Commodity Clouds, the 'Tuning Tax' and What Cloud Users Really Need

Application-tuning capabilities coupled with today's commodity cloud offerings are more than many users need. Just like broadband Internet, though, it's only a matter of time before these 'overserved' users turn to the commodity cloud to meet 'unserved' needs. Will this leave enterprise cloud deployments in the cold?

By Bernard Golden
Thu, May 23, 2013

CIO — In conjunction with Interop two weeks ago, analysts Ben Kepes and Krishnan Subramanian organized Cloud2020, an attempt to move the often jejune cloud computing discussion beyond the hackneyed trope of "Hybrid Cloud Means X," where X is whatever product the vendor's representative is pushing that week.

One topic became a central question of the day: Is public cloud computing a fait accompli victory for the commodity cloud providers exemplified by Amazon Web Services but also represented by Microsoft and Google?

Despite AWS Success, Enterprise Cloud Coming

This question has come to the fore given that AWS is by far the largest cloud service provider in the industry.

Amazon makes no bones about its bare-bones offering:

  • Standardized services are delivered via APIs in a completely hands-off fashion.
  • Customers cannot request specific hardware or infrastructure configurations.
  • Commodity hardware components are selected for cost and made robust through redundancy.
  • Low prices, along with a history of dropping prices frequently, significantly undercut traditional offerings from hosting and managed service providers.

Notwithstanding Amazon's enormous success, many other providers and users maintain that, over time, the "enterprise" cloud market will emerge. For many of them, there's a clear implication that users will come to find the commodity cloud offerings insufficient for typical corporate workloads and will eventually shift to an enterprise CSP.

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Underpinning this position is the observation that many of today's workloads require significant tuning to achieve acceptable performance—even in infrastructure environments made up of enterprise gear from the giants of the industry such as Cisco Systems and EMC. There's a lot of truth in this observation: Tuning an application configuration to perform adequately can require adjusting an amazing number of factors, including memory allocations, thread counts, network settings and hardware, and storage distribution.

A corollary to these factors is that the applications requiring this kind of effort are the "crown jewels" of the corporation—transactional systems that, should they not operate adequately, could negatively affect the overall financial performance of the company. In fact, it's so important that these applications be appropriately configured that IT organizations skew their operational processes toward ensuring that these applications are sufficiently taken care of.

Consequently, it's not surprising that many cloud providers believe that use of commodity clouds will fall away in favor of offerings that support this kind of tuning. It's also not surprising that many users feel the same way as well. They believe the commodity provider's focus on average applications and low costs precludes those providers from being able to address the complexities of the enterprise market.

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