UPDATED 10/3/2012 Hardware-as-a-service offers many opportunities for enterprises. But it also raises the risk of vendor lock-in.
Increasingly, enterprises are offered the choice of having a cloud vendor's hardware installed in the user's datacenter in order to host an internal private cloud. The advantages of this "rent-a-cloud" option are performance guarantees and convenience. The drawbacks? Vendor lock-in tops the list.
Consider, for instance, the latest release of cloud solutions from
Oracle Corp. (Nasdaq: ORCL). The vendor offers new Exadata servers equipped with internal memory, for what Oracle claims is better performance without additional storage investment. But Oracle's private cloud will only run Oracle software -- it's designed to compete against similar offerings from IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM), (which sponsors Internet Evolution), Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT), and Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ), which also offer in-memory hardware solutions that can run private cloud applications, including those of Oracle competitor
SAP AG (NYSE/Frankfurt: SAP) (which has its own in-memory hardware solution). Whew!
The main point? When selecting hardware for a private cloud, enterprises are opting for a tailor-made vendor solution, which comes with restrictions. "This is private cloud outsourcing, with a huge risk of vendor lock-in," wrote Mary E. Shacklett, president of consultancy Transworld Data, in an email to me today.
Mary suggests one advantage of this setup: It will cost less than building a similar datacenter infrastructure -- and that's something midtier firms in particular may appreciate.
Another expert, Jeff Kaplan, managing director of the consulting firm THINKstrategies Inc., told me in an email that rent-a-cloud hardware helps defray the cost and difficulty of building private clouds. "The real advantage of taking this path is creating a more elastic infrastructure, which gives the enterprise more agility and greater responsiveness to rapidly changing needs."
There's another trend at work here: Optimized hardware/software systems are on the upswing among leading IT vendors, and that's not something you need a cloud to appreciate. IBM calls the approach integrated expert systems, typified by the vendor's new PureSystems series, which combine compute, storage, networking, virtualization, and management hardware and software, accompanied by downloadable "patterns" for configuring it all.
In the future, the lines between all these elements of cloud infrastructure will blur even more, as technology emerges to optimize performance, and vendors come up with new models to sell streamlined wares. What won't change is each vendor's determination to be best in show, even if that means closing off a few customer options.
— Mary Jander , Executive Editor, Internet Evolution