Adaptive Computing and UC4 Software are hoping to get a toehold into private cloud computing as the rising market draws the attention and money of enterprises. Both firms offer IT automation software that they are polishing up to work in cloud environments.
Adaptive is touting its Adaptive Operating Enviroment that scales workloads across data centers and cloud providers, while UC4 has released an add-on, the UC4 Agent for Web Services, that lets its flagship software interoperate with Web-based standards like WSDL and SOAP.
Analysts say that IT organizations starting new projects or buying new gear expect cloud features, partly to keep up with the fast pace and global scope of markets today. A recent Gartner survey of CIOs put virtualization and cloud computing as the top two priorities for IT management this year.
"What is happening from a workload job scheduling point of view is the switch to event-based scheduling," said Milind Govekar, vice president of research for IT operations management at Gartner.
He pointed to banking and bidding websites as examples from different markets that are driving the shift. Banks need processing power and data transfer at specific times to take advantage of worldwide market conditions, and monster bidding sites like eBay are subject to fluctuations in action and activity while managing changes in information very swiftly in order to make money.
That kind of fine-grained, widely distributed control over data and IT is spreading quickly to other areas, said Govekar, and it is prompting companies like UC4 and Adaptive to try and get out in front of the trend. Enterprises are testing and using cloud technologies -- either public clouds, like Amazon, to crunch and store data for adhoc projects, or private clouds developed internally and for permanent use.
"I'm starting to see a lot of this in [various] computational arenas," Govekar said.
Because one of the essential features of a cloud computing environment is the ability to have applications talk to it directly, effectively mobilizing and demobilizing computing power, the cloud fits neatly into the baliwick of application automation. Automators like UC4 and Adaptive Computing's Moab software bridge the gaps between different kinds of IT -- from processors to storage to application servers -- so it's not a stretch for them to add interfaces for cloud. It's fairly easy, actually, which is why Govekar thinks this a trend.
Estimating the automation market
He estimates that growth of automation software will be 5% to 6.5% per year overall, not an eye-popping figure. He thinks that growth and sales will be small and steady, since enterprises that need automation are large enough that they don't change fast. On top of that, they're already doing business. They don't have any incentive to replace or change infrastructure tools until they've become out of date, which can be many years.
"It's the classic mantra: Just because the technology is available doesn't mean people are going to use it," said Govekar.
He does, however, see the shift as inevitable. New business and enterprises that learn to be flexible and use the cloud are going to see cash-positive results that will give them competitive advantages, he said.
It's the classic mantra: Just because the technology is available doesn't mean people are going to use it.
Milind Govekar, vice president of research for IT operations management at Gartner, on automation's slow growth
"When talking with net new customers, that is where we're going to find [interest]," said Fred Kohout, chief marketing officer for UC4.
"Our customers think it's not a light switch," he said. "They are going to deploy hybrid models."
They want to gain flexibility and features and cut investment and operational costing by outsourcing infrastructure, something that Kohout thinks will make automation and application management essential.
"They're going to get a great deal of complexity in that environment that used to be highly predictable and scheduled," he said. It's part of the price customers have to pay to avoid costs.
"One of our customers is talking about cutting out a billion dollars [of IT investment]," said Michael Jackson, COO of Adaptive.
Jackson said it was one of the largest multinational banks, but could not disclose the name. He too outlined his customers' shift into efficiency in their data centers, saying that was what took his company out of the nonprofit backwaters of academic supercomputing and into high finance.
"A lot of companies have been trying to get their data centers as efficient as possible," he said, and the infrastructure of a modern data center looks a lot like the infrastructure of a super computer.
Cloud's been around
Jackson said that the ideas behind cloud weren't new -- he pointed to IBM's venerable "virtual loaner" program, along with utility and grid computing, which have been around for more than a decade at this point.
He called it a perfect storm of cheap commodity computers, the explosion of Web-based applications and the proven track records of services like AWS. He warned that enterprises were always going to look inward first, citing security and data control as inviolate barriers.
Jackson named financial institutions, drug companies and telecoms as the obvious early adopters and said that Adaptve is currently building a private cloud for the Department of Defense that will eventually support three million users.
Carl Brooks is the Technology Writer at SearchCloudComputing.com. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.