Tag Archives: utility computing

6 Things I Think I Think for IaaS in 2011

I love this time of year because it is one of those rare occasions during the corporate and product development process where creative ideas and concepts designed to stimulate future success enter the entrepreneurial blood stream.  It is that rare moment where you have the benefit of an entire year of business fresh in your mind to build upon and an entire new year ahead of you to set new standards and push the envelope of success. 

For our company and for the industry, 2010 was a huge year.   We completed our Series A round of venture financing, relocated the company to the coveted North Carolina State University’s Centennial Campus and tripled the size of our team.  Meanwhile, the industry took meaningful steps toward maturity as mainstream private sector businesses and governments of all shapes and sizes began giving IaaS a very serious look.   If 2010 was the year of formal organization, 2011 will be the year of some serious and meaningful growth.  Not just for our company and our technology, but for the IaaS market as a whole.

In a post I wrote recently I did my best to explain some of the core characteristics that would be central to IaaS achieving mass adoption as the technology revolution marches forward.  While I think it’s very difficult for anyone to offer up accurate predictions for the year ahead of any fledgling market, there are some specific ‘themes’ that I think, as we look back a year from now, will have clearly emerged as bell weather trends in the industry.

To borrow a format from Peter King, one of my favorite sports writers, here are the six things (6 things, 6fusion, get it?) I think I think (for the cloud biz in 2011):

  1. Hybridization Will Prove Critical to Enterprise Adoption.  I’ve been to the edge and back and I have a few words of wisdom to share with my peers about the Enterprise cloud.  Unless what you are doing bridges a gap between what exists inside the four walls of the enterprise data center and what might safely and securely exist outside of those four walls you are just another GUI in the Red Ocean peddling the same wares we’ve seen for years.  Hybridization is something enterprise buyers will use to separate the crème from the crop in 2011.
  2. Regional Clouds Unite.  The arms race among regional managed hosting providers to beef up for cloud services was evident in 2010.  But the silo approach to building up IaaS on a regional basis will prove difficult if not impossible to compete on scale – and it won’t take long to figure this out.  In 2011 expect to see the concept of broad-based IaaS federation become a much more prominent theme as owners of regional facilities and compute partner to create scale and increase market size in the quest to truly monetize their resources and compete with the national players.
  3. The Ecosystem is Bigger Than the Organism.  The IaaS industry is beginning to realize that the creation and quantification of IaaS demand is much more important than the creation of supply.  Its one thing to have the capability to power or enable the creation of IaaS resources, but it is entirely another to drive revenue and margin to the cloud.   The emergence of business ecosystems will be a consistent theme for the coming year because partnering is the key to success in a nascent market.  In 2011 you will see more and more eyebrow-raising deals announced based on ‘synergistic’ partnerships – partnerships that drive mutual revenue and margin between companies that are bound by the common interest of leveraging, distributing and powering IaaS.
  4. It’s All About the Channel.  Building a global business tackling one end-user customer at a time doesn’t scale if your business is supposed to compete with the market pioneers.  In order to generate a serious outbound push to globalize IaaS the cost of business acquisition will be too high for almost every player.  In 2011 IaaS vendors will wake up to the fact that they need help in order to scale revenues and ultimately generate the ROI they are promising shareholders.  Queue the channel gold rush.
  5. Communities Will Emerge.  I subscribe to the notion that one day every business in every vertical will consume a form of public cloud – but we are not anywhere close to this reality.  Large scale IaaS operated by a trusted third party and made available to a select group of common-interested stakeholders is a concept that has legs.  Trust me on this one.  Building out community clouds will emerge in 2011 as one of, if not the most important, concepts to help accelerate IaaS adoption. 
  6. A Course Will Be Charted for an IaaS Futures Market.  If you don’t subscribe to the notion that the final destination for this ride is a commodity exchange for compute, stop and take a look around.  Spot markets emerged in 2010, much to the surprise of many industry pundits.  But spot markets, as novel as they are, do not a true market make.  The real money and the real opportunity are in futures trading.  There are forces at work on this as I type away, and although you won’t actually see compute on a major exchange in 2011, do expect to see this theme to creep it’s way into mainstream IaaS thinking.

