An unStructured Future For Cloud ComputingJune 22, 2012
I’ve spent the last few days here in San Francisco attending the 5th annual Structure conference put on by GigaOM. The event brings together an impressive mixture of cloud computing influencers, pundits and entrepreneurs, sometimes referred to as the “clouderati.” The conference is a great place to connect with the people and companies innovating, shaping and defining the ongoing evolution in the technology industry.
There seemed to be an underlying sense that cloud computing is no longer the new kid on the block with one person noting that “the shine is gone.” Regardless of the whether cloud is or isn’t exciting for some, it’s become pervasive. In a conversation with Michael Skok, a venture capitalist at North Bridge Venture Partners, he told me that cloud computing has become the standard operating procedure for any company looking at building or deploying software today. It’s no longer a question of whether a company should deploy to the cloud, but instead how and when…
Skok was at the conference to unveil his VC firm’s 2012 Future of Cloud Computing annual survey results. The survey includes more than 785 respondents and dozens of collaborators, including vendors such as Amazon Web Services, Citrix, Eucalyptus, Rackspace, SAP and VMWare. According to Skok, he’s seeing “cloud vault ahead of its early shroud of doubt and skepticism with a full 50 percent of respondents reporting confidence in cloud for mission-critical applications.” He went on to note “We’re also seeing surging interest in PaaS as the foundation for building new applications with 75% of respondents expecting to build new apps on a PaaS platform over the next five years.”
PaaS or Platform-as-a-service was a hot topic at the conference with more than a half dozen companies providing various products and services. Krishnan Subramanian an analyst at Rishidot Research told me he believes that “PaaS is quickly becoming the only way to build cloud applications.” A few of the standouts included AppFog who threw one of the more interesting parties with a “break out of jail” theme.
During the AppFog party I had a particularly interesting conversation with Sara Dornsife, Director of Developer Marketing at Heroku who told me that the SalesForce backed company is seeing substantial growth beyond it’s core startup customer base into larger enterprises sectors. Heroku is an early industry leader in the PaaS space but has recently seen a variety of competitors appear including products from RedHat, VMware, ActiveState, and GigaSpaces. All these companies appear to be fighting for hearts and minds of the “developer community” who they believe hold the key to a bottom up adoption of application development within larger companies. From my point of view, PaaS appears to be the latest incarnation of what we used to refer to as “middleware.”
Mårten Mickos the former CEO of MySQL and current CEO of Cloud infrastructure software company Eucalyptus told me the future of cloud computing is in explosion of data and helping companies navigate the multitude of options in deploying traditional application to the cloud. Mickos was at the conference promoting the latest version of his companies open source software.
Tom Leyden, Director of Business Development at Amplidata which provides optimized object storage systems for Big Data also noted that “Data is at the heart of cloud computing.” I heard from several people who told me that dealing with the influx of massive amounts of unstructured data is becoming a major challenge for enterprises.
Leyden provided some context noting that “Over 35 Million petabytes of data will be generated by 2020, a 35 fold increase over today’s levels, but with only a 1.4 fold increase in the number of people available to manage this growth.” Companies such as Amplidata are attempting to address the challenges in dealing with the explosion of data over the coming years.
I also spoke to Ross Turk from a new Big Data storage company called Inktank. The firm was founded in 2012 by several creators of the Ceph project, with a focus on commercializing the platform. Similarly, Turk believes open source and open data is at the center of the move to cloud.
The economics of cloud was another popular topic at the conference. One of my favorite new startups at the conference was Portland, Oregon based Cloudability, which focuses on cloud cost management. The company’s service shows you what you’ve spent to-date and predicts what you’re going to spend for the month. Cloudability’s co-founder JR Storment told me that it’s daily reports and budget alerts ensure that you’re never surprised by overages and spikes. It’s an impressive and visually appealing service.
I had a chance to catch-up with Sameer Dholakia, General Manager for the Cloud Platform Division at Citrix who described the company’s focus on cloud saying they would take a wait and see approach to PaaS, a weak spot in its software portfolio. Personally, I’d expect to see Citrix make some moves in this area in the coming months with GigaSpaces being the most logical fit.