Amazon, Cisco, Google crowd the cloud -- no thanks to NSA or IT

The march to the cloud will not be deterred, not even by the chilling effects of NSA surveillance

The gravitational pull of the cloud will not be denied -- or resisted, it seems, despite persistent fears about its security. This week Cisco laid down $1 billion on the cloud game, Infor placed its bet on Amazon Web Services for its new cloud ERP suite, and Google and AWS exchanged dueling price cuts and veiled jabs at each other's cloud services. IT is moving to the cloud -- last one out of the on-premise location turn off the lights.

Though U.S. cloud providers suffered a black eye from Edward Snowden's revelations about their compliance with NSA surveillance, they're hardly out of the fight. As InfoWorld's David Linthicum wrote a few months back, "the NSA scandal might have freaked out a few CIOs, but it isn't delaying their move to cloud computing."

The pull toward the cloud is strong, and U.S. providers are not suffering from the NSA fallout to the degree predicted, Bill Snyder writes. While overseas providers are playing up the mistrust, Gartner analyst Ed Anderson says, "It's likely that the NSA revelations sped up a process that was going to occur on its own, and some of what you hear from foreign providers is [just] chest thumping by companies trying to steal business from U.S. providers."

The allure of the cloud

Cisco became the latest company to make a splashy commitment to the cloud, doing an about-face on its 2010 pledge not to enter the cloud services market. However, rather than take on AWS and other cloud providers directly, Cisco announced it will invest $1 billion to build a OpenStack-based global "network of clouds" with its partners, enabling them to ramp up their enterprise-focused cloud services. It's a smart move. Serdar Yegulalp says, "Cisco is seeking out a niche where it can actually deliver based on its strengths, and not one where it'll merely be compensating for its weaknesses."

By partnering with local providers, Cisco's "InterCloud" of public, private, and hybrid clouds can also address the rising data sovereignty concerns and place data and computing power closer to where it's needed. IBM, another company angling to become a major cloud player by expanding its global cloud infrastructure and partnering with regional companies, announced its own $1.2 billion cloud investment earlier this year.

The promised size of Cisco's InterCloud, when meshed with its IOx edge computing platform, could also supercharge the company's Internet of things plans. Few if any rivals could create what Cisco wants to make, between the edge network gear and the large-scale computing and infrastructure, said Steve Hilton of IoT consulting firm MachNation.

Clash of the cloud titans

Meanwhile, the war among major cloud providers raged on this week, with Google putting Amazon on notice. Google announced it is simplifying its pricing structure (a poke at "Amazon's maze of purchasing options"); unveiled a new set of developer-centered features for Cloud Platform that "revolve around tools and workflow rather than support for new languages"; and added to its BigQuery data analytics platform.

BigQuery Streaming, which can run live queries on incoming live data, takes on not only Amazon but the "dedicated hardware vendors who insist that big iron is what's needed for big data, as well as software makers looking to turn batch-oriented, distributed data processing solutions like Hadoop into streaming data processing systems." Google is making a clear statement that it's a force to be reckoned with, Yegulalp says.

Amazon responded the next day with price cuts of its own -- but deflected the notion that they were the result of competitive pressure from Google or any other cloud provider. "Lowering prices is not new for us," said Senior Vice President Andy Jassy. "It is something we do on a regular basis. Whenever we can take costs out of our own cost structure, we give them back to our customers in the form of lower prices."

Speaking at the AMS Summit, Jassy also made the case for using public over private clouds, noting that the continual cloud price cuts make it hard to justify running in-house operations. He cited a number of companies that have moved operations to AWS' cloud, including ERP vendor Infor, which this week announced plans to offer a series of industry-specific product suites on Amazon's IaaS. Work is already under way at Infor to move its cloud subscribers to AWS from Infor's co-location sites. "Friends don't let friends build data centers," Infor CEO Charles Phillips said in his keynote at the Summit.

IT put on notice

With applications and servers increasingly moving to the cloud, where does that leave on-premises IT? InfoWorld's J. Peter Bruzzese and Robert X. Cringely traded jabs this week about fallout from the transition, but basically agree: IT must prepare for change. Bruzzese warned of the effect on IT jobs: "I'm not saying hardware is dead. I'm saying you need to improve your skills so that you can move in new directions as the cloud becomes the present." Cringely was more blunt: "If you're a hermit crab and figured you could base your entire career on an MCSA and Server Manager, you're in trouble."

As Bruzzese summarized: This cloud thing is happening, and it's time to get on board.

This article, "Amazon, Cisco, Google crowd the cloud -- no thanks to NSA or IT," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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