Ok, so with the predictions for themes and threads out of the way, I’ll conclude this post with the 6 things I’ll be watching closer than my wallet at a pick-pocket’s convention as 2011 progresses:

  1. Shifting Big Iron:  Companies like HP and IBM have yet to emerge with serious IaaS plays and if you read the tea leaves they won’t any time soon.  I’ll be watching to see if any of the whales in the pool make a splash in the IaaS business.
  2. Processor Plays:  Intel made huge moves in the cloud in 2011 and you don’t need your tarot cards out to see where they are going.  Anyone know what AMD is thinking these days?  I’ll be watching to see if this gentle giant makes any moves that can rival thier kool-aid-drinking-all-in-pot-committed competitor.
  3. Government Clouds:  The GSA announced a major IaaS initiative announcing a schedule of vendors that could be purchased from their schedule.  But will these IaaS vendors truly make any money this way?  I’m not so sure.  My personal opinion is that the money is at a different level of the Public Sector.  Can’t wait to see!
  4. Hypervisor Competition:  KVM is rocketing up the relevance chart.  No doubt.  I’ll be watching to see how VMware plans to keep it’s toe-hold on the hypervisor market as IaaS enablement begins to drive more and more purchasing decisions.
  5. Network Providers:  The accelerated adoption of cloud services will put a big piece of the pie squarely in the hands of the network operators.  I will be watching to see how Network operators jockey to position themselves.  I don’t think it is a foregone conclusion that operators will follow the lead of companies like BT and DT.
  6. Disclosure Watch:  As more and more private sector orgs make the move to the cloud, the greater the potential that something somewhere is going to go wrong.  I will be keeping a watchful eye on key disclosures and cloud failures which could dramatically stunt the industry’s pace of growth.

6fusion’s first webinar of our 2011 series called: “Make your 2011 New Year’s cloud Resolution Now”. I’ll be elaborating on some of these points and drilling down into how service providers can drive new business to kick the session off. Come join the discussion!

PR: New Kids on Campus – 6fusion Partners with NC State University

Raleigh, NC – November 11, 2010 – 6fusion, a company that has developed a system to take control of third party computing resources and create a single utility to meet the needs of the IT Service channel, is the latest company to become a partner on NC State University’s Centennial Campus.

The company is occupying space in the Venture IV building on the research park and technology campus.

“We are delighted to have 6fusion on campus,” said Dennis Kekas, associate vice chancellor of the Centennial Partnership office. “With its background in cloud computing and our research in that area, we think they are an ideal partner going forward.”

6fusion has developed an algorithm that radically simplifies the metering, consumption and billing of compute resources, called the Workload Allocation Cube (WAC). The company also has developed a platform called UC6, which provides a single pane-of-glass user interface for customers to dynamically provision cloud workloads internal or external to their organization.

“We spent a considerable amount of time with the team at Centennial Campus after we completed our relocation to the Research Triangle,” said John Cowan, CEO of 6fusion. “Centennial Campus is not only an exciting, intellectually stimulating place to locate an entrepreneurial venture – it’s also a unique venue that allows us to partner on research and development facilities in a campus atmosphere that is more than just office space.”

6fusion makes iNode computing power available exclusively through IT service providers, independent software vendors and managed service providers. The company uses iNodes to build and launch ‘cloud’ based services to its user communities and customers worldwide. The company bridges the gap between supply and demand of utility computing resources with the company’s software technology called UC6. UC6 is a single console that handles all of the metering and billing of the “infrastructure” and deployment and control of customer “applications.”

In addition to the corporate relocation, 6fusion has also partnered with NC State’s Institute for Next Generation IT Systems (ITng) to develop collaborative research initiatives. ITng is also located on Centennial Campus.

“ITng is a perfect fit for 6fusion’s long term R&D program,” said 6fusion co-founder and CTO Delano Seymour.

6fusion Announces the General Availability of its Cloud Computing Platform UC6 Version 3.0

New release provides an end-to-end cloud management platform for external, internal and hybrid clouds in a single console powered by the Workload Allocation Cube

Durham, North CarolinaOctober 26, 20106fusion, the leading provider of utility billed Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) today announced the general availability of its latest cloud computing platform UC6 Version 3.0.  The new release builds on the company’s core utility metering technology and includes a multi-tenant cloud management console, self-service workload creation and management and improved features to help customers orchestrate workload migration to the cloud.

Leveraging 6fusion’s unique metering algorithm – the Workload Allocation Cube (WAC) – the UC6 platform turns the cloud into a billable utility.  Users can meter cloud resource usage and either cost allocate or bill based on actual computing resource consumption.  Paying for Infrastructure as a Service using the WAC is like paying for electricity by the kilowatt, ensuring customers are only charged for what they actually use and providing improved transparency into cost and resource allocation.  “With the release of UC6 Version 3.0, service providers and enterprises now have the tools necessary to turn the cloud into a truly utility based model, regardless of whether they are using external, internal or hybrid cloud services,” said 6fusion CEO John Cowan.

