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Who Will Win the Enterprise Cloud Race in 2014?

As each vendor makes a move to build a top-tier enterprise cloud, others will counter

And the race is on. The cloud industry is abuzz with recent M&A and product news pointing towards what appears to be the Holy Grail for helping large companies move to the cloud with confidence. Both private and public cloud vendors are vying for a spot in the relatively new and rapidly growing market segment of enterprise cloud. CenturyLink swooped up Tier 3 in an attempt to establish a stronger enterprise offering; Amazon Web Services (AWS) announced its enterprise play at re:Invent; IBM acquired SoftLayer; and even the Google Compute Engine has been quick to follow in the footsteps of its competitors.

As each vendor makes a move to build a top-tier enterprise cloud, others will counter. With so much product and M&A activity going on, all that's left to ask is: What's next?

Enterprise Cloud Market Dynamics
Now that the basic self-service public cloud has been fine-tuned and heavily utilized (and with very little empty space given AWS' significant presence), cloud vendors are pivoting to take advantage of new market segments surrounding the enterprise.

Enterprise IT is rightly risk averse. They have high expectations of uninterrupted performance and need to meet the highest standards for security and compliance. Enterprises traditionally run a complex IT operation supporting many different applications, and require high levels of performance and security.

Moving these production and mission-critical applications to the cloud is by no means an easy feat. Most applications pre-date the cloud and were not written to adapt to its dynamic, on-demand and shared resources. Cloud vendors cannot simply rebrand a (dedicated) hosting offer as cloud for enterprises and expect adoption; the proper tools and capabilities must be in place.

Security and performance mean everything to enterprises. They need to meet stringent business and audit requirements. Cloud providers are working feverishly to adhere to these criteria, hence the recent push throughout the cloud industry for enhanced cloud security compliance standards and performance assured SLAs.

To stay ahead of the curve and address enterprise needs, companies like CenturyLink, and IBM earlier this year, pinpointed valuable technologies and acquired them. They are now integrating the solutions of these acquisitions, Tier 3 and SoftLayer respectively, to better optimize compute memory, network and storage. We've also seen new capabilities added to enhance existing software solutions (with announcements by VMware, various open stack vendors, Joyent and my company, Virtustream). Through acquisitions and new product releases, providers are working toward comprehensive cloud stacks that support multiple market segments (SMBs and enterprises, test/dev and production environments).

As a measure of success in the Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS market), the Gartner Magic Quadrant ranks the top 15 providers. In the course of six months, two of the top 15 have been acquired (Tier 3, SoftLayer), two have made major acquisitions to improve their positions (IBM, CenturyLink), two have announced major strategic shifts (Verizon, HP) and there are only three private companies left on the list (Virtustream, Joyent, GoGrid). The chess board is very active.

Enterprise Cloud Is Anyone's Race
The cloud stack wars are intense with large groups like VMware enhancing private virtualization, and open source movements like OpenStack and Apache CloudStack enhancing capabilities and strengthening public multi-tenant clouds. AWS has built a compelling business with their self-service, best-efforts public cloud. OpenStack has begun to build the foundation of an open source alternative, although it is still far off from being a full-function cloud stack. We're also seeing cloud specialists like Virtustream, Tier3, Joyent and smaller start-ups enhancing cloud security, usability, performance and compliance, helping to extend the cloud use cases to mission-critical applications.

AWS's success in the DevOps, SaaS, backup/DR space is impressive, but its impact on the enterprise market has been limited to date. Given that the vast majority of enterprise apps that are ‘traditional' applications (like ERP, CRM, DB and custom applications) are only now beginning to move to the cloud, we have only seen the tip of the iceberg that will rip through the enterprise IT market.

Looking ahead, the only safe prediction to make is that there is a lot more growth in enterprise cloud still to come. We'll see continued enhancements to ‘basic' cloud capabilities, new use cases like ‘classic enterprise applications' and considerable further innovation as more valuable IP and solutions are developed. It remains an open question whether it will be the larger software companies, the public cloud giants or the new innovators who will be the first to develop and deliver well-rounded, full-function cloud stacks.

This year, expect the battle for the enterprise cloud market to heat up even further. As a $3.8 trillion dollar enterprise IT market continues to move to the cloud in 2014, the key players are going to be in flux for some time to come. Right now it's anyone's race but those vendors that can demonstrate enterprise class performance, security and hybrid capabilities will emerge as the winners.

More Stories By Simon Aspinall

Simon Aspinall is the Chief of Vertical Markets, Strategy and Marketing for Virtustream. In this global role, he leads Virtustream's strategic priorities, operates vertical market/sectors (service provider, emerging, industry verticals) and is the company's Chief Marketing Officer (CMO). In the strategy role Simon works with the CEO(s) to set and execute Virtustream's strategic priorities. As CMO Simon is responsible for developing and executing Virtustream's marketing strategy with virtual, interactive viral and traditional marketing for customers, field, social, analyst, press and financial audiences - driving Virtustream's expansion of its xStream software business, Cloud managed services and the launch of a trusted cloud exchange for enterprise-class cloud federation. As Virtustream enters new market sectors and geographies Simon's Vertical Markets role is to rapidly develop these new sectors and grow Virtustream's business through the company's salesteam and partners.

Simon holds a master's degree in engineering and computer science from Oxford University and a master's degree in business administration from INSEAD. He is also a frequent speaker at industry events and a commentator on the IT, telecom, and networking sectors.

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