Today, Dell chose CenturyLink Cloud for their partner program due to our cloud’s extensive reseller capabilities. These features, first launched as Tier 3’s Reseller Edition, include account management, APIs, SSO via SAML, extensive re-branding and more (details here and here). CenturyLink’s approach to reseller enablement gives Dell a completely rebranded public cloud offering overnight – no engineering required on their side.
This is big news for us, and we’re excited to be working with Dell.
Now, let’s explore this idea of partnerships for public cloud a little more.
Developers and IT increasingly turn to new-school cloud vendors for their infrastructure. Common sense on the eve of 2014. But this shift was not anticipated by most SIs, MSPs, and hardware OEMs 5 years ago.
How have these vendors responded? The results are mixed. Many are still refining their cloud strategy, and wrestling with the build, buy, partner calculus.
The industry isn’t sitting still – far from it. But there’s plenty of time for vendors who missed out on the first wave of cloud to capitalize on the second wave. But as CenturyLink CTO Jared Wray recently wrote, building cloud is hard. It takes a specific set of engineering skills that are in high demand.
Consequently, we’re seeing more and more companies kick start their cloud business with the ‘partner’ route. Dell is simply the latest partner to work with us.
Reseller enablement is a key component of CenturyLink’s public cloud strategy, and we’ve learned a great deal from our experiences with PEER 1, Dell and others.
At CenturyLink Cloud, we believe that any provider should be able to launch a public cloud business. And it should be easy, where newly rebranded services can be ready in days, not months.
That said, what makes a good cloud partner? These are the important elements:
- Infrastructure services that deliver the agility and self-service business units and developers crave. This is where many homegrown efforts have failed, by the way.
- Management functions that give IT the control they require – ticking all the boxes on compliance, security, and governance. Governance is hard to build; most traditional vendors understand compliance and security quite well.
- Give customers a path to future, with soon-to-be-mainstream application services like platform as a service. In a few years, it won’t be about servers or infrastructure at all. Vendors that will thrive in 3 years help customers understand this, and then help them to plan accordingly.
Most importantly, a cloud partner needs to extend the vendor’s ‘distinctive competence.’ Let’s examine a few of the most common strengths of MSPs, SIs, and hardware OEMs, and how they mesh with cloud.
- Expertise in specific applications, business processes, or integrations. Providers should seek clouds with resilient infrastructure that run legacy business apps ‘out of the box.’ In addition, automation and orchestration functions can yield efficiencies when deploying said applications, and when weaving complex cloud environments together. Existing best practices from pre-cloud can now be cloudy!
- Brand and customer experience. In this scenario, the cloud provider must have deep white-label capabilities - beyond basic re-branding – and an ability to link to existing post-sale systems.
- Managed services. Clouds with self-service and automation to enable a lucrative managed services play. If a services team can just as easily manage 500 servers as 5, incredible economies of scale can be achieved.
- Geography and geo-specific services. The provider should have global reach, with federated locations in the countries most important to your customers.
Based on a solid foundation of compute, storage, and network – all wrapped into a management layer – providers can begin to engage with customers at more profound level in a way that builds on their unique expertise.
We’re on the cusp of the next wave of cloud - and partnering could be the right option for you. Want to know more about how CenturyLink Cloud might be able to help? Contact us today!
Last year, we made 12 predictions about what would happen in the cloud space in 2013. As the year comes to a close, it’s only fair for us to assess our hits and misses to see how well we did.
Recap and Scorecard
PREDICTION #1: 2013 will be the year of cloud management software.
REALITY: Hit. We saw this come true on multiple fronts. First, cloud management providers Enstratius and ServiceMesh were acquired by Dell and CSC, respectively. Tier 3 – known for the sophisticated management software that runs our IaaS – was acquired by CenturyLink. On top of this, Gartner estimates that a new vendor enters the cloud management space every month, and nearly every cloud provider is constantly beefing up their own management offerings. This shows the strategic value of comprehensive management capabilities in a cloud portfolio. Customer adoption of these platforms is also on the rise and Gartner sees 60% of Global 2000 enterprises using cloud management technology (up from 30% in 2013).
PREDICTION #2: While the largest cloud providers duke it out on price and scale, smaller cloud providers see that enterprise adoption really depends on tight integration with existing tools and processes.
REALITY: Mixed. Of course, cloud prices definitely declined in 2013 and massive scale continued to be a key selling point. Hybrid cloud picked up momentum this year as more companies looked to establish an IT landscape that leveraged on-premises assets while taking advantage of cloud scale. In order to maximize the efficiency of hybrid scenarios, companies need consistency in processes and tools. While cloud management platforms have helped with this a bit, there wasn’t a wholesale move by cloud providers to seamlessly integrate their core offerings with established products.
PREDICTION #3: Enterprises move from pilots to projects, and architecture takes a front seat.
REALITY: Hit. There’s been much less gnashing of teeth on “should I use the cloud” this year, and much more discussion about how to capitalize on the cloud. We’ve seen our customers move to more substantial solutions and ask for more sophisticated capabilities, such as self-service networking. Throughout the industry, we’re seeing more enterprise-class case studies where customers are putting mission critical workloads in the cloud. However, outages still occur on any cloud, and providers are publishing guidelines on how to properly architect for high availability. The recent AWS conference was full of sessions on architecture best practices, and developers are hungry for information about how those best practices are applied.
