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Infrastructure Wrap-up: Q1 2009

Table of Contents

  1. Summary
  2. Public Clouds
    1. User Friendliness
    2. Specialty Clouds
    3. New Entrants
    4. Maturity and Enterprise Capabilities
    5. Openness (and Vendor Politics)
    6. Security
    7. Personnel
  3. Private Clouds
    1. IBM
    2. Hybrid Clouds
    3. Server Virtualization
    4. Private-Cloud Storage
  4. Cloud Services
    1. Outages
    2. SaaS Gains Ground
  5. Data
  6. Hardware
    1. Cisco Sells Servers
    2. Green Computing
    3. Heterogeneous Computing
    4. Dell Adds Services to Servers
  7. Networks
  8. Financials
  9. Key Takeaways

1. Summary

The first quarter of 2009 in the cloud computing/web infrastructure market went pretty much as planned. Existing products continued to mature and add features — most notably Amazon EC2 and Google App Engine — and new providers continued to emerge. Many of the new entrants come from the managed hosting space, but the biggest name to enter the market this quarter was Sun Microsystems, with its revamped Additionally, this quarter saw the legitimization of cloud computing by corporations, which created cloud divisions and appointed management-level cloud positions.

Two big question marks for cloud computing also received lots of attention this quarter, albeit not all positive. Cloud standards and openness are dreams of pretty much every customer, but controversy followed IBM’s Open Cloud Manifesto from the get-go (including, initially, questions over who drafted the document). It was the catalyst for bickering and in-fighting among some of the cloud industry’s loudest voices, and Microsoft publicly lambasted the effort. Cloud security, on the other hand, received more positive attention when the Cloud Security Alliance made its way onto the scene, complete with a schedule of deliverables.

In the private (or internal) cloud sector, “hybrid” was the word of the day. The first quarter brought hybrid offerings and/or projects from Appistry, IBM and Elastra, which joined the ranks of VMware and Citrix, among others, in attempting to migrate applications, data and/or workloads between data centers and public clouds. Private clouds also got a little less expensive with Citrix releasing a dynamic virtualization management solution and giving away the hypervisor XenServer, for free.

The quarter in cloud services and software as a service (SaaS) was marred by some notable outages (and past cloud-storage failures coming to light), but also by real advancements in offerings and adoption.  On the data front, it was all about commercializing MapReduce and mining massive amount of information. The importance of networks to the success of cloud computing is finally getting some recognition with content delivery network (CDN) and WAN optimization efforts, but network movement overall is still pretty inconsequential.

The data center hardware market was far livelier in early 2009. Manufacturers keep making both processors and servers more energy-efficient, with one increasingly popular method being to look beyond the x86 architecture. Non-commodity chips and processors have been receiving a lot of praise for their abilities to handle specialized workloads, too, and manufacturers are looking for ways to market them along those lines. There also is talk about adding heterogeneity and, thus, flexibility to cloud platforms by incorporating non-commodity processors into the mix. Of course, the biggest hardware news of the quarter was Cisco’s entrance into the server market. Part of its Unified Computing System, Cisco’s new servers target virtualized and Web-scale data centers – and make the networking leader a direct competitor with incumbents IBM, HP, Dell and Sun Microsystems.

The quarter was capped by the ongoing acquisition dance by IBM and Sun. Offers have changed, stock prices have dropped, rumors have flown, and still nothing is settled. However, if the deal does go down, it will have huge implications across the enterprise IT landscape. The cloud computing possibilities are fascinating, but Sun’s portfolio also includes potential cash cows like Java, Sparc and high-end servers and storage.