Friday, July 29, 2011

A service provider ecosystem gaining steam in the cloud is good news for enterprises

If you’re in enterprise IT, you (or that guy who sits next to you) are very likely looking to figure out how to start using cloud computing. You’ve probably done a fair bit of sleuthing around the industry to see what’s out there. Stats from a number of different analyst firms point overwhelmingly to the fact that enterprises are first and foremost trying to explore private cloud, an approach that gives them a lot of control and (hopefully) the ability to use their existing security and compliance implementations and policies.

And, all that sleuthing will most likely lead you to one pretty obvious fact: there are lots of approaches to building and delivering a private cloud.

So, here’s an additional thing to think about when picking how you’re going to deliver that private cloud: an ecosystem is even more valuable than a good product.

While your current plans may call for a completely and utterly in-house cloud implementation, you just might want to expand your search criteria to include this “what if” scenario: what if at some point you’d like to send a workload or two out to an external provider, even if only on a limited basis?

That “what if” should get you thinking about the service provider partners that you will have to consider when that time comes. Or even a network of them.

The CA Technologies cloud product announcements on July 27 talked a lot about the offerings from CA Technologies (including those targeted for service providers specifically), but I wanted to make sure that the cloud service provider ecosystem that’s building steam around CA AppLogic got the attention it deserved as well.

Kick-starting a cloud ecosystem

In the early days of cloud computing (and prior to being acquired by CA), 3Tera made a lot of headway with service providers. Over the 16 months since 3Tera came onboard, CA has been working to build on that. We’ve really seen why and how to work closely with our growing set of partners. You can’t just focus on technology, but you must also figure out how to enable your partner’s business. For service providers, that’s all about growing revenues and building margin.

We’re now seeing results from those efforts. In the first half of this year alone, we’ve announced new and extended partnerships with ScaleMatrix, Bird Hosting, StratITsphere, Digicor, and others around the world.

A benefit to enterprises: service providers as a safety valve

Interestingly enough, enterprises view this ecosystem as a real benefit as they consider adopting a private cloud platform like CA AppLogic. Not only can they quickly get a private cloud up and running, but they have a worldwide network of service providers that they can rely on as a safety valve for new projects, cloud bursting for existing applications, plus the real-world expertise that comes with having done this many times before.

A number of the partners and service providers using CA AppLogic to deliver cloud services to their customers joined in on the announcement of CA AppLogic 3.0 on July 27. Many posted blogs that talked about how they believed the new capabilities would prove useful for their own business – and why it would be intriguing for enterprise customers as well.

Here are a few highlights from their blog comments:

Kevin Van Mondfrans of Layered Tech pointed to CA AppLogic’s continued innovation for application deployment “with its intuitive drag and drop application deployment interface.” The visual interface, he said, is the “hallmark of AppLogic,” and it “continues to differentiate this platform from the others. AppLogic enables complete deployment of entire application environments including virtual load balancers, firewalls, web servers, application server and databases in a single motion.”

The new AppLogic 3.0 capabilities “are interesting enhancements,” said Kevin in his post, “and they “enable a broader set of use cases for our customers with privacy requirement and who want to migrate VMware and Xen environments to the cloud.”

Mike Vignato of ScaleMatrix notes that he believes “having the ability to use VMware inside the AppLogic environment will turbo charge the adoption rate” of CA AppLogic as a cloud platform. Why? “It will allow enterprise CIOs to leverage their VMware investment while simplifying cloud computing and lowering overall costs.”

DNS Europe thought the ability to import workloads from VMware or Xen using the Open Virtualization Format (OVF) import feature was a “further testament to CA's longstanding commitment to open standards. OVF import simplifies operations, increases agility, and liberates VMware- or Xen-based workloads for operation within AppLogic applications.” They also called out Roll-Based Access Control, as well as the new Global Fabric Controller: “Automatic detection and inventory functions further boost AppLogic as the number one ITSM friendly cloud platform.” (Go here for my interview with Stephen Hurford, their cloud services director.)

Christoph Streit of ScaleUp posted this summary of what’s important to their business in AppLogic 3.0: “One of the most important new features from our perspective is the new VLAN tagging support. This has been a feature that most of our customers, who are mainly service providers, have been asking for. This new feature enables a service provider to offer their customers cloud-based compute resources (such as VMs or complete application stacks) in the same network segment as their co-located or dedicated servers. Also, this makes it possible for a service provider to segregate customer traffic more easily.”

Mike Michalik, whose team at Cirrhus9 spent over 200 documented hours working with the beta code, agreed. The new VLAN capabilities, he writes, “will allow Cirrhus9 to basically build true multi-tenant grids for our MSP clients. This will give them the flexibility to have a single grid that has truly segregated clients on it, as opposed to having multiple grids for each one. It will also allow for easier system administration per client and geographically disperse data centers for the same overall grid.”

ScaleMatrix’s Mark Ortenzi was on the same page. “The ability for CA AppLogic 3.0 to allow VLAN tagging support…is an amazing new feature that will really change the way MSPs can go to market.” (You can read a Q&A I did with Mark a few months back about their business here.)

“The really cool thing I’m excited about,” writes Mike Michalik at Cirrhus9, “is the bandwidth metering. I like the flexibility that this option gives us now because we can have several billing models, if we choose to. Tiered billing can be in place for high consumption users while fixed billing options can be provided to clients that have set requirements that don’t vary much.”

The value of an ecosystem

ScaleUp’s Christoph Streit underscored the importance of these kinds of partnerships in the cloud space. He used ScaleUp and CA AppLogic as an example: “We can effectively show the value of cloud computing to everyone – IT departments, business users, developers, the CIO and, in some cases, even the CEO.”

We’ll be working with these partners and many others even more actively as part of the CA Cloud Market Accelerator Program for Service Providers that we announced this week as well.

Watch this space for more updates on the ecosystem. For profiles on many for them, you can check out the Cloud Accelerator profiles we’ve created as well.

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