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2013 Cloud Predictions: How Did We Do?

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 #4: Enterprises start to embrace NoSQL databases like Cassandra and Riak, and JavaScript becomes a legitimate part of some enterprise applications.

REALITY: Hit. Influential developer-centric analyst firm Redmonk occasionally does “language rankings” and the most recent one showed that JavaScript was tied with Java for the most popular language used by developers. Node.js – the web server framework for JavaScript-oriented applications – continued to explode in popularity in 2013. Relational databases continued to mature in 2013, but NoSQL databases gained further momentum as a viable (and preferred!) repository for highly available storage. We here at CenturyLink see a number of advantages to this approach as well. In fact, our cloud services are now largely powered by the flexible, high performing Couchbase product, an upgrade from Microsoft SQL for our use case.

 

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.

 

Summary

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!

Cloud Infrastructure Grows Up: Gartner MQ 2013 Analysis

For the 3rd straight year, CenturyLink Cloud was recognized by Gartner in its influential Magic Quadrant (MQ) for Cloud Infrastructure-as-as-Service [Get a free copy from CenturyLink Cloud!]. Readers of the MQ don’t just like it because it summarizes an entire industry with a single visual representation. Rather, its real value is derived from the deep analysis of vendors and market dynamics. Each year, the criteria for inclusion gets tougher as the demands of enterprise customers mature. In 2013, vendors can’t simply offer a warmed-over virtualization environment and brand it a cloud.

CenturyLink Cloud on the Gartner Magic QuadrantDownload Report >>

Gartner went hands-on with our platform and came away impressed.

CenturyLink Cloud combines an excellent, highly differentiated set of features on a well-engineered platform with an easy-to-use self-service portal. It is one of the few services with both cloud-native capabilities that are attractive to developers and the governance and management features needed by large enterprises.

In fact, one of their “cautions” about our company included an important compliment. Gartner says that we “will be challenged to match the engineering resources available to the market leaders, and therefore challenged to maintain its platform lead.” We aren’t a big company, but our engineering team has accepted that challenge head on. We look forward to building on this lead in the months and years ahead.

How does Gartner see the market evolving, and what does that mean for CenturyLink Cloud and our customers?

The MQ flags important trends enterprise customers to consider. Many of them map closely to our product strategy.

     
  • Gartner Take: Cloud IaaS is not a commodity. . All clouds are not created equal, and each cloud has their own set of value-added features. While this can limit portability between providers, this issue isn’t a unique to the cloud and is an accepted aspect of most IT vendor relationships. We’re obsessed with automation and user experience, and this manifests itself through a set of services that you can’t easily get elsewhere. It needs to be easy for customers to enter – and exit – our cloud, but our product and roadmap is full of customer-driven features that make it easier to create and manage sophisticated infrastructure environments.
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  • Gartner Take: Hybrid cloud is not yet a reality. Gartner’s point here is simply that it’s not easy to migrate or manage servers that reside in disparate (cloud) environments. That said, from a different perspective of hybrid cloud, we’re seeing a measurable uptick in requests for deep integration between on-premises and cloud environments. Our recent introduction of self-service networking features, coupled with our VPN and Direct Connect capabilities, makes it possible for enterprises to truly treat the CenturyLink Cloud cloud as a close knit extension of their existing data centers – complex network topology and all.
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  • Gartner Take: One size does not fit all.  Customer needs are far from uniform. Gartner points out that for any given workload, the priority could be performance, availability, security, customer service, ease of use, or something completely different. Not every cloud is suited for each dimension. While we like to think that we can run most any workload, we’ve optimized the platform for business applications, enterprise development and testing, ISV-to-SaaS transformation, and resellers looking to expand their portfolio of services.
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  • Gartner Take: IaaS can be used to run a wide range of workloads. In 2013, the cloud isn’t just a playground for prototypes. Not only is it ideal for applications architected specifically for cloud-scale, but also for existing systems that reside in corporate data centers. Our reliable cloud services are there for applications that have to scale out *or* up. We work with numerous enterprise customers who don’t have cloud-native applications but still see significant value in running it in an agile cloud environment (The most common motivation is to accelerate the transition to IT-as-a-service). In those cases, there’s a premium placed on chargebacks, reliability and management of relatively static resources.
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  • Gartner Take: Buying centers for IaaS are diverse. We are excited that our bet on developers as the new kingmakers is paying off. But while engineering plays a HUGE role in cloud adoption, Gartner recognizes that many cloud initiatives are led by business or IT operations. We have won several big accounts because of our sophisticated capabilities around account management, billing, rebranding, auditing, governance, and network management. Unless an organization is ONLY run by developers (like an early stage startup), there’s a need for automation, and practical capabilities that reduce the human cost of using the cloud..
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  • Gartner Take: The cloud IaaS market is more similar to a software market than a traditional IT services market. Our interpretation: self-service and automation are critical to a successful cloud implementation. We couldn’t agree more. There’s a massive, unseen human cost to cloud that isn’t reflected in the cold costs of CPUs and RAM. Staff has to be trained to administer and manage the shared pool of resources. Automation provides the only way that an organization can successfully secure, patch, and manage their cloud environment. Our cloud services are chock full of ways to automate deployments and maintenance and we’re adding more every month!

