Editor’s note: Cloud computing has evolved significantly during the past year. But to truly benefit from its promise of faster time to service, some infrastructure changes still need to occur. John Vincenzo, vice president of marketing at cloud provider Embrane, discusses the latest cloud trends and the cloud’s future.
SandHill.com: What are some of your company’s observations about how customers’ adoption and use of cloud-based services have changed during the last 12-18 months?
John Vincenzo: On the customer front, 12-18 months ago our conversations were largely with service providers, or more specifically, cloud/hosting providers offering cloud infrastructure as a service, or public cloud solutions. They were far ahead of the curve compared to most enterprises. Fast forward to today, those providers are still being aggressive in terms of rolling out cloud-based services to satisfy enterprises and to compete with the likes of Amazon, but the number of enterprises looking to deploy private cloud-type solutions has dramatically increased. In fact, we spend more time speaking with enterprises these days than service providers.
Typically the push for private cloud solutions is to enable the IT team to become an internal service provider for their business units, constituents, etc. (so that, in some cases, they can retain control without being the bottleneck). Other enterprises have an overall mandate to automate as much of the infrastructure as possible, or even the desire to build self-service capabilities for things like development and test labs. Overall, there is a much stronger demand to add new levels of agility, responsiveness and control to enterprise IT and the infrastructure.
SandHill.com: How have cloud services evolved during the past 12-18 months from a technology/services perspective?
John Vincenzo: The area that has evolved pretty dramatically, at least at Embrane, is the interest and deployment of software-defined network services for cloud environments. In the vast majority of cases, the systems and storage teams have had access to virtualization technologies that allow them to deliver applications or storage at cloud speed.
The network has been the bottleneck. It’s the opposite of what enterprises expect from the cloud. It’s rigid, requires overprovisioning and is expensive. So, for true cloud infrastructure adoption, the network needs to become agile. Embrane has developed technology where we can help the networking team become as agile if not more agile than their peers.
Our software solution, called Embrane heleos, allows enterprises and service providers to deploy network services such as load balancers, firewalls and VPNs in seconds. Our solutions can literally be up and running in less than 90 seconds. They can non-disruptively grow/shrink on demand, integrate cleanly with the various technologies companies already have in place, be supported within existing operational models by the same teams and tools already in place and save an enterprise as much as 45 percent in CAPEX alone. The network can be ready for a cloud-based world.
SandHill.com: What are some of the comments your company has heard in the last year from existing or potential clients about their concerns around cloud performance?
John Vincenzo: Early on we would get questions about whether enterprises would want to use the shared infrastructure that often comes with cloud services for their applications versus the dedicated resources they have always had in the on-premises data center. There’s a fear or concern that if they share a device with other customers they would potentially face noisy neighbor problems or be impacted if there was an issue with another customer sharing the device. The more dedicated solutions they have access to in the cloud, the more comfortable they will be. There are also questions about whether solutions that run on general-purpose servers can provide the performance an enterprise application will need.
The answer to both is both are now possible. It is possible to get dedicated instances of a solution, and an enterprise can get the performance they need, particularly on a per-application basis.
Another question we get is about manageability and making things more automated. If the cloud is about delivering on-demand applications and I now have a dedicated virtual firewall or load balancer per application, for example, do I have to manage each of these services separately with multiple management points? That could be hundreds of devices to manage. The good news is there are solutions that deploy and administer network services from a single-pane-of-glass management point.
Finally, service providers often refer to density when speaking about performance. Since service providers are creating multi-tenant environments, the better utilization they can get from a server (the more instances/customers they can run on a single device) the better and more profitable their business will be.
SandHill.com: In what ways do you think the cloud services provider competitive landscape will change over the next 12-18 months?
John Vincenzo: Forward-thinking cloud service providers are realizing that they can now compete with Amazon for cloud business. I think they can and will give Amazon a run for their money. By using new cloud technologies they can offer a complete package of infrastructure solutions with as good if not better features and a more competitive price. I think true competition to Amazon will emerge.
The flip side of this is if a service provider does not create a completely agile infrastructure, I believe it will struggle to survive in the battle to deliver cloud services.