PREDICTION #5: Standalone, public PaaS offerings will be slow to gain enterprise adoption.
REALITY: Hit. In 2013 we saw renewed discussion on what PaaS actually is and what it SHOULD be. Longtime PaaS providers Microsoft and Google added IaaS products to their portfolio, while smaller firms like Apprenda saw success in private PaaS. Our sister company, AppFog, has launched over 100,000 apps, including some impressive enterprise deployments. Former Tier 3 colleague Adron Hall asked whether PaaS was still “a thing” or whether new container technologies like Docker were going to replace it. However, as some like our own Jared Wray and Red Hat’s Krish Subramanian have said, PaaS is about more than JUST application containers. A rich PaaS also includes the orchestration, management, and services that make it a valuable platform for web applications of any type. Either way, PaaS is still in its infancy and will continue to morph as customer scenarios take shape.
PREDICTION #6: Public goes private.
REALITY: Mixed. There were hints of this in 2013 as Amazon won a bid to win a private cloud for the CIA (and for you too if you have half a billion sitting around!), Microsoft offered a “pack” for making on-premises environments resemble their public cloud, and platforms like OpenStack gained traction as a private cloud alternative. We continued to make advances in supporting private scenarios by adding self-service site-to-site VPN capabilities to an already-robust set of connectivity options. I gave this a “mixed” score because as a whole, public cloud providers don’t yet (and may never) make it simple to run their stack in a private data center for mainstream enterprises.
PREDICTION #7: Cloud providers embrace alternate costing models.
REALITY: Hit. 2013 saw some changes to how cloud customers paid for resources. We modified our pricing to decouple some components while still making it easy to provision exactly the amount of CPU, memory and storage that you need for a given server. Google and Microsoft both launched their IaaS clouds with “per minute” pricing for compute resources. Cloud providers have yet to move to a “pay for consumption instead of allocation” model for things like storage, but overall we’ve seen a maturation of pricing considerations in 2013.
PREDICTION #8: While portability will increase at the application and hypervisor layer, middleware and environment metadata will remain more proprietary.
REALITY: Mixed. We might have been too pessimistic last year! DevOps tools have flourished in 2013 and platform adapters have made it possible to move workloads between clouds without a massive re-architecture effort. To be sure, code portability is still MUCH simpler than environment portability. Each cloud provider has their own value-added services that rarely transfer easily to other locations, and no clear IaaS standard has emerged. However, platforms like OpenStack are attempting to make cloud portability a reality, and the increasing prevalence of public APIs makes it possible for tools like Pivotal’s BOSH or Chef to orchestrate deployments in diverse provider environments.
PREDICTION #9: Global expansion takes center stage.
REALITY: Hit. One of the first questions we hear from prospective customers is “where are your data centers?” This year, almost all of the leading cloud providers expanded their footprint around the globe. For our part, we added data centers in Canada, the UK, and Germany. Now, as part of CenturyLink, we have major expansion plans in 2014.
PREDICTION #10: IaaS providers who don’t court developers get left behind.
REALITY: Hit. In 2013, Stephen O’Grady wrote that developers are the “new kingmakers” and this was reinforced by Gartner analyst Lydia Leong who wrote that IT operations no longer has a monopoly on cloud procurement. Developers are now running the show – bringing in vendors that meet their unique criteria. Consequently, a new crop of developer-centric cloud providers has popped up. While they don’t offer managed services or sophisticated resource management, they DO help developers get going quickly in the cloud. We wooed developers with new self-service capabilities, API improvements, and with new features like Autoscale and webhooks. Developers will continue to be a focus for us at CenturyLink and we plan on continuing our regular Open Source contributions!
PREDICTION #11: Clouds that cannot be remotely managed through an API will fall behind.
REALITY: Hit. APIs are the gateway to modern services and allow ecosystems to flourish. Consider the vibrant crop of cloud management platforms discussed in prediction #1. And that is just one small example. The vast majority of clouds listed in Gartner’s 2013 Magic Quadrant for Cloud Infrastructure have public, comprehensive APIs that developers can use to consume the cloud in whatever way they want. In 2013, we started an effort to replace our existing API with an even more expansive offering that offers complete parity with our industry leading Control Portal user interface. That effort will continue into the next year. When complete, a new host of capabilities will be accessible for CenturyLink, our partners, and mostly important, our customers.
PREDICTION #12: Usability and self-service become table stakes for cloud providers.
REALITY: Mixed. In 2013, we seemed to hit the point where “clouds that aren’t really clouds” struggled as the market began to demand more. Customers expected more and more self-service capabilities, and Tier 3 – along with most every other major provider – focused heavily on that in 2013. Platform usability was a lesser focus this year. While new clouds from Microsoft and Google included relatively straightforward user experiences, few providers made any massive visual improvements. While the CenturyLink Cloud continues to be lauded for an easy to use, powerful interface, we haven’t stood still. A major redesign is underway that will surface more data, simplify activities, and improve performance.
