Cloud computing for the enterprise got a boost Monday as three companies previewed eerily similar public cloud offerings aimed at big businesses on the opening day of VMworld 2009.
Each of the new enterprise clouds comes with virtual private networking (VPN) capabilities, an emphasis on governance and management and polished point-and-click web graphical user interfaces (GUIs), as well as application programming interfaces (APIs) to facilitate customization of the cloud to suit corporate needs. The web GUIs offer an easy overview of cloud resources, but the APIs allow for users to tailor their use of cloud resources within applications and existing platforms.
Enterprise clouds parlay VMware, Cisco foundations
All of the new clouds build on VMware virtualization and Cisco Systems' virtualized networking. All also offer various levels of governance and management not found in the bare-bones public clouds.
"The enterprise buyer has another set of concerns" compared to most users of public cloud resources, said Savvis CTO Bryan Doerr. Savvis picked VMware and Cisco Nexus virtual switches to match up to Savvis enterprise customers, who Doerr said were already heavy VMware users. Savvis is carving out part of its already considerable hosting operation to offer it's "Virtual Private Data Center" at different price levels, from pricing "comparable" to Amazon's EC2 to guaranteed high-availability resources at much higher rates.
Savvis' plan is to lure current customers into experimenting with the cheaper options and offer an easy upgrade path into more elaborate hosting that customers can use for line-of-business applications, something enterprises are leery of. "[The purpose] is to draw self-spent enterprise dollars into the cloud by offering a range of services" that allow enterprises to choose their level of involvement and risk, he said.
Treb Ryan, CEO of OpSource, said he sees immediate potential in attacking the risks and lack of management in public cloud. It was an easy leap from the firm's current business selling SaaS platforms to cloud hosting, he said.
OpSource's new public cloud focuses on user-level access control as well as graduated levels of service and VPNs, like Savvis. Ryan said tools like user-level access aren't necessary when a startup or a developer is experimenting with cloud computing, but they are a no-brainer when it comes to enterprises trying to manage computing resources across an organization.
"Right now, the [enterprise] world's just screaming for separate usernames and passwords," he said. He demonstrated how a manager could start and stop virtual machines and control users and events from a polished web portal, something users of Rackspace or Amazon currently have to get through third parties like RightScale or Cloudkick.
"If anyone needs to build out, they're getting questioned by their CFO or CIO, 'Why are you buying new hardware? Go look at the top five cloud providers,'" he said. Knox said buying VMware and Cisco and building their own cloud with governance and auditing built in gave them a good shot over the current crop of public cloud providers.
Two of these new "enterprise-grade clouds" aren't ready for prime-time -- OpSource will open to public beta on October 2. Savvis expects to start beta testing by Q4 of this year. OpSource's Treb Ryan said he expects the virtual network service to start at around $0.20/hour, with additional charges for servers deployed. Skytap starts at $500/month for an initial deployment. Savvis did not have fixed price models yet."
"I sure hope they've done their sums," said Rachel Chalmers, research director for infrastructure management for The 451 Group. The available public cloud options are predicated on keeping costs low by sharing virtualized infrastructure between customers, and the usual justifications for cloud computing were cheapness and availability, not necessarily slick options, she said.
Chalmers said that its precisely the lack of slick interfaces and expensive commodities from VMware and Cisco that keeps public cloud cheap, so these new cloud players will be at a disadvantage. She did hold out some hope, if they're able to get the price right. Chalmers said if nothing else, its definitely a feather in the cap for VMware. "They have finally got some serious [adoption] on their platform," she said.