By guest author Shaloo Shalini
In the following interview, Sramana and Nati Shalom discuss several key aspects of cloud computing, including the role of Microsoft Azure, improvisations in sales cycles, standards, analytics, and the opening of new markets and entrepreneurial opportunities in the cloud.
Nati Shalom is the CTO and founder of GigaSpaces and heads the Israeli Grid consortium. He has more then ten years of experience with distributed technology and architecture, namely CORBA, Jini, J2EE, Grid, and SOA. As a technology visionary he’s a frequent presenter at industry conferences and is actively involved in evangelizing space-based architecture and data grid patterns.
GigaSpaces Technologies is a provider of a new generation of application platforms for Java and .NET environments that offers an alternative to traditional application servers. The company’s eXtreme Application Platform (XAP) is a high-end application server designed to meet the most demanding business requirements in a cost-effective manner. It is the only product that provides a complete middleware solution on a single, scalable platform. XAP is trusted by Fortune 100 companies, which use it as to improve efficiency and agility across the IT organization.
GigaSpaces’ customers include six of the world’s top ten investment banks, world-leading exchanges, market data providers, hedge funds, retail banks, leading international and U.S. telecommunications and mobile carriers, global Web commerce companies, five of the world’s top online gaming companies, and leading Internet media organizations.
SM: As an industry observer, from your GigaSpaces vantage point, how do you see the progress of cloud adoption? Is it going beyond pilots and evaluations?
NS: In general, I think cloud is becoming more widely adopted in services for simple classes of applications such as Web applications and the areas where deployment in the cloud environment is easy. One of the more widely adopted scenarios is Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS). It also depends on how people define clouds, because there is some notion of private and public clouds.
SM: We will cover private and hybrid clouds separately. Looking at cloud applications for now, how do you view Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS)?
NS: I see, so you are referring to public clouds. The simple Web application, the front end of the database will flow into the cloud first. Other use cases are analytics and Amazon Elastic MapReduce. I was at the Hadoop summit last week. It is interesting to see that there is increasing adoption of clouds in everything that has some kind of scalability requirement. Some of the applications that will flow into the cloud, such as simple Web applications and other Elastic MapReduce analytics, will be influenced by the class of organization in terms of adoption. Start-ups and small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) are obviously the ones that are leading the pack of cloud technology adopters due to the inherent low-cost structure. That makes them classic early adopters of new technology.
I see it happening quite a lot from a different perspective – Software-as-a-Service (SaaS)-based companies. A lot of independent software vendors (ISVs) need to target their customers with a service-based model. What they are doing in the cloud is a bit more complex than, say, building a simple Web application. They need to build their own multitenancy software for better control in their environment. In that case, I am seeing a trend where such ISVs provide an offering to their customers, and this application or functionality runs for these customers over a sustainable data center. So they build a data center themselves, or they use cloud infrastructure. For such classes of solutions, the costs are getting lower with cloud adoption because the cloud is slowly becoming more compatible with different regulatory, compliance, and security requirements, which was not the case in the past. So, vendors are deploying more complex applications in the cloud, and not just small Web applications but real ones. This is where I see more investment going into the cloud in terms of adoption.
SM: Are you talking about Fortune 500 customers?
NS: Yes. In the Fortune 500 category there are enterprises, and there are also ISVs. The ISVs are forced to deploying their applications in the cloud. They are adopting clouds because they don’t really have a choice. Enterprises are less willing to adopt the clouds for the more mission-critical applications. I would say that there are few enterprises that are heavy adopters of cloud technology at this stage. What we can see for a fact is that mostly start-ups are using the cloud for more mission-critical applications. The only heavy users are ISVs, which have no choice but to deploy in the clouds, and SaaS vendors. An increasing number of enterprises will be adopting clouds in the next two years.
SM: What are you categorizing as mission-critical applications? ERP and CRM adoption is a reality in the enterprises today. If not ERP as much, there is surely some amount of SaaS-based HR-related applications being adopted by enterprises. Is that your observation as well? Is CRM a mission-critical application in your view?
NS: Well, in that case, if you call that adopting cloud, I think enterprises are adopting clouds. I would typically not categorize that as adoption but as enterprises moving to SaaS, which itself functions in the cloud. So it is a more indirect adoption of clouds. For example, in the financial industry, where they usually deploy applications in their own data centers, are they moving those to the cloud? That is not happening as much, I think. That will take time. For enterprises, you mention CRM as a good example. However, I think that enterprises are outsourcing or consuming applications which earlier ran on-premise but are now deployed or delivered via the cloud. I find that to be a different category of adoption; it is not as if they are developing the applications themselves to run those in the cloud. If you look at applications moving to clouds, then it is more like outsourcing.
SM: By our definition, that is very much cloud adoption, and so is SaaS. There is a big budget shift happening. The shift is from large in-house development to these kinds of cloud applications where people don’t have to invest all that money that they had to before in order to deploy and consume enterprise applications.
NS: Ok, if you define that as cloud adoption, then it is definitely happening in that form in the enterprise. The reason why I didn’t include that as cloud adoption is because people whom I talk to usually look at that more as a question of whether they own or would like to develop and sell applications – do they develop those on their local IT environment or on an outsourced external IT infrastructure? So that is mostly what I think about the question of mission-critical functions and adoption. alking about applications deployed on clouds via this kind of beaten angle of adoption, the bridge environments, when I mentioned that SaaS is the early adopter, it is these same SaaS vendors that provide that CRM service and do all that investment for consumers that also happen to be the enterprises.
When I referred to SaaS vendors earlier, I talked about mostly those vendors that are developing and investing in delivering functionality on the cloud and not on the consumer side.
SM: I am looking more at the consumer side; this study is more for consumer companies.
NS: To be honest, I am less in touch with the consumer side because I mostly deal with the development infrastructure. We basically deal with those who develop and deploy applications and see fewer folks on the consumer side of the cloud.