The Keys to Enterprise Public Cloud

Today’s Cloud Computing marketplace exhibits a surprising bifurcation. Public Cloud providers like are all the rage among small companies, startups, and individual developers. Enterprises, however, are largely investing in Private Clouds. Public Clouds are too risky, so the story goes, or perhaps enterprise decision makers are only willing to dip their toe in the Public Cloud water.

We find this trend surprising, because in many ways the Public Cloud value proposition is stronger than the Private Cloud’s, even for large organizations. The perceived security issues are largely FUD (fear, uncertainty, and doubt), as Private Clouds are generally as susceptible to the same risks as public ones (if not more so). Building out a Private Cloud requires capital expense, eliminating the pay-as-you-go benefit that Public Cloud customers enjoy. And perhaps most striking, you must purchase excess server capacity to handle unexpected loads in a Private Cloud. What’s the point to having a Cloud in the first place if you can’t be elastic and save money at the same time?

The enterprise challenge Public Cloud providers have is telling the proper story at the proper time. If most enterprises are at the toe-in-the-water phase, then best to give them toe-in-the-water options, like Cloud storage, Cloud-based email, and self-contained Web sites running in the Cloud. Established Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) offerings like fall into this category as well. After all, if a Cloud Provider positions their value proposition to the enterprise too far ahead of where the customers are focusing, they may get a lot of smiles and nods in their meetings, but no purchase orders.

Be that as it may, many of today’s enterprises are ready to move forward with more strategic Cloud initiatives. What’s holding them back is a lack of solid information and expertise from the marketplace. Traditional software and hardware vendors are still the source of most of the information out there, and their advice emphasizes buying software and hardware, naturally. You can’t really blame them—that’s their business, after all—but from the enterprise practitioner’s perspective, there is a gap in the available information and expertise that Private Cloud providers are uniquely qualified to fill.

Marketing, of course, is only one side of the story. The Public Cloud providers must base their story on real capabilities that enterprises not only need today, but will require in the near future. Perhaps not ten years hence, but capabilities that organizations can include today in their strategic Cloud planning for the next few years. Many organizations are ready to move forward with their Cloud initiatives, and the Public Cloud providers can lead the way.

ZapThink has spoken to many enterprises, and we’ve assembled a list of capabilities that organizations will require from Public Cloud providers over the next few years. It is now up to those providers to build out the requisite offerings and expertise and also tell the appropriate stories about those capabilities, so that architects who are piecing together their Cloud roadmaps have useful information that balances the biased vendor spin that currently characterizes the Cloud marketplace.

Enterprise Public Cloud Capabilities

Here are four essential Public Cloud capabilities that enterprises may require to move past the toe-in-the-water phase of Cloud to more strategic Cloud initiatives.

  1. Hybrid Cloud integration – Phase one of an enterprise Public Cloud strategy may be to access some Cloud application or infrastructure simply via Web interfaces. Phase two, however, typically involves integration between on-premise resources and Cloud-based capabilities, typically as part of a SOA initiative (but not necessarily). Public Cloud providers must therefore support all manner of integration with a range of legacy on-premise systems. In other words, enterprise Public Cloud means some flavor of Hybrid Cloud offering.

  2. Fine-grained governance – The Cloud Provider must be willing and able to offer whatever level of control and visibility the customer requires. For example, the customer may require that the provider locate their data in specific geographic locations, or may require detailed audit and management logging capabilities. The challenge for the Cloud Provider will be to offer such customized capabilities to customers without adversely impacting the elasticity or automated provisioning of the Cloud.

  3. Platform-level security measures – As we discussed in our Data Remanence ZapFlash, some enterprises will require a level of security control that exceeds what we currently call Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS), essentially requiring IaaS vendors to offer Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) security controls over infrastructure elements like caches, queues, log files, and any other temporary storage mechanisms.

  4. End-to-end, continuous Hybrid Cloud testing – Just as SOA requires continuous quality across the Service lifecycle, so too do Hybrid Cloud solutions, whether they follow a SOA approach or traditional tightly-coupled integration. Remember, the Cloud doesn’t offer a rigid reliability guarantee; instead, it provides dynamic, automated approaches for recovering from failure. Enterprises must have a comfort level that such inherent Cloud behavior won’t adversely impact on-premise or end-to-end capabilities.

The ZapThink Take

Public Cloud providers pride themselves on their “black box” approach to delivering IT capabilities. Outside the black box they offer all the wonderful benefits of a Cloud environment, including elasticity, dynamic provisioning, and automated recovery from failure. Inside the black box, well, who knows? They aren’t telling.

That underlying mystery of the Public Cloud may work well in startups or among developer teams, but for enterprises to gain the comfort level they require from the Public Cloud, the providers must think of themselves more as partners, sharing the responsibility for ensuring the technology meets the business need, than as magicians, waving a magic wand and saying, “Presto! It’s a Cloud!”

And while the hype surrounding the Cloud in the marketplace today may suggest otherwise, the fact remains that Clouds—even Public Clouds—aren’t magic. We continue to make progress in offering scalable, elastic, automated solutions, but inside the box it’s just servers, networks, and software in the end. Public Cloud providers must work with their enterprise customers at whatever level is appropriate to meet their needs, even if it means opening up the black box and letting them inside.