Will Clouds run on Clouds?

Or, more precisely, will enterprise Solution Clouds run on Deployment Clouds?

I’ve previously made the case that we shouldn’t include SaaS in the “Cloud” (rather, it’s just Web apps). Obvioulsy my guillotine didn’t cut it against the lure of Cloud-branding. Fine, then let’s agree that we have two types of Clouds: Solution Clouds and Deployment Clouds.

Solution Clouds are the same as SaaS (and I’ll use the terms interchangeably). Enterprise Solution Clouds provide common functions like HR, CRM, Financial, Collaboration, etc. Every company needs them and they are similar between companies.

Deployment Clouds are where you deploy applications. That definition covers both IaaS and PaaS, which are part of the same continuum.

You subscribe to a Solution Cloud; you deploy on a Deployment Cloud.

Considering these two types of Clouds separately doesn’t mean they’re not connected. The same providers may offer both, and they may be tightly packaged together. But they’re still different in their nature.

The reason for this little lexicological excursion is to formulate this question: will enterprise Solution Clouds run on Deployment Clouds or on their own infrastructure? Can application-centric ISVs compete, in the enterprise market, by providing a Solution Cloud on top of someone else’s Deployment Cloud? Or will the most successful enterprise Solution Clouds be run by full-stack operators?

Right now, most incumbent enterprise software vendors (Oracle, SAP…), and the Cloud-only enterprise vendors with the most adoption (SalesForce, WorkDay…) offer Cloud services by operating their own infrastructure. On the other hand, there are many successful SaaS vendors targeting smaller companies which run their operations on top of a Deployment Cloud (e.g. the Google Cloud Platform or AWS). That even seems to be the default mode of operation for these vendors. Why not enterprise vendors? Let’s look at the potential reasons for this, in order to divine if it may change in the future.

  • It could be that it’s a historical accident, either because the currently successful enterprise providers necessarily started before Deployment Clouds were available (it takes time to build an enterprise Solution Cloud) or they started from existing on-premise software which didn’t lend itself to running on a Deployment Cloud. Or these SaaS providers were simply not culturally or technically ready to use Deployment Clouds.
  • It could be that it’s necessary in order to provide the necessary level of security and compliance. Every enterprise SaaS vendor has a “security” whitepaper which plays up the fact that they run their own datacenter, allowing them to ensure that all the guards have a  CSSLP, a fifth-degree karate black belt, a scary-looking goatee and that they follow a documented process when they brush their teeth in the morning. If that’s a reason, then it won’t change until Deployment Clouds can offer the same level of compliance (and prove it). Which is happening, BTW.
  • It could be that enterprise Solution Clouds are large enough (or have vocation to become large enough) that there are little economies of scale in sharing the infrastructure with other workload.
  • It could be that they can optimize the infrastructure to better serve their particular type of workload.

Any other reason? Will enterprise Solution Cloud always run on their own infrastructure? The end result probably hinges a lot on whether, once it fully moves to a Cloud delivery model, the enterprise SaaS landscape is as concentrated as the traditional enterprise application landscape was, or whether the move to Cloud opens the door to a more diverse ecosystem. The answer to this hinges, in turn, on Cloud application integration, which will be the topic of the next post.

1 Comment

Filed under Business, Cloud Computing, Everything, Uncategorized, Utility computing

One Response to Will Clouds run on Clouds?