6fusion’s UC6 Version 3.0 provides an end-to-end cloud management platform for internal, external and hybrid clouds.  “UC6 3.0 creates a single pane of glass through which enterprise customers, service providers and data center operators can provision and manage compute resources on a global basis,” explained Rob Bissett, 6fusion’s VP of Product Management.  Through the UC6 user interface, customers can instantly deploy new cloud workloads to their own private infrastructure or infrastructure that belongs to multi-tenant service providers anywhere in the world.

Another key feature is the Profiler module.  Initially released as a stand-alone tool in 2009, Profiler comes fully integrated with UC6 3.0.  “Profiler is a critical tool for our business because it unlocks valuable insight into the cost performance of an application, the number one barrier to cloud-based adoption,” said Greg Onoprijenko, Managing Director of Sales for e-ternity Business Continuity Consultants.  “Our customers depend on Profiler to help determine and prioritize their cloud migration strategies.”

UC6 3.0 can be deployed to create multi-tenant IaaS or within the private confines of an Enterprise data center.  “We believe the future of the IaaS business rests with the capability to seamlessly bridge the business requirements of Enterprise customers with the technical capabilities of service providers,” said Cowan.  Phil Santoni, CEO of Net Direct Systems, agrees. “We chose to partner with 6fusion because they built a platform that addresses many of the challenges facing cloud adoption within the Enterprise market,” said Santoni.  “Net Direct System’s cloud service strategy is based on 6fusion’s ability to not just meter and bill compute resources, but also safely and securely permit the customer to outsource workloads on-demand to external data centers.”

To learn more about UC6 3.0, try the platform for free, or to get more information about joining the cloud, visit www.6fusion.com.

Contact: info(at)6fusion(dot)com, 888-492-4408

3 Universal Truths about Enabling the IaaS Market

There has been quite a bit of chatter on the web lately about cloud service providers, the IaaS market, private vs public cloud, etc etc. With Cisco taking a head first dive into the business of IaaS enablement and the subsequent publishing of the ROI calculator I felt compelled to share some insight from 6fusion beyond my quick blog post the other day.

6fusion has been helping data center providers create utility computing nodes for about 5 years. Not a lot of time in the big picture, but a heck of a lot of time in the cloud service provider industry for sure. We give our technology (yes, give) to data centers and help them (at no cost) get into the cloud service provider business. Over that span of time we have discovered a few universal truths about this market.

Before I elaborate on that, let me give you a quick introduction to part of the process what we go through with new data center partners.

This is an excerpt from a 6fusion process document for new IaaS partners:

4. ROI Calculator

In order to estimate the value of your 6fusion utility computing node, we require certain data inputs, the results of which will identify precisely the amount of revenue a prospective partner can expect to earn. The inputs we require include:

  1. Total Number of Blade Servers
  2. Total Number of Rack Servers
  3. Total Number of Hard Drives
  4. Total Internet (WAN) Capacity

    In addition to raw material quantities, UCV Program Partners must complete [a simple input table that characterizes the cost and technical limits of their resource pools]

Every single time we do this process our partners make the same first remark: “That’s it? No forty-sheet excel workbook? No training course to understand all of this? No pain? No charge?”

Yup.

That’s it. Well, I guess I should say that part of this is possible because of our secret sauce, but I won’t get in to that here.

So here are the three universal truths we’ve learned about enabling the IaaS market:

Truth #1: The money-in equation trumps everything else in the decision process.

I can show any data center vendor how much they can make based on the hardware they want to toss into the game. And THAT is the part the service provider cares most about.

Truth #2: All x86 hardware, no matter how many white papers you publish, is a commodity in the IaaS world.

Note to Cisco and others: You are the guys that supply the coal for the furnace. That’s it. That’s all. You do it really well – and without you this whole thing won’t even exist. But when our partners go through this process they honestly don’t give a shit about brands, logos, super bowl ads, flash web sites and twitter feeds. They care about how your revenue run rate yield compares to your biggest competitor.

Truth #3: Agnosticism is a powerful currency.

Cisco releasing an ROI calculator for their own kit is like asking the Pope his honest opinion about how Catholicism stacks up against the other religions. Honestly. Are we really that naïve? Giving the service provider a truly objective view into ROI packs a very powerful punch.

The really interesting thing is that providers like 6fusion can be a tremendous asset to the hardware companies that really truly have stuff customers should buy. What better way to prove your marketing department right than to see how you stack up in an objective, apples to apples comparison? Think you’re the crème that rises to the top? We could actually help you prove it!

