Getting the most from IaaS

Mix, match and burst. New infrastructure-as-a-service tools make it easier to shift among multiple private and public clouds.

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Last summer, Verizon acquired CloudSwitch, whose software, running either in the customer's data center or in the cloud, is designed to ease the synchronization of data and workloads among public and private clouds, says Terremark's Rubin. Cloud management software vendor RightScale recently acquired a cloud cost-forecasting website called ShopforCloud to make it easier for customers to calculate the costs of a variety of cloud options.

What's Next?

As IaaS becomes more commonly accepted, providers are looking for ways to differentiate their offerings for specific workloads, regulatory requirements, vertical industries or even geographies.

Cloud marketing firm Preview Networks in Copenhagen, Denmark, chose IaaS vendor CloudSigma in part because it has a European data center, enabling Preview Networks to comply with European Union rules dictating where customer data can be stored, says CTO Patrick Rodies.

Healthcare data analysis firm WoundVision pays 70% more to IaaS provider BlueLock than it paid to Amazon in part because BlueLock provides more insights into the operation of its infrastructure and the location of sensitive medical data, says IT director Andy Hoover. "When you go into hospitals, with all the [data privacy] concerns, they want to know where [their] data is" and may even ask to tour the data center. "That obviously wasn't going to happen with Amazon Web Services," but it's possible with BlueLock, he says.

Cloud Sigma has created a cloud-based network of partners providing services such as video editing, so customers in the entertainment industry can store and process their data without moving it from the cloud.

Other observers predict the emergence of combined offerings, such as the OnApps cloud management and content delivery network. Kosten Metreweli, chief marketing officer at OnApps, says such a combined approach provides more reliable data access by allowing IaaS vendors to buy and sell excess capacity in a real-time marketplace.

Gartner analyst Lydia Leong predicts the major factor differentiating IaaS providers from one another will be the performance guarantees they offer. "Instead of just a best effort," she says, customers will demand consistent and predictable service from vendors."

Pino of CloudBees predicts that IaaS will be seen as too complex to use within five to 10 years and will be replaced by PaaS and SaaS offerings. Pepple even predicts a merger of IaaS and SaaS as the "lower levels of the technology stack" become more standardized.

However IaaS evolves, the day is rapidly approaching when the question won't be which cloud to move to, but which combination of services to move to which mix of clouds as technology and business needs change.

Scheier is a veteran technology writer. He can be reached at

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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