At the end of January, Amazon Web Services announced the preview of a new enterprise email service called Amazon WorkMail, designed to challenge the two largest enterprise messaging vendors: Microsoft and Google. Essentially, AWS is an Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) vendor that incorporated an application into an infrastructure portfolio. While not going into detail regarding the merits of the solution itself, the more interesting discussion is what it means to the IaaS market in general – and cloud computing as a whole.
The convergence of platforms is redesigning the concept of the delivery model we are familiar with, namely IaaS, Platform as a Service (PaaS) and Software as a Service (SaaS). With the introduction of the Internet of Things, and the use of solutions such as Disaster Recovery as a Service, Backup as a Service, and indeed Everything as a Service, the three base delivery models are now converging.
When Microsoft Azure was introduced in January of 2010, it was solely a PaaS offering targeting developers. Within a year, Microsoft began offering Windows Servers on Hyper-V as the beginning of its IaaS offering and shortly thereafter, introduced Linux, turning its dedicated PaaS platform into what it is now, a combined IaaS/Paas model
Though not major players in the IaaS market, it is instructional to look at some small or niche players to see this convergence. Terremark Worldwide, Inc. originally offered servers, storage and compute resources in a unique resource pool concept that was a classic IaaS model. When Verizon acquired the company, it began building out services, including Terremark’s next generation computing environment. Verizon signed an agreement with Oracle to offer Oracle Database and Oracle Fusion as a service, turning its IaaS platform into a new IaaS/PaaS combo delivery model.
In July of 2014, Rackspace launched Rackspace Managed Cloud, discontinuing its pure IaaS model. It will offer compute resources, but it comes with service packages. Even though it fits in the IaaS model, it is a specialized managed version of that model. In fact, many companies are in the process of determining how they can offer services in a public IaaS model. Eventually, the services offered on these platforms will determine the winners and the losers in the public cloud space.
With Software Defined Networking, public clouds are looking at redefining how they offer services, while data centers are investigating how they can interconnect with them. More and more services are being delivered as appliances and SDN is redefining how companies deliver solutions. (See EMC and NetApp make their moves in the cloud.)
Eventually, IaaS vendors will be indistinguishable from each other, except for the services they offer and there will be fewer of them. Hence, the addition of enterprise mail at AWS or the teaming of VMware and Google. The eventual winners in this game will be those who can offer services that can help manage all the imminent offerings. Not all IaaS service providers will be offering their own brand of managed services. Microsoft specifically has its Cloud Solution Provider program intended to give its partners the opportunity to offer support services.
The changes happening in the cloud space are forcing changes to those who deliver services to them. It is those that can offer value-added services that will eventually win. While migration work will continue and be very profitable, eventually the technology and solutions will come to the point that getting to the cloud will be easy – and moving between clouds will be stress-free.
What customers will want is a partner who can offer to take all these IT Services off their hands so they can truly focus on their core business of making widgets. Those that can offer these services will be the ones who survive and become their customer’s Trusted Advisor.