Private cloud computing is going mainstream. It has moved from a technology limited to a handful of innovative enterprises to a technology that has been prioritized for development in the next 12 months by more than half the enterprises surveyed, according to new Forrester research. Differentiation between competing vendors now lies in user experience, ease of use and the provision of hybrid environments.
Enterprises Turn to Private Clouds
These are just some of the key findings of the recently published Forrester Wave: Private Cloud Solutions, Q4 2013 research by Lauren Nelson. The conclusions are based on interviews carried out in June and July this year across 27 vendors and their clients.
Nelson found that as the use of private clouds develops, vendors are being forced to provide a wide range of enterprise capabilities, including Virtual Machine (VM) management, design tools for complex applications, as well as substantial catalogs of services.
It also shows that most enterprises have neither the resources nor the will to build private clouds themselves. Instead, they are buying commercial software to place on top of existing enterprise IT infrastructure. The research also shows that there is no shortage of vendors able to provide tools to do this.
The report also identified what Forrester called the 10 most significant private cloud providers. While all vendors provide basic virtual infrastructure and management capabilities, some are better at it than others.
In alphabetical order, the vendors that made it into this way include ASG Software Solutions, BMC Software, CA Technologies, Cisco Systems, Citrix Systems, Eucalyptus Systems, HP, IBM, Microsoft, and VMware.
They were picked based on 61 criteria that enable infrastructure and operations (I&O) professionals build full-featured private cloud solutions for enterprises according to enterprise needs. The research also only evaluated commercial, software-only private Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) cloud solutions.
According to Forrester, research over the past three years that appeared in its Forrsights Hardware Surveys shows a growing interest in private cloud deployments in both the US and Europe. While 33 percent have already moved to private cloud computing, 55 percent are expected to do so over the next 12 months.
Current strategies for cloud deployments include the purchase of commercial software (30 percent) or the purchase of several individual cloud components that pull together Infrastructure-as a-Service (IaaS) with existing hardware and IT management tools (16 percent).
However, the numerous different approaches to cloud computing that are currently available are leading to confusion around the products themselves and the possibilities they offer.
Key Private Cloud Solution Trends
As the market evolves, Forrester expects it will expand to provide better cloud management possibilities, offer more to meet the needs of developers, and provide ways for enterprises to develop hybrid environments. In terms of solutions, Forrester has identified the following four trends:
1. IaaS Focus
One of the major developments over the course of this year was the addition of low-level Platform-as-a-Service capabilities for the deployment of applications to private clouds. This enables administrators to create templates for application development, rather than just the raw infrastructure that enables them to build them.
2. DevOps Support
A number of vendors have started to plan for the development of tools that will help developers and operations professionals at the same time. While developers are generally focused on speed and completion goals, operations professionals are more concerned about stability and uptime.
3. IT Management
Many recent cloud packages are evolving to include IT service management capabilities. For those enterprises that do not have these tools already, these capabilities will simplify deployment. For those that do have them already, this can be an unnecessary cost. The result will be the development of multi-tiered cloud suites that will meet the needs of both kinds of enterprises.
4. Hybrid clouds
Hybrid clouds are those where IT environments are built between cloud and non-cloud environment and which, in an ideal world, can be managed through a single portal. However, most solutions do not offer the possibility of managing the two environments through a single portal so that enterprises are being forced to manage cloud and non-cloud elements as separate IT components. Unifying the two is something enterprises will have to work on.
Evaluating Cloud Vendors
To see how vendors compare with each other, Forrester contacted 27 private cloud vendors to try to identify the most popular and widely used private cloud solutions. From this group of 27, Forrester selected 10 private IaaS vendors and assess them on 61 criteria that were broken into three main groups.
- Current offering: Forrester looked at current offering under a number of criteria including cloud management, self-service access, creation and automation. Combine this group provided a detailed look at current capabilities, customization options and enablement for more complex configurations.
- Strategy: The strength of it current market strategy and how it intends to develop its products into the future, and how this might fit into third-party ecosystems.
- Market presence: It also assessed the 10 vendors’ market footprint, along with install base, revenue and global presence.
Vendor Inclusion Criteria
All of the 10 vendors sell a software-only solution for the automation and management of cloud infrastructure. The core features include:
- Portal access: This offers an interface that enables users select options for deployment it needs to provide unique policy control possibilities for each tenant.
- Infrastructure capabilities: All private solutions must be able to provide infrastructure resources by connecting to element orchestration monitoring tools.
- Management capabilities: Private cloud software solutions must include resource, user and service management capabilities.
- Monitoring and tracking of resources: Vendors must provide a way of tracking infrastructure and system virtual resources through the portal.
- API-based: The IaaS must provide a unified API for third-party product integration.
- Availability: All products assess and evaluated were available before April 1 this year and must have more than 100 customers.
With a list of criteria as difficult to meet as this, it is hardly surprising that only 10 vendors made the grade. Of those ten vendors, only HP made it into the Leader’s category. According to Forrester, it stands out by virtue of its clean and navigable interface that provides all its substantial capabilities through the fewest number of interfaces. Even with all the functionality accessible through a single interface, the user experience is still intuitive.
Cisco and Microsoft
Both these vendors are close behind HP. While Cisco’s strategy is highly developed, its current offering has just pushed it out of the Leader’s category. Microsoft has scored well in terms of current offering and ongoing strategy, and both have pushed ahead of the lower-placed vendors based on their prioritization of the end user experience.
In both cases, the user experience is intuitive and straightforward while both have outlined plans for the future that will see them focusing on ease of use and access, and enhanced administrator control. They also both offer economical entry points for a number of different strategies.
IBM, VMware and BMC
These vendors are currently using existing product portfolios and acquisitions to pull together a whole range of capabilities.
Functionality across all three is rapidly expanding although in all three cases, less emphasis has been placed on tying all this functionality together than it has it has with other vendors. Customers using these products often benefit from discounts from all three vendors, as well as tighter integration between existing products and cloud-specific products.
Eucalyptus, Citrix, CA and ASG
This group of vendors has narrowed their private cloud strategy to focusing on a particular strength and enterprise requirement. Most of their shortcomings are deliberate with the vendors anticipating third-party integration where more functionality is required. For the customer, this makes it cheaper to install, offers a lot of choice and offers the possibility of integration.
Forrester says this report should only be the starting point for enterprises looking to investment in a private cloud. For those that plan to take it further, much deeper vendor analysis is needed, as well as a clear idea of what purposes they want or need the private clouds to serve.