Are we destined for a “two cloud world”?

Lydia Leong from Gartner wrote a great blog post recently about her belief that the cloud service provider market should not evolve to a “world of two clouds”. What she is referring to here is the idea that providers are heading down the path of building different clouds to accommodate enterprise and “cloud-native” workloads respectively. Lydia’s stance is that this is the wrong approach;

I do not believe in a “world of two clouds”, where there are cloud IaaS offerings that are targeted at enterprise workloads, and there are cloud IaaS offerings that are targeted at cloud-native workloads – broadly, different clouds for applications designed with the assumption of infrastructure resilience, versus applications designed with the assumption that resilience must reside at the application layer.

From our view of the world at SolidFire, the underlying problem here is that service providers are saddled with legacy hardware infrastructure that doesn’t allow them to simultaneously service the needs of two masters: IT operations and developers. Lacking a dynamic and resilient infrastructure that can accommodate both “cloud-native” and legacy enterprise applications, service providers end up with multiple clouds. While different clouds for each use case would seem to address the problem tactically, this probably isn’t what customers want either. Lydia writes;

There’s no need to build two clouds; in fact, customers actively do not want two different clouds, since nobody really wants to shift between different clouds as you go through an application’s lifecycle, or for different tiers of an app, some of which might need greater infrastructure resilience and guaranteed performance.

Instead of building different clouds or waiting for enterprise applications to be rewritten for cloud, service providers need to focus on designing their clouds with the architectural flexibility to dynamically tune the levels of infrastructure resilience (i.e. availability) and performance to the needs of the application. While built into “cloud-native” applications from the outset, we can’t possibly expect applications on a broader scale to be able to account for the limitations of the underlying infrastructure. Instead, cloud infrastructure needs to be dynamic and fluid enough to respond the the disparate needs of different applications. To avoid a two cloud world this burden of resilience and performance consistency needs to fall on the infrastructure as much as, if not more than, the applications.

But lacking this flexibility in the infrastructure today services providers are stuck with no choice but to head down the two cloud path. According to Lydia, this is the path a lot of service providers have already chosen to head down;

Now, there are tons of service providers out there building to that world of two clouds – often rooted in the belief that IT operations will want one thing, and developers another, and they should build something totally different for both. This is almost certainly a losing strategy.

At SolidFire we are focused on delivering our service provider customers the architectural flexibility they need at the storage layer to mold their infrastructure to the needs of application. This allows them the flexibility to appease the needs of the operations and developer camps without having to build two clouds in the process. With solutions like SolidFire helping service providers avoid this multi-cloud approach, it is hard to argue with Lydia that this isn’t the more optimal path to head down. She closes her blog with this exact sentiment;

Winning providers will satisfy both needs within a single cloud, offering architectural flexibility that allows developers to decide whether or not they want to build for application resiliency or infrastructure resiliency.

-Dave Cahill, Director of Strategic Alliances

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