Forrester enjoys a reputation for delivering insightful views of emerging technologies to IT and business professionals. The company’s "Waveâ„¢" approach combines a perspective on the market with evaluation of leading suppliers, providing input to both strategic planning and vendor selection.
Like all Forrester research, this report begins with a list of key takeaways, and those cited on the first page of Private Cloud Solutions, Q4 2013 offer guidance to frame the private cloud discussion. Forrester notes that most companies are building private clouds by layering commercial software on top of existing infrastructure hardware. This represents a cost-effective path to private cloud deployment: it enables evolution of the delivery platform without displacing existing servers and storage, and without entirely abandoning related management and configuration skills. They add that private clouds enable IT departments to add pervasive VM management, service catalogs and support for complex application development to current capabilities, and that buyers should assume that all suppliers offer provisioning and management capabilities, and should look to user experience/ease of use, support for multiple infrastructure and management tools, and enablement of hybrid delivery for differentiation between suppliers. This last point — the ability to support complex hybrid environments — is particularly important: it is generally recognized that hybrid will be an increasingly important component of IT delivery (within both SMBs and enterprises) in the future.
Forrester’s drill-down into key trends in private cloud provides additional insight for prospective adopters. The analyst firm notes that suppliers are now focused on adding "low-level platform-as-a-service (PaaS)-like capabilities" to their IaaS-focused offerings. While these features typically lack "true PaaS characteristics," the ability to "create blueprints describing preconfigured applications and their dependencies and then expose these to developers, rather than just provide raw virtual infrastructure…[is] nevertheless very useful." These capabilities are important to organizations that are looking to deploy cloud as more than basic infrastructure, extending cloud utility to the application level by providing developers with application templates.
The analysis continues to an examination of two of the ‘hot’ trends in cloud: DevOps, or software development processes that connect developers (who, as Forrester notes, value "speed/completions") and IT operations staff, which is focused on "stability/uptime," and IT service management (ITSM), which typically refers to the application of formal quality processes to IT system development and operation. Private cloud can address DevOps goals by providing tools for faster development while at the same time furnishing operations staff with visibility into key issues like security and systems operations. The path forward for ITSM is less clear — as Forrester notes, " " — but the long-term belief that IT will apply increasingly-rigorous management disciplines to system development and management is consistent with the understanding (shared by InsightaaS and others) that cloud will enable deployment of many new business solutions, touching many new users (including customers), and ‘raising the stakes’ for responsive, predictable performance.
In the second part of the report, Forrester moves on to an evaluation of ten private cloud vendors. The firm used 61 criteria in three major areas — current offering, strategy and market presence — to position the vendors as belonging to the ‘leaders’, ‘strong performers,’ ‘contenders’ or ‘risky bets’ areas in its Wave chart.
It is perhaps a testament to the relative newness of the private cloud market that most of the vendors reviewed were clumped into the central two bands. HP was the only provider positioned as a private cloud leader by Forrester; Cisco and Microsoft led a pack of five vendors in the ‘strong performers’ group, while CA, Citrix, Eucalyptus Software and ASG Software Solutions were assigned to the "contenders" section of the chart.
It’s instructive to review Forrester’s take on HP, to see what constitutes leadership in the private cloud market. At the highest level, HP "stands out from the crowd by providing a clean and navigable interface that wraps substantial breadth and depth of capabilities into the fewest number of interfaces. Unlike other vendors in this space, HP adds functionality into a single interface as a rule without making the overall experience less intuitive." Clearly, while a powerful and intuitive interface is important to all users, it would be especially important to SMBs that lack the ability to dedicate individuals to deciphering complex controls.
Digging deeper, we see further evidence of the importance of this interface quality. Forrester notes that "CloudSystem Enterprise is one of the first OpenStack-based private cloud solutions and, more importantly, HP has effectively used this head start to develop additional capabilities while presenting a clean and navigable user interface (UI). Today, CloudSystem Enterprise provides a substantial amount of granular features and a broad range of functions for the administrator (e.g., directory federation, application and service-level monitoring decision-trigger automation, and multi-environment application blueprints), while all functions available through the portal can be controlled through APIs. End users access the portal through an intuitive, simplified UI that requires less technical background and minimal training." InsightaaS is aware that there are organizations — likely, many organizations — that are attracted by OpenStack’s low cost and rich ecosystem, but which use other approaches (generally, VMware) because they view OpenStack as complex and hard to manage. To echo Forrester’s position, a system that builds on OpenStack with an easy-to-use interface and rich, integrated functionality will likely find purchase in both the enterprise and SMB markets for private cloud.
Note: this is one of three reports reviewed in the "Demystifying private cloud" series. To access a guide to the material covered in the series, please click here.
To access the Forrester Waveâ„¢: Private Cloud Solutions, Q4 2013 report, please click here.