaS at the top layer of the cloud pyramid and IaaS at the bottom layer. What is your perspective on this? 

Derek Collison: Early PaaS solutions focused on providing developers with agility and speed. IaaS adoption was centered on the premise of cost savings with the shift from capex to opex, utilization sharing, and speed through provisioning and scaling. The problems with control and transparency arise when integrating these into existing enterprise systems. 

At the top layer, there will always exist applications purpose-built for specific functions around an enterprise and available via various delivery models. What’s important is the ability for all of those applications to seamlessly interoperate in the new modern enterprise. 

Earlier, it was enough to draw the lines between the three delivery models, IaaS, PaaS and SaaS. While this categorization is still handy, we are beginning to see the lines between these categories start to blur. 

We see the IaaS model becoming more flexible, allowing for greater automation and adoption of cloud services that are built on top of traditional IaaS. This is an effort to deliver on some of the promises of PaaS, but from the bottom up. This alone is not enough. Users of this model are looking for a greater ability to configure IaaS resources, operating systems, databases, snapshots, etc. while having policy, security and compliance at the core of the platform. 

SandHill.com: What do you believe will be the two or three most significant changes in cloud offerings/provider capabilities that will appear in the market over the next two to three years? 

Derek Collison: First will be the convergence of IaaS, PaaS and SaaS. As cloud computing matures, enterprises are demanding more features that enable flexible control, i.e., a control point for IT to inject policy without impeding business agility. This requires a platform that provides independent interfaces to users of the platform, but also blended execution of IT policy and business needs to deliver innovative apps and services faster. This requires a blurring of the existing boundaries between the traditional delivery models. 

The second significant change is maturation of cloud services and the “API Economy.” Cloud providers will ultimately lock their users into specific services and APIs that may not be available either on-premises or with other providers, thus making it difficult to move applications and data to other environments. Utilizing these services brings greater speed and reliability when delivering systems that affect the business, but this comes at a cost. 

OpenStack is the third significant change. For an initiative that is just over two years old, it has gained considerable momentum and industry support. OpenStack is now also starting to gain enterprise mindshare. The technology appears to be headed in the right direction; however, there is still more work to be done to make it truly enterprise-ready. 

However, at the end of the day, do enterprises only want a better and more open IaaS solution, or an end-to-end solution that solves their pain points of delivering business value at speed while retaining control? 

SandHill.com: The cloud vendor landscape is growing ever more crowded. How does Apcera change the vendor landscape and cloud ecosystem? 

Derek Collison: The current environment shows that companies are thinking more about how they will implement a cloud strategy and less about what cloud is in the first place. Cloud is both an interaction model and an interface, which we believe should provide the transparency and control that organizations need. It continually pushes the abstraction layers and does not care where the physical resources are located. 

This interaction model, and the platform that provides it, will provide the greatest opportunities in the coming years. Next-generation technology will need to address all aspects of the enterprise through an advanced platform that encompasses the three delivery models (IaaS, PaaS, SaaS) into a single, composable and infrastructure-agnostic platform. 

To fix problems in today’s enterprise IT, we need to think differently. Apcera is stepping up to create a next-generation platform that will drive the future consumption and utilization of IT resources in the modern enterprise. 

Apcera is a collaborator in the 2013 Future of Cloud survey, sponsored by North Bridge Venture Partners, 451 Research and GigaOM.

Click here to take the survey and share your opinions on the future of cloud computing. 

Derek Collison is the founder and CEO of Apcera, a San Francisco-based company delivering the next-generation cloud platform for the modern enterprise. An industry veteran with over 20 years of experience, Derek designed and architected the industry’s first Open PaaS, Cloud Foundry, while at VMware. He has also held executive positions at Google and TIBCO. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn. 

Kathleen Goolsby is managing editor at SandHill.com

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