Thursday, June 18, 2009

Verizon Misses with Cloud Offering

About two weeks back, I was excited to see a headline about Verizon partnering with Red Hat to offer their customers a “new” cloud computing offering. I was hopeful that the details would reveal a KVM hypervisor based elastic compute capability coupled with an OVF based specification for virtual appliances to run on the service. I was also hoping to discover some details on storage as a service, with all of the services accessible via a management capability exposed via RESTful APIs. Boy, was I disappointed. Turns out the new Verizon cloud offering is just the old Verizon hosting offering with a new name.

Why is it so difficult for all of these old school infrastructure providers to understand the new path being blazed by Amazon AWS? Why can't they offer even a reasonable facsimile of the capability provided by Amazon? Surely it is the threat of Amazon that is leading them to re-name the old hosting stuff as the new cloud stuff. Why not go all the way and actually offer something that is competitive? Here is a recipe for any that are interested:

First, provide a X86 hypervisor based, virtualized compute service that allows the customer to bring their applications with them as pre-packaged, pre-configured virtual machines (virtual appliances). Don't ask them to boot a “standard OS” and then spend hours, days, weeks, months configuring it to work for them (because what you specified as the “standard” is certainly not what they have tested with their applications, and the whole purpose of elasticity is defeated if you can't quickly put images to work on the network in response to application demand). Better yet, let them boot existing Amazon Machine Images and VMware virtual appliances. Providing this capability is not rocket science. It is just work.

Second, provide a simple storage service (see Amazon S3 for what it should do) for storing unstructured data as well as for storing their virtual appliances that boot on the virtualized, elastic compute service. If you don't want to take the time to develop your own, follow AT&T's lead and go buy the capability EMC offers as part of the Atmos product line. You don't even have to think, you just need to write a check and viola – an Amazon S3 type capability running on your network. What could be easier?

Third, provide a block storage capability for attaching to virtual appliance images that must store state, such as database images. Most of the hosting companies already provide this type of SAN offering, so this part should be a no-brainer. Just price it with a very fine grained, variable cost approach (think megabyte-days, not months).

Fourth, provide access to the infrastructure management services via simple, RESTful APIs. You don't have to go overboard with capability at first, just make certain the basics are available in a manner that allows the services to be run effectively over the Internet without any funky protocols that are specific to your network implementation.

Finally, go sign up partners like rPath and RightScale to offer the next level of manageability and support for the virtual machines that will run on the network. These are the final touches that indicate to your customers that you are serious about providing a terrific capability for the complete lifecycle of your cloud computing offering. Instead of asking them to be patient with you while you re-name your hosting offering as a cloud offering in the hopes that it will assuage their bitterness that Amazon-like capability is not available on your network.

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