Consistency is key to Oracle and Microsoft's hybrid cloud clout
How can the other players up their game on and off-premises?
Analysis Run the Azure Stack on-premises and you can move data and apps to the Azure public cloud with ease. It's the same software environment. Run the Oracle Cloud at Customer on-premises and move apps and data to the Oracle public cloud with ease. It's the same software and billing environment.
The perfect hybrid cloud has to have one basic element – a consistency of approach between the on and off-premises world. Basically the way you access data, provision resources, run applications, store data and so forth are exactly the same whether you are doing so on the on-premises end of your hybrid cloud or the off-premises public cloud part.
There is a seamless cloud fabric, so to speak, providing your IT resources and those resources are on or off-premises as circumstances dictate. The off-premises option may be used for compute bursting, archiving cold data and transitory test-and-dev needs, with on-premises being the choice for high-security and the lowest latency.
I'm not saying that the Oracle hybrid cloud or the Azure hybrid cloud are the best at everything they do, just that in their on/off-premises consistency they are better than any alternative.
Also, because their users are kind of captive, then they are unlikely to move to other platforms. To that extent a strong growth in such closed hybrid cloud environments limits growth opportunities for other suppliers.
What does this mean for mainstream providers such as Amazon, Cisco, Dell EMC, Google, HPE, Huawei, IBM, Lenovo, NetApp, Nutanix Pure Storage and Vantara?
Amazon, VMware and Dell
Amazon is partnering with VMware, which, as part of Dell Technologies, has access to the Virtustream Enterprise Cloud. We could position the Virtustream public cloud as Dell's enterprise application play and the Amazon-VMware partnership as its all-other-apps play. VMware and Dell must know that Amazon is a strategic opportunist, and could well set up its own Azure Stack-like offering.
However, one thing is common between the Oracle on-premises cloud and Azure Stack and that is they underlay a strong set of proprietary system software – databases and Office 365, which Amazon and VMware lack. Enterprise users of such software would, we think, be more willing to move to the public cloud if their on-premises environment was the same as the off-premises one.
Which is why we think Oracle and Microsoft, with Azure, are in such a strong position in the enterprise hybrid cloud stakes.
Dell, even with VMware, is not in an equivalent position.
Cisco is nowhere in hybrid cloud. Plumbers supply pipes, not water, and Cisco is a network plumber, so to speak, while Amazon and Oracle provides water, to push the metaphor.
Google has a wannabe partner in the form of Nutanix and has picked up a technology partnership with Scale Computing. That could be used so that the Scale Computing HCI system could become an on-premises Google Cloud Platform system... but there is no enterprise application play here. Nutanix looks to provide a better on-premises partner for Google in the enterprise space.
There are thus two potential on-premises partners for a Google hybrid cloud play: Nutanix and Scale. Wouldn't it be neat if X bought Y and then there would be only one potential partner. But who would be X and who would be Y?
Well, HPE did have public cloud ambitions once. Not any more. Its hardware supports Azure stack and the company makes hybrid cloud marketing noises, as you would expect. But it has no favourites among the public cloud providers and is not a favourite partner for any of the big three. As we see it, HPE is in the hybrid cloud business to preserve its on-premises system sales and to try to sell hardware to cloud service providers.
HPE is still an on-premises IT product sales powerhouse. We don't think it sees hybrid cloud IT as an extension of public cloud providers' dominance into the on-premises world, which is the Microsoft and Oracle view for sure and, maybe, a strengthening view in Amazon and at Google.
If they are right then HPE is going to be stuck between a rock and a hard place
This hardware-based smartphone, server, storage and networking supplier is setting up its public cloud in partnership with telcos who deliver its public cloud as a white box-type service. It could provide on-premises systems like the hardware part of the Azure Stack, for these partners to use, but has no system application software equivalent to Office 365 or the Oracle suite to run on it.
Huawei's task is to provide a better system hardware base on which to run hypervisors, operating systems and applications. It comes from a telco background where it has supplied network plumbing to customers/partners, and that is its IT data centre component approach as well.
Will it move up stack into system software? It doesn't look like it at the moment.
IBM has its own public cloud, BlueMix, and is offering cloud server, storage and machine learning services through it. IBM has a huge and strongly entrenched on-premises presence with its mainframe computers and the application software that runs on them.
We can say, though, that its hybrid cloud offering is less advanced than Oracle's.
Lenovo is nowhere in hybrid cloud, having no public cloud offering and being little more than a large-scale server and PC box shifter, to be blunt. It is much more of a hardware company than a software company.
There are deals with Microsoft for Azure Stack, DataCore and Nutanix for their software, and VMware for vSAN; more ways of selling its hardware really.
This storage and hyperconverged infrastructure appliance company sees itself providing shared storage, data-serving resources to on and off-premises clouds, notably Amazon and Azure in the latter case.
It absolutely sees the need for a consistency of approach in its products and has been implementing its Data Fabric ideas to provide this.
It cannot provide a whole hybrid IT environment because its product lacks servers, networking and system-level applications. Servers and networking are provided through the FlexPod partnership with Cisco.
It has a good potential position with Google's Cloud Platform for partnering and is benefitting from the cloudification of on-premises IT, according to William Blair analyst Jason Ader:
The company has positioned itself as a modern enterprise stack that can rival those of the public cloud services through simplicity of management, one-click resource provisioning, and compute/storage scale-out. Our VAR discussions bear this out—that customers are pushing to modernize their data centres and are increasingly turning to emerging, best-of-breed vendors (such as Nutanix) with more modern approaches and away from traditional, one-stop shop vendors that are often viewed as out-of-step with the latest trends.
Pure Storage has no hybrid cloud play apart from making sure its shared storage arrays work with hybrid cloud on-premises gear like Azure Stack.
The renamed and enlarged Hitachi Data Systems has a focus on the Internet of Things with strong and intelligent edge devices feeding data to a central resource for analysis. It lacks a public cloud from Hitachi. Its Hitachi Enterprise Cloud is a private, on-premises, cloud which links to Amazon and vCloud Air, but that will possibly change to Virtustream.
Vantara sees the public cloud as a platform on which its Lumada and other applications can run.
Oracle and Microsoft with Azure are the best-positioned enterprise hybrid cloud players in terms of a seamless transfer between the on-premises and off-premises components of their products. If they continue growing fast then other players will take note.
Amazon might develop its own, branded, on-premises take. Ditto Google. While IBM is well positioned to do so in that it has captive system software users running, for example, DB2. It could start providing DB2 as a service from its own BlueMix cloud data centres and extend that to other software products and to its mainframe software. To provide hybrid cloud seamlessness, though, it would have to transition its on-premises users to the same cloud environment as its BlueMix users, meaning a BlueMix on-premises system.
We can't see that happening, but never say never. ®