Cisco ROI Tool Doesn’t Really Help the IaaS Shopper

So Cisco just released it new flashy ROI calculator for cloud service providers looking to buy kit and get into the game. Check it out here:  http://www.cisco.com/assets/sol/sp/iaas/flash/roi_calculator/index.html

While the movement to create easy to use tools to help simplify purchasing decisions should be applauded, Cisco’s online tool doesn’t really help the customer out. Here’s why:

  • Comparing Cisco with other vendors just multiplied the volume of evaluation work necessary to actually make a decision – this of course goes against the assumption by Cisco that anyone would even entertain another vendor!
  • There is no way to bench mark ROI performance per compute resource and drill down into bloated cost centers.
  • There is no way to address customers that use IaaS in anomalistic usage patterns. What happens to my ROI if I have a handful of I/O hogs that drown out others?
  • The tool makes the assumption that IaaS must be delivered the way Cisco sees it, which removes most of the wiggle room to create customized services

The Cisco tool highlights the problem when big iron vendors operate in a vacuum, which only underscores why raw material supply in the cloud business must be abstracted entirely from service delivery. I don’t doubt that Cisco has a great infrastructure product set – but what would truly be useful is a system that allows the buyer to really compare apples to apples and make a purchase decision on true ROI analysis.

ConnectWise Outage a Cautionary Tale for Channel

For folks living in the IT Channel world it was impossible to miss the headline-grabbing news about the big ConnectWise cloud failure late last month.  I have only very limited knowledge of the outage itself from a handful of upset customers and unfortunately the various pundits and reporters that covered the story painted very sketchy details at best.  Having said that, what really matters is that a significant number of IT Service Providers lost access to their mission critical operations application for an extended period.   For the uninitiated, ConnectWise provides an integrated service management, CRM and billing platform for IT service providers.  For the IT Service Providers that use ConnectWise, the business of IT service can’t function without it.  It’s a very important business process automation tool for the operation of a managed service practice.

As I sat back and watched the carnage and horrors unfold for ConnectWise my first thoughts were thoughts of sympathy.  As a company whose services are depended upon for mission critical functions this kind of thing is your worst nightmare.  There is a misconception out there that because something is running in a cloud environment that it is impervious to failure.  I have no idea where this crap originates, but it is exactly that. Crap.  Maybe it’s the marketing rhetoric.  Maybe the hype-cycle is to blame.  I don’t really know.  But what I do know is that outages DO happen, even to the best of us.  So ConnectWise, if you are reading this post – don’t sweat it.  This too shall pass.

Having made that point, the ConnectWise outage does represent a cautionary tale for any Channel service provider:  If you depend on your software vendor to make decisions about hardware infrastructure with zero transparency, you should be comfortable getting whatever you get. Good or bad.  Up or down.  It’s that simple.

This is the problem I have had with the whole SaaS phenomenon since it started to really heat up a few years ago.  Hardware infrastructure is REALLY important to the sustainability of your hosted software.  I don’t care whether your application is used by the CIA, NASA or both.  If you operate that application from inferior infrastructure or after-thought laden infrastructure designs, you are asking for big trouble.

When we ran our MSP practice in the pre-6fusion days we adopted a policy whereby if we could not see into the hardware design and build specs behind a hosted app, it was a show-stopper to doing business with that vendor.  This policy served us extremely well not because we never had any problems our outages.  But rather, when there was an issue we had complete control and understanding of the issue.  This is CRITICAL in managing any IT, internal or external.  What you avoid when you have transparency and control is the type of bedlam that ensued when ConnectWise failed.   Imagine 100 plus IT service providers with hundreds of end user clients all sitting in the dark with NO IDEA what was really happening.  As a cloud service enabler, I shudder at the thought.

This might sound like obvious advice, but the seduction of cheap SaaS pricing is a powerful lure even for the most stringent of service providers.   The market is rife with SaaS peddlers boasting ‘infinite scalability and zero downtime’ as a marketing ploy and that is BAD for everyone in the cloud business in general.   So whether you are an IT Service Provider or an ISV, here are few key pointers if you are considering either running mission critical back office or web applications that use a form of cloud computing infrastructure (or someone’s boxes co-located somewhere):

1)      Ask the vendor to disclose exactly where your data is being stored

2)      Request copies of the service providers’ SAS70 audit summaries to confirm process controls at the data center

  1. If there are no SAS70 reports available, request guest access to the data center to see for yourself

3)      Ask for an asset audit report to affirm hardware configurations and designs

4)      Ask for a detailed outage report for the past 12 month history of the service.