I also think you’ll see smaller regional providers offering cloud services to their customers as a way to differentiate themselves and to open new market opportunities. A good example of this would be a company like C7 Data Centers. They’re using the cloud to offer a differentiated service to their existing customers as well as signing up new enterprise accounts.
SandHill.com: Please describe how Embrane brings competitive advantages to its customers.
John Vincenzo: The primary use cases for Embrane’s solutions today tend to fall into the category of private/public/hybrid cloud (think cloud infrastructure as a service), network services automation, network services for the development/test labs and disaster recovery. Our competitive advantages generally fall into three categories:
- Agility — Embrane’s software-defined network services can be provisioned in less than 90 seconds and can non-disruptively grow/shrink as needed in 30 seconds so customers get a faster time to service.
- Operational simplicity — First, installing Embrane’s heleos platform does not require any forklift upgrades. Customers can continue to leverage the investments they’ve already made and cleanly insert our solutions into their data center and manage it through their existing tools, teams and processes. We like to think of our technology as disruptive without being destructive.
- Savings — Customers save at least 45 percent in CAPEX since Embrane heleos runs on general-purpose servers. But there is also significant operational costs as all Embrane solutions can be managed from a single network services orchestration tool, and we eliminate license management complexity since license is based on aggregate throughput, not a per instance/license basis.
SandHill.com: Please share a specific example of how these three factors resulted in a competitive advantage for a customer.
John Vincenzo: On the enterprise side, a company faces continual delays in bringing applications to market because they can’t afford to stand up load balancers and firewalls early in the development cycle. Existing network services appliances are inflexible and costly. The customer has to develop applications in an environment that doesn’t resemble production closely enough. The result is applications break when they move them to production.
Using Embrane heleos, they will be able to introduce network services in the lab early in the process and institute a self-service model for their developers. They can order our load balancers and firewalls when they need them and they come up in seconds. When they’re done they can either “park” the service and save the configuration and log files for when they need them again, or they can shut them off all together. The compute power used to power the services is returned to the network services server pool where it can be re-used by other developers.
On the cloud service provider front, one customer had automated the delivery of compute and storage. You could go online and order both with the click of a button and they would be instantly and automatically provisioned. On the same portal, there was a place to order network services. The big difference was there was no easy button. When a customer got to the point they were ready to order network services, they saw the message: “Call us.” In other words, two-thirds of their infrastructure services had cloud characteristics, but the network was a manual process.
By deploying Embrane heleos, the provider’s enterprise customers can now order through a portal and get a complete cloud environment, including the network services, provisioned in seconds. The service provider manages the delivery and configuration of both load balancers and firewalls from the same network services orchestration tool. The provider also selected Embrane’s pay-as-you-go option, which allows it to limit the upfront investment while it transitions clients to the new services. Once the provider gets a sense of usage by its customers, they will convert to a subscription, which includes even better prices.
SandHill.com: It’s evident that more and more companies are adopting cloud services. What do you think will change over the next year to bring even greater value to cloud customers?
John Vincenzo: The cloud is real, but to truly benefit from it, the entire infrastructure must be agile. When that happens, you will see broader adoption of cloud services. I already see more real projects with real resources behind them than ever before, particularly for Infrastructure-as-a-Service solutions. The new cloud delivery model is all about agility and operational simplicity and of course savings.
However, what we have found is that while saving money is always in the back of everyone’s mind, the pain customers are trying to solve for are more often around adding agility to the organization and infrastructure — getting a faster time to service through rapid provisioning and elasticity to adapt to changing business demands.
Embrane is a collaborator in the 2013 Future of Cloud survey hosted by North Bridge Venture Partners, 451 Research, and GigaOM.
Click here to take the survey and share your input on shaping the future of cloud computing.
A diehard New England sports fan, John Vincenzo gave up his snow shovel and Celtics, Red Sox, Patriots and Bruins tickets to move to the West Coast and become Embrane’s vice president, marketing. He is responsible for the global promotion, positioning and overall marketing of the company’s software-defined network services solutions. John has nearly 20 years of strategic high-tech marketing experience in the networking and telecom industries with companies including 3Com, Verizon and Genuity (formerly BBN).
Kathleen Goolsby is managing editor of SandHill.com.