2013 was an important year in the maturation of the cloud industry. New vendors were introduced, popular platforms were acquired, and consumption of cloud services skyrocketed. What will happen in 2014? Stay tuned for our predictions!
Tier 3 has joined CenturyLink. We are going to build amazing things together.
But let’s look back before we look ahead.
Many people contributed to the success of Tier 3. Developers launched feature after feature, while network engineers supported customers day and night. A passion for problem solving fueled their achievements. A tireless team of marketing, sales, and finance pros helped along the way as well – building our thought leadership campaigns, winning new business, and keeping our back office humming.
I’d like to thank these talented individuals. This is the team that built APIs, designed the UX, rolled out new self-service functions, and helped our customers grow. We’ve worked with lots of great partners too. Together, we advanced cloud computing.
Cloud is really, really hard. Just read the headlines – enterprises and traditional IT vendors are struggling.
We started Tier 3 to make cloud easier. We created products, processes, and a culture to help enable cloud for the enterprise.
And cloud is a littler easier now, thanks to Tier 3’s ecosystem of people and partners.
This deal would not be possible without Tier 3’s customers. Their support, their decision to trust a smaller company for their cloud needs, and their feedback on how we could improve our service – all played a part in this coming together.
Very little will change for our customers. Here are 3 things our customers should understand:
- There are minimal changes to the cloud services you use today. Our compute, storage, and networking services are unchanged. If you have customized the portal interface, this color scheme will persist. If you have the default Tier 3 theme, you’ll see an updated experience with the CenturyLink logo and color palette.
- No change to SLAs. Our commitment to uptime and availability remains high, as it always has.
- No change to the people and processes you have come to depend on. We plan to retain our team of network engineers, developers, and support team as we transition to a new phase of growth.
One thing will be changing, however. We will have more resources to accelerate cloud innovation and adoption.
That’s a good thing, because there’s more work to be done. The industry needs to abstract more complexity away from users. CenturyLink is committed to building an amazing platform that does just that.
Early next year, we’ll open the new CenturyLink Cloud Development Center in the greater Seattle area. This facility will foster an innovative environment where the best and brightest come together to move the industry forward.
We know this collaborative approach is the right one, because of our history at Tier 3. Our team pioneered new technologies, embraced open source with Iron Foundry and other projects, and established a unique “build for cloud scale” development culture.
This commitment to open source and “cloud scale” culture are the defining parts of Tier 3 for me. And both components are central to our future as a part of CenturyLink.
The new CenturyLink Cloud team will apply these philosophies to solve a wide range of challenges – both external, for customers, and internal, for employees and partners.
We want to make cloud dramatically easier for everyone. Not just for IT, or developers that “get” cloud. But for technical staff unfamiliar or wary of cloud, and for business users.
We’ll solve this with five ideas in mind:
- The enterprise cloud market is evolving to be more than infrastructure. The cost of infrastructure will continue to drop. However, the human cost remains – transforming this dimension is where the industry needs to focus. That means self-service cloud products combined with managed services, global data center footprints, high-performance networks, and fiber.
- Platforms of the future need to do more than resource aggregation. Self-service infrastructure that’s elastic and cheap is the first wave of cloud. But the next wave goes far beyond that. We are nearing the tipping point, with market adoption of projects like Cloud Foundry. Will the majority of cloud users even interact with servers in the future? I don’t think they will.
- Startup Agility + Corporate Backing = Rapid roadmap acceleration. At first, I was a little skeptical when talking to CenturyLink. What would they know about self-service cloud? How could they attract highly skilled engineers? After going through this process, though, I will say CenturyLink gets it. They love the Cloud Development Center idea, and are looking for this new team to help lead their business into the future. That means more resources to drive their cloud business forward, with new products and services.
- Any workload, any time, anywhere. Platforms that control and manipulate virtual resources should be able to optimize workloads wherever they are. Not just on CenturyLink Cloud infrastructure, but on other systems as well. We’ll continue to build flexibility and adaptability into our software, so we can support other ecosystems like OpenStack.
- Open Source FTW. We deeply believe in open source. We depend on open source code to run our global cloud, and we contribute back with projects like Iron Foundry. Open source will continue to have an instrumental role in IT, and we want to be a part of it.
The journey has been incredible so far, but we’re just getting started.
It’s difficult for businesses to compare so many diverse players in the cloud. To make the task a bit easier, the team at Cloud Spectator recently issued a useful report: “IaaS Performance and Value Analysis.” View it here, registration required to download.
At CenturyLink Cloud, we’ve always claimed to be a “high performance” cloud (who doesn’t?), so it is nice to see this validated by a third party. A summary of findings that brought a smile to our faces:
- #1 “Performance Leader” for overall system results
- #1 performance leader for Disk and RAM
- #2 performance leader for CPU and internal networking
My personal favorite passage:
UnixBench highlights the significant system performance difference among the top providers in the IaaS industry. The highest and lowest scorers show a difference of 4.7x in system performance; CenturyLink Cloud’s average UnixBench score is 2998, while Amazon EC2’s is 642.