What is the cloud? Well, that’s been the million-dollar question for years, with vendor after vendor creating a unique definition for cloud, naturally motivated by their own products. Generally speaking, the cloud” is touted for its flexibility, scalability, mobility, and cost-effectiveness – all features business require as they seek to build and expand. Today, we’ve at least come to some agreement regarding three service models of cloud – SaaS (News - Alert), PaaS, and IaaS. It’s progress.
What’s interesting about the three service models is the variance in flexibility and customization between each – of course, with that flexibility also comes a level of expertise and IT commitment, so the realization of the myth of minimizing IT involvement is proportional to the flexibility businesses require from their cloud solutions. That’s not necessarily bad; rather, it’s recognition that there are multiple alternatives, each appropriate for a different audience – isn’t abundant choice what’s driven the tech space?
Because it provides the greatest flexibility, Infrastructure as a Service has become an increasingly interesting play, growing nearly 80 percent to more than $3 billion in revenue last year. Frost & Sullivan (News - Alert) predicts the IaaS market will enjoy 60% CAGR through 2016.
Essentially, IaaS is a scenario where virtual servers and storage (i.e., compute resources, storage, and networking) are used by businesses on an on-demand basis, but reside in service providers’ data centers. Customers are able to provision their rented infrastructure as needed and deploy their own platforms and applications in their cloud environment, or it can very easily lead to PaaS and SaaS relationships as well.
The American IaaS market is dominated by Amazon, with Rackspace (News - Alert) securely in second place and Verizon Terremark in third (based on Frost’s data). But there are challenges with public IaaS, according to Cloud Sigma’s CEO and co-founder Robert Jenkins (News - Alert), with whom I recently had a chance to talk about the market.
Specifically, he notes that, while businesses gain elasticity, they don’t always have the same strategic networking capabilities as you would in a private cloud environment or in an on-premises data center.
So, he set off to build Cloud Sigma’s public cloud as a mirror image of the capabilities of private cloud environments.
“The limitations stem from vendor limitations,” he says. “We built our own cloud stack where customers can run any x86 OS out of the box, unmodified, which means anything they can do in a rack, they can do in Cloud Sigma.”
The idea is to provide flexible and scalable compute platform for any business with significant computing needs and sophisticated requirements – the kind of business that Amazon doesn’t seem to be getting. Customers fall mainly into two categories thus far; the first is the self-service user with relatively modest requirements running Web services or R&D and test scenarios. These users typically set up their own computing and Cloud Sigma has little interaction with them – it’s the growth of devops in the cloud.
The second group is the corporate user, which needs more interaction and handholding through the process but, as this customer group sees success through Cloud Sigma deployments, they end up giving Jenkins’ group more and more business and migrating more and more to the cloud.
Cloud Sigma provides a full virtualization platform, so there is complete separation between users – always a key concern in multi-tenancy scenarios.
“We don’t see inside the virtual machines, we don’t see what the customers are running – this offers privacy like they don’t get with other clouds,” says Jenkins. “We give them end to end private to deliver the security they need.”
So, on the one hand, the public IaaS model seems to add yet another level of complexity to what’s already available in the cloud market but, for enterprises that need to real power of a cloud infrastructure, but do not have the resources to build a private cloud, this is the next best option.
The financial and medical sectors have already discovered the benefits Cloud Sigma offers and, as Jenkins notes, his customers are using Cloud Sigma’s cloud infrastructure for running business critical applications, not just as a sandbox.
IaaS isn’t for anyone, any many businesses will be able to get what they need from Amazon, but for those that need even more flexibility and security, public IaaS is a great alternative for private cloud and traditional on-premises solutions.
Edited by Stefania Viscusi