A Softer View of Cloud Platforms

In this post-hardware world, the software view of cloud platforms continues to evolve rapidly. In fact, I think we need to think about the platforms themselves a little differently. For the past few years, we’ve kind of thought of cloud as either public or private. I’d like to think we’ve evolved our thinking along with the capabilities of the platform companies to include a more hybrid perspective and we have to include the end-user side of things by including endpoint software as well. I’d argue for including endpoint software supported both by what the cloud platform vendors are doing/investing in as well as the fact that one of the cloud tenets is ‘broad network access’ (from NIST). My definition of broad network access is access from any device, anywhere, to any cloud service. I created following table for a forthcoming publication on cloud platforms that shows how I think of what the vendors are doing in this space – which continues to change rapidly. For example, Amazon is now shipping a Kindle based on Android and VMware just bought DeskTone to add VMware’s ability to provide desktop-as-a-service.

I think the Internet of Things (IoT) will only accelerate the investments of these companies as consumers' and commercial users' lives become more instrumented by technology – whether it is smart watches, Google Glass, autonomous cars, or HVAC and lighting systems in buildings. All of these devices will minimally collect data, some will interact with us, and most of them will use the cloud to store the data.

In terms of architectures – the way I see it, there are two most likely designs: one is two tier between endpoint and public cloud and the other is three tier between endpoint, private, and public. The two tier architecture can be interesting when the endpoint component is providing some native capability. For example, Amazon’s Kindle OS and browser Silk actually splits the browser functions between the endpoint and the cloud side. The three tier architecture may or may not be hybrid cloud. For a hybrid cloud, the design goal may be to shard applications with the user interface/webserver running on public and the database kept inside the companies firewall. The endpoint may come into play as an device that is/is not an authorized device that can be authenticated by handset type, owner, and potentially location or biometrics (e.g., fingerprint).

With VMware’s new version of their cloud OS (5.5) and OpenStack just announcing their Havana release, the service capabilities keep getting richer for what components they deliver today. And even though AWS doesn’t have their own private cloud which rules out hybrid for them – there have been plenty of companies filling in the void for them including Citrix, Eucalyptus, and RightScale to name companies who make hybrid possible with Amazon’s cloud services.

While there is no rule saying you can’t mix and match your cloud components – there is something to be said for keeping things simple, having one management interface, and most of all only having to train everyone who uses the platforms on as few system types as possible. Besides – we’re only talking about software here after all.

Topics: Networking Cloud Services & Orchestration