5)      Get your lawyer to vet the SLA and limitation of liability clauses in the contract.

  1. If no SLA is provided, you shouldn’t be talking to that vendor!!
  2. Not all L of L clauses are created equal.  Make sure the L of L doesn’t complete gut the SLA.
  3. Make sure the service provider INCLUDES data center network considerations as part of that SLA

If your ‘spidey sense’ is tingling when exploring any one of these points with your prospective SaaS vendor, use your instincts.  Back away!!

I think the lack of control over cloud infrastructure in typical SaaS models also highlights yet again a point I made in a blog post last June about the role of the Channel in cloud computing and the importance of why cloud vendors like 6fusion have a clear demarcation point at the infrastructure level.  I’ll spare you having to go back to sift through that soap-box-like post.  Here is what I wrote then:

We resisted the temptation to become an apps vendor because we are not the ones that should be deciding what apps to run and where to run them. We simply provide the cloud infrastructure and tools to help you build what YOUR customers want and need to integrate with how they run their businesses today.”

I can tell you ConnectWise customers that run that software on our cloud infrastructure certainly have never experienced the type of outage that ConnectWise suffered (present company included!).  But that is not the point.  The point is transparency and control between software and hardware infrastructure, which is, in my humble opinion, too valuable a component to give up when you go with a multi-tenant software solution (SaaS) for mission critical apps (that hasn’t been thoroughly vetted).  I can’t speak for other IaaS types in the market, but 6fusion shares the hardware design specs, security measures and governance documentation with IT service provider and ISV clients and they have a very clearly documented SLA.   Since we wouldn’t subscribe to anything less we think it’s important that our customers don’t either.

But what is even more important is that users have control over their cloud workloads, from creation to resource allocation to a common reboot.  Control means that standard troubleshooting protocols apply and insight into software and hardware failures can be identified and managed more effectively.  I think as cloud becomes more ‘mainstream’ this type of ‘cloud control’ will become requisite for all service providers in the space.  But until then it is up to IT Service Providers and ISVs to do their risk homework when deciding whether or not SaaS is an acceptable risk model for their customers, and their own, internal operations.

PR: RASS, 6fusion Partner to Deliver Apps in the Cloud

RASS and 6fusion USA, Inc. today announced a partnership to co-deliver cloud hosted desktop and server applications on demand.  The joint offering promises to improve existing performance and cost limitations for customers moving away from a traditional on-site application delivery model. RASS features state-of-the-art technology to allow companies of all sizes to serve business applications to remote users.  RASS is delivered from the 6fusion platform, which provides scalable, pay-per-use utility computing resources for customers around the world as a form of cloud computing.

“The goal of our partnership is to simplify the delivery of Windows, UNIX, and Linux applications to business users, while dramatically improving their performance over common internet connections,” said RASS CEO Christian Johnston.  According to 6fusion CEO John Cowan, “RASS powered by 6fusion’s technology is an example of how IT services are changing with innovative software and scalable, limitless computing resources.  This offering will completely change the game when it comes to desktop applications in the cloud.”

RASSonline is designed to eliminate legacy remote access solutions and securely run almost any application.  “What’s great about RASS is that there really is no limit to the type of applications you can serve up and you don’t need expensive and cumbersome platforms like Terminal Services or Citrix,” said RASS VP of Sales and Marketing, Brad Calli.  “Customers can run their standard office productivity software from companies like Microsoft or complex software systems such as Adobe,” he added.  RASS customers can log into their application servers leveraging standard Remote Desktop Protocol or even using a web browser.   Secure access was a critical design element to the service offering.   Johnston says this is a key feature for any cloud hosted desktop:  “RASSonline features 256 bit encryption, which is must in the new world of cloud hosting.”

The cloud computing back end for RASS is provided by 6fusion.  “6fusion delivers scalable, limitless utility computing resources to IT service providers and software vendors on a global basis,” explained Doug Steele, 6fusion’s Director of Partner Development.  “When you think about the capability of cloud and the valuable business case presented by RASS, you see the basis of powerful business partnership,” he added.  Calli admits the cloud changed their corporate perspective.  “Before we met the team from 6fusion we had our sights set on a regional market.  But by leveraging their platform we can make our technology instantly available to markets all around the world,” he said.  “And we can do it with no upfront capital expense,” he added.

A free 14 day trial of RASS is currently available at www.rassonline.com.    Companies interested in finding out more about partnering with RASSonline or 6fusion are encouraged to email info@6fusion.com or sales@rassonline.com