Navigating the Cloud Ecosystem

November 16, 2009 Appirio

This week, nearly 16,000 people will descend on Moscone center for Salesforce.com’s Dreamforce conference, all interested in one thing– learning more about cloud computing. They will wander the Expo hall, which will highlight over 1,000 solutions built on the Force.com platform alone. People are hungry for information about this trend– “cloud” is now the most searched-on term on Gartner.com, and Google will deliver 32 million results for a search on the term, including 10,000 news articles published so far this month.

How is a CIO supposed to navigate this complex and rapidly expanding market? We’re excited to launch today a free, online tool that we hope will help– providing some transparency into the cloud ecosystem, based on our experience helping move thousands of companies to the cloud.

Appirio’s Cloud Ecosystem Map
The map breaks out nearly 70 different layers of technology across applications, platforms and infrastructure. It distinguishes between offerings that are true cloud offerings vs. those that are “hosted” (single tenant / multi-instance) vs. those that are on-premise “private cloud“…not really a cloud at all. The offerings of leading vendors are highlighted across the stack, as are point solutions from emerging vendors.

We invite you to explore the map– start at 30,000 feet with a high-level overview of the major players and the areas where they have offerings. Drill down into an area to learn more about the underlying technology, and the myriad of other vendors with offerings in that same space. For cloud offerings, we provide links to learn more. Read Troy Angrignon’s detailed release notes— we were fortunate to be able to work with Troy and build on his ecosystem map, published in March of this year. This release is intended to be a living, breathing map– please let us know if we have something wrong or if you know of a solution that should be added.

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The Takeaways
Here’s what we’ve learned from assembling the map and using it to help our clients navigate the cloud ecosystem:

  • The ecosystem is exploding: It is difficult to keep up with both true cloud innovation and cloud marketing, and increasingly hard to tell the two apart. Every major technology vendor has a “cloud computing” page on their website. Cloud is at the top of Gartner’s Hype Cycle, and it shows– vendors are using the term to describe a bewildering array of technologies. “We’ve redefined ‘cloud computing’ to include everything we currently do” says Larry Ellison— at least he’s being up-front about it.
  • The “how” matters: Technology consumers sometimes wonder why they should care “how” their technology is being provided to them– single-tenant or multi-tenant. Unfortunately, they need to care– multi-tenancy is the primary driver behind the business case for cloud computing. Shared infrastructure changes the underlying economics of IT, allowing the vendor to maintain a single instance for thousands of customers. This results in more than just economies of scale: multi-tenancy enables agility and innovation since there’s only one code base to work off of, and customer behavior can be observed realtime. Multi-tenancy is applied in various degrees by the vendors in our map, but the more that is shared across customers, the more each customer benefits.
  • Lines are blurring: It is getting harder, not easier, to figure out where solutions fit into the cloud ecosystem. IBM claims that many of its cloud solutions can be run “on the IBM cloud OR on your own data center.” That decision is certain to have an impact on IBM’s ability to innovate on these solutions– they need to worry about maintaining multiple instances of their solution, just like traditional on-premise software. But does that mean that the version running on IBM’s public cloud is NOT a cloud solution? We put those offerings in both columns, but this is a judgement call.
  • The Bottom Line
    The best way to navigate the cloud ecosystem is to look for tell-tale signs of the benefits of cloud computing: Can you sign up for a trial on the site? Is there a “trust” page that gives real-time transparency into how the system is being used by customers? Most importantly, are there quantified, real-life examples of customers using the solution to create value for their business…. and can you talk to them? The proof is in the pudding, as they say, and the best signposts to help you build a business case-driven roadmap to the cloud are examples of customer success.

    That’s one of the reasons we’re so excited about this week’s Dreamforce conference— there’s no better opportunity to learn about how organizations are benefiting from cloud computing. Stop by our booth (#616) and we’d be happy to give you a tour of the cloud ecosystem…. with real case studies from our experience helping accelerate enterprise adoption of the cloud.

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