The New IT era: The data center is built for the cloud
Amazon, on the other hand, is not changing its business model in any way to accommodate customers -- because it doesn't see a need to, Hanselman says. "It's a fairly unique case; there's really only one Amazon in this space today," he says. "If that service works for you, great."
It's not likely that most enterprises can move broadly to an Amazon cloud environment today, he says, but competitors and market watchers count out Amazon at their peril.
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Google is hard at work trying to attract enterprise customers, but it's too early to tell how successful the company will be. "As a cloud provider it's done some good things as a first step, such as email," Hanselman says. "But when you start looking at Google Docs and the Apps environment, companies still have a painful transition ahead in moving enterprise document workflow into Google."
Others say Google, along with additional services-focused companies, are in good shape to succeed in enterprise IT. "I believe that Google, Salesforce, and Amazon are very likely to thrive due to their willingness to forge the future without the baggage of the past," says Mike O'Dell, CIO of Pacific Coast Building Products. "Their forward-looking strategy is consistent with the needs of their customers moreso than others'. Moreover, their products align themselves with the next generation of information worker."
Another provider in the cloud market to keep an eye on is IBM. "I've always been impressed at its resources," Hanselman says. But "will it dominate [the cloud or mobile] markets? No."
Traditional IT vendors such as IBM and Hewlett-Packard "have already made major investments in cloud to complement their data center offerings, and both realize the opportunity as well as the threat to traditional licensing models," says Dave Bartoletti, a principal analyst at Forrester Research.
IT executives who've worked with IBM are also confident of the company's ability to adapt, but at the same time they're keeping an eye on newer providers. "IBM has proven time and time again that it will consistently deliver platform and services at strategic levels," says Bill Thirsk, CIO at Marist College. "We also believe the Amazon model of fearlessly entering new markets is here to stay for some time."
EMC VMware has its role and will remain a player in the distributed community, Thirsk says, "but with data sets getting larger, we are seeing a resurgence of big iron from IBM that can out-partition VMware virtual servers at scale and a lower cost. It is not yet a commodity, but it is moving that direction."
Likewise, data center operations vendors such as CA and BMC are likely to face challenges from newer open source management tools popular in the cloud, as well as a new generation of developer-focused operations teams that have no experience with traditional infrastructure management suites, Bartoletti says.
Another longtime IT powerhouse, Dell, needs to find a way to monetize cloud. "Dell has chosen not to enter the public cloud market itself, in favor of working with partners and other cloud service enabling technologies," Bartoletti says. "It will sell software to manage, integrate, and accelerate cloud, and likely build out a services business."
That choice means Dell will not be directly in the public cloud market with a competitive offering and will instead compete with many other management software vendors for the cloud management dollar, Bartoletti says. "Dell also sells hardware to cloud providers -- a sort of cloud arms dealer -- so it will benefit from cloud growth that way," he says. "But [it runs] the risk of being behind the scenes and not seen by buyers as innovators themselves."