Public cloud adoption largely follows the same pattern as open source adoption, and is having to overcome the same myths that once inhibited widespread adoption of open source. Security, control, and quality are the red herring arguments that traditional software vendors used to slow the spread of open source, and these same arguments are being resurrected to stem the flow of public cloud adoption. But it won’t work, just as it failed to stop open source. And as Red Hat has been cleaning up in the open source revenues sweepstakes, Amazon should win big as the public cloud continues to win converts.
By some estimates, Amazon’s share of the public cloud computing market (IaaS) is as high as 90 per cent. This doesn’t make it invulnerable – Enstratus’ James Urquhart points to a variety of ways to unseat AWS – but it won’t be for the faint of heart, and current competitors seem mostly to be getting their messaging wrong. Companies like Alcatel-Lucent try to categorize AWS as “coach class” while their clouds are “first class,” but the masses seem very happy with a coach class experience in the cloud. It’s cheap, reliable, and gets them where they want to go.
The next argument plays to the CIO’s biggest concern with the public cloud: security. How can it possibly be safe to entrust mission-critical applications to the public cloud? This was the same argument that kept Linux to edge-of-network sort of applications in its early days. As the story went, Linux would never succeed in the data center. Who could trust some community science project to mission-critical applications in the data center?
Well, today, who wouldn’t?
This is the same thing that is happening in the public cloud, and particularly with AWS, and it’s been growing on the sly for years, for reasons highlighted by R0ml Lefkowitz back at OSBC 2008 (warning: PDF). The general adoption pattern goes like this: a developer needs to get work done, and going through traditional IT channels will either take too long or will get killed. So she puts it up on AWS. Perhaps she starts with dev and test instances, but soon her team becomes dependent on it and asks the question, “Why redeploy this somewhere else? Why not just put it into production on AWS, since it works?” And soon that enterprise is actively deploying to AWS because it’s cost effective, secure, and it works.
Yes, secure. Amazon claims that AWS is significantly more secure than the average private data center, and there’s every reason to believe this claim. As Jason Bloomberg argues, Amazon hires the best security people, uses the best hardware, and has experience dealing with constant security threats. It’s not that there aren’t some private data centers that might be more secure than Amazon’s public cloud, but the odds are that they aren’t.
Once people discover this freedom of the public cloud, and its cost and security advantages, the way they manage their infrastructure also changes. Right now, Netflix is on the bleeding edge of public cloud adoption, but its mantra of “disposable infrastructure” will soon find its way into the mainstream enterprise. Why spend days or even hours performing root cause analysis on system failures when it takes mere seconds to spin up a new AMI to replace the failing node?
Old-school systems management, then, becomes largely irrelevant in the cloud, because it focuses too much attention on the past. The cloud is all about watching current trends and anticipating problems, flexibly deploying configuration changes or whatever is needed to overcome problems. This is what Nodeable and a new breed of cloud “management” tools do: focus on visibility into cloud infrastructure, rather than the tools to fix past problems.
For those of us who lived through the open source adoption curve, the public cloud adoption curve looks very familiar. As with open source, it will change the way everyone develops, deploys, and manages software. It may be that Amazon won’t retain its dominance forever, but its model of exceptional service at rock-bottom prices is going to be hard to beat. Just like open source.