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A Hybrid Future: Blending Public and Private Clouds

An exclusive Q&A with Esmeralda Swartz, CMO of MetraTech

"Organizations take time to evolve. That's why we're bound for a hybrid future, where public and private clouds blend to create a shared infrastructure that spans application, organization and data center boundaries," noted Esmeralda Swartz, CMO of MetraTech, in this exclusive Q&A with Cloud Expo conference chairs Larry Carvalho and Vanessa Alvarez.

Cloud Computing Journal: How are cloud standards playing a role in expanding adoption among users? Are standards helping new business models for service providers?

Esmeralda Swartz: I think enterprises made the adoption choice based on the business need for cheap and good enough at the expense of transparency, security and privacy. Standards have played a role in eliminating fear and building trust thereby increasing adoption. For example, when you are picking a cloud provider and they produce certification, you know that they're being audited and adhering to common standards. We now need to move to the user experience and extend control to users and empowering them.

In addition, the big players are not portable, say from Azure to AWS or vice versa, as an example. Other stack vendors and projects attempt to emulate a market leader like Amazon but I wouldn't call that a standard. Within IaaS, we're still using traditional machine-by-machine management tooling internal to a deployment like Puppet or other tools. Some are beginning to use advanced cloud provider management API-based tools, but that's the least portable part. Customers don't want to suffer a new form of lock-in. Until managing your cloud infrastructure is common with your traditional infrastructure people will hold back.

Cloud Computing Journal: How are hybrid clouds evolving to allow the coexistence of private and public clouds? What are the challenges to meeting a true hybrid cloud scenario?

Swartz: Organizations take time to evolve. That's why we're bound for a hybrid future, where public and private clouds blend to create a shared infrastructure that spans application, organization and data center boundaries. Companies need the freedom to evolve and optimize applications and data for SLAs tuned for price, policy and performance. A future that blends the best of public and private clouds, provides the right balance of an elastic cloud infrastructure to meet the range of requirements from applications and users.

Private clouds are a natural starting point for an enterprise and by setting down this path, most enterprises will end up with hybrid, one that leverages their private cloud investment and provides for a public cloud future. Hybrids are also inadvertently solving the standards problem. While starting with the private data center to cloud data center co-existence model, this will evolve from a simple cloud to a common cloud management layer, whether the cloud in question is public or private. These platforms are going to wrap up the underlying proprietary APIs and become the new control panel for IT.

Cloud Computing Journal: Are on-premise software vendors successfully migrating their business model to a SaaS model? What are the challenges faced in this journey?

Swartz: It's a tough and unforgiving road. For SaaS, investors are focused on growth and not margins whereas if you are an on-premise vendor transitioning to SaaS, investors don't like margin hits and expect delivery of both growth as well as margins without slips during the transition. It is possible to achieve economies of scale and to keep the overall cost down and share and integrate business functions during the transition. We are seeing more common sense applied to the SaaS dream. When packaged software vendors try to move to the purest technology point of view where certain architectures are dictated that's a tough challenge.

There is no question that on-premise providers are adopting the principles of SaaS, such as continuous delivery of new features and increasing value at a reduced cost beyond the initial license to the customer. Some on-premise vendors can't make this cultural shift and still cave in to delivering one-off and bespoke versions to make deals happen. Ironically we are seeing SaaS vendors do the same, which is a particularly slippery slope. We recognized that the inevitable evolution path is user-driven configuration. We have a configurable on-premise cloud platform and a SaaS-based platform. For some customers SaaS is a fit, for others it is not. We don't have to dictate the business model our customers must fit into. You'll often hear customers want SaaS because they want lower prices. Customers care about increasing ROI and driving down TCO with reduced time to revenue, irrespective of the delivery model.

Cloud Computing Journal: With several vendors lowering costs for infrastructure, is there a way for new cloud service providers entering this space to make money?

Swartz: If you are entering the market based on price alone, then don't bother; the big players are already battling it out on price, where even the winner loses. You're better off starting with at least PaaS or better yet delivering value-add on top of an existing infrastructure provider. The only possible exception to this is companies that must have massive infrastructure under their control. For example, Software Defined Networking (SDN) and Network Functions Virtualization (NFV) are going to cause communications providers to transform their proprietary hardware into massive farms of commodity computing and network infrastructure. Selling excess capacity to customers is reasonable as is packaging value add options that will appeal to enterprises. We'll see the traditional subscription model supplemented by a wide variety of per-occasion charges (premium and discount) and short-term and long-term relationships that will come and go on a continual basis.

Cloud Computing Journal: What are the challenges for end users to adopt a new model for application development using Platform as a Service? Are vendors doing enough to meet their needs?

Swartz: Four years ago when presented with this question it seemed clear to us that PaaS was far superior to IaaS and SaaS. You control the application, it's your code and the only thing you really have to worry about is the application itself.Why would we want the overhead of IT managing and patching machines and licensing OS and other basic software? With PaaS our developers could develop as always and adopt a DevOps strategy from day one, making the whole process streamlined and efficient for delivering application services. Perhaps developers are just distrustful and rely on fine-grained machine tuning for too many things to let go of the hardware even if it is virtual. We expect people to move to PaaS more vigorously in the future but that opens its own portability and standards problems.

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