Each year, the Gartner MQ gives IT leaders a pragmatic and unbiased way to get a handle on a very fluid industry. We’re proud of our strong showing in the last 3 editions, but don’t take Gartner’s word for it; try our cloud out for yourself! And if you love the idea of working on leading-edge technology for a hot-shot cloud company, join our team!

How Hybrid Cloud Computing Enables Business Agility

Increasing Operational Agility with Hybrid Cloud

View more webinars from CenturyLink Cloud, Inc.

Watch the replay above of our recent hybrid cloud webinar (presented in collaboration with VMware and Equinix) to learn more about the hybrid cloud and how it is enabling business agility. Then download CenturyLink Cloud’s hybrid cloud datasheet to learn how your business can take advantage of enterprise-grade hybrid cloud computing services. At this year’s Gartner Symposium/ITxpo, Gartner analysts revealed cloud computing as one of their top 10 strategic technologies for 2012 (calling out hybrid cloud in particular), marking the fourth year running that cloud computing has been named to this list. Gartner describes cloud computing as “a disruptive force,” with “the potential for broad long-term impact in most industries,” and notes that enterprises are now beginning to move past understanding the cloud to making decisions on implementation. The hybrid cloud is one cloud computing implementation model that allows workloads, applications, and virtual machines to be ported between public and private clouds as necessary. Because hybrid cloud “brings together external public cloud services and internal private cloud services, as well as the capabilities to secure, manage and govern the entire cloud spectrum,” Gartner says it will be a “major focus for 2012.” Already these benefits have resulted in hybrid cloud making up around 20% of all current enterprise cloud deployments, according to a recent Market Pulse survey. At CenturyLink Cloud, we’re seeing first-hand how our customers are increasing business agility by leveraging enterprise hybrid cloud computing. Obeo, a leading virtual home tours provider, has moved much of its back-office IT stack (comprising 25 different servers) into the cloud—reducing cost and operational complexity while allowing the company to focus on its core competencies instead of maintaining its own IT environment. Warehouse management systems provider HighJump Software is another hybrid cloud success story: by making use of the hybrid cloud, HighJump was able to break into the SaaS market and free customers from deploying or managing software in their own data centers.

Equinix and CenturyLink Cloud Partner to Accelerate Cloud Adoption in Enterprise

Companies team to deliver enterprise-class hybrid cloud solutions

Redwood City, Calif. and Bellevue, Wash. — March 27, 2012 — Equinix, Inc. (Nasdaq: EQIX), a provider of global data center services, and CenturyLink Cloud, the enterprise cloud platform provider, today announced a partnership to create an enterprise-ready gateway to the cloud by offering CenturyLink Cloud’s Enterprise Cloud Platform via Equinix International Business Exchange™ (IBX®) data centers. The partnership enables enterprise customers to take advantage of the business agility and cost efficiency cloud technologies offer by using CenturyLink Cloud’s enterprise-grade Infrastructure as a Service across Platform Equinix™. Initially, CenturyLink Cloud’s solution will be available in Equinix’s Chicago and New York data centers with plans to expand globally, first into Europe and later to Asia.

“Platform Equinix provides secure, scalable and highly interconnected data center services across 38 strategic global markets. Our network choice combined with access to a wide array of leading cloud services solutions, gives customers a rich environment to build and integrate private, public, and hybrid cloud solutions,” said Chris Sharp, general manager, cloud and content for Equinix. “Our partnership with CenturyLink Cloud further strengthens Equinix’s position as the destination of choice for enterprise cloud deployments through high availability, security and business continuity required for a hybrid or virtual private cloud solution.”

CenturyLink Cloud serves the enterprise market with a public cloud solution known for its high-availability, and built-in business continuity as well as security features that enable isolated environments for each customer. Through a secure, cross connect, customers inside Equinix data centers will be able to quickly deploy a Virtual Private Cloud solution from CenturyLink Cloud. This creates an extension of the customer’s enterprise, transforming the public cloud into a virtual private environment that meets IT’s stringent requirements for security and compliance.

“2012 is a tipping point year for hybrid cloud adoption as businesses move production workloads to the cloud. Virtual private cloud offerings such as the one created by the combination of high availability and security in CenturyLink Cloud’s enterprise cloud and the high performance, low latency connectivity of Platform Equinix, are uniquely positioned to serve this growing demand,” said Adam Wray, president and chief executive officer at CenturyLink Cloud.

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About CenturyLink Cloud

CenturyLink Cloud brings enterprise-class cloud services to businesses globally via its Federated Cloud. The Bellevue, Wash.-based company provides an enterprise-grade virtual private cloud software platform, enhanced by a framework-agnostic cloud orchestration layer to enable IT automation and agility. Architected for security, risk mitigation and high availability ― with 99.999% SLA at all layers and disaster recovery in every deployment — CenturyLink Cloud Federated Cloud services are optimized for production environments and mission-critical applications. For more information, visit www.tier3.com

 

About Equinix

Equinix, Inc. (Nasdaq: EQIX) connects businesses with partners and customers around the world through a global platform of high performance data centers, containing dynamic ecosystems and the broadest choice of networks. Platform Equinix connects more than 4,000 enterprises, cloud, digital content and financial companies including more than 690 network service providers to help them grow their businesses, improve application performance and protect their vital digital assets. Equinix operates in 38 strategic markets across the Americas, EMEA and Asia-Pacific and continually invests in expanding its platform to power customer growth. http://www.equinix.com.