Verizon’s Journey To A Proper Cloud; Is this the only way?

Almost three years after their Terremark acquisition, and a few “enterprise” clouds later, Verizon has announced the Verizon Cloud and Verizon Cloud Storage (block and object) services. This new platform is the result of significant internal investments.

Breaking away from their prior VMware ESX and vCenter-based cloud offering, the Verizon Cloud is built on the Xen hypervisor, x86 servers, Arista switches, multi-tenant all-SSD storage, and an internally designed provisioning engine with dynamic resource isolation. Commenting on the opportunity that spurred their new design, Verizon’s Chris Drumgoole, SVP Global Operations, Verizon Terremark, commented:

“The scale of cloud computing is going to change dramatically over the next several years, and any weaknesses in the cloud will be exposed very quickly, such as the ability to scale to tens of millions of machines. The ability to get predictable performance, scalability and reliability, these things are not mature on the cloud today, but they need to be in a world where all the apps live in the cloud.”

Despite targeting the developer crowd with this offering, Verizon also ensured compatibility with it’s existing VMware-based cloud offering. And while some may argue that Verizon has regrettably built its way into a two cloud world, if you dig a little deeper you quickly get the impression that this is not the long-term plan. Verizon has embraced the idea of a single composable platform with resources that can be granularly tuned up or down to meet the needs of a wide ranging application set. Talking about the functionality of the Verizon Cloud offering Lydia Leong from Gartner remarks:

“It’s intended to provide fine-grained performance controls for the compute, network, and storage resource elements. It is also built to allow the user to select fault domains, allowing strong control of resource placement (such as “these two VMs cannot sit on the same compute hardware”); within a fault domain, workloads can be rebalanced in case of hardware failure, thus offering the kind of high availability that’s often touted in VMware-based clouds (including Terremark’s previous offerings). It is also intended to allow dynamic isolation of compute, storage, and networking components, allowing the creation of private clouds within a shared pool of hardware capacity.”

So Verizon looks to have themselves a competitive cloud offering with the architectural flexibility to dynamically tune the levels of infrastructure resilience and performance to the needs of the application. But at what cost? Two years, greater than $1.4B in acquisitions, and undoubtedly tens of millions of internal investment have allowed them to  assemble the team and technologies to build this cloud. In order to deliver this functionality Verizon chose to tackle some very difficult engineering problems in house. Talking about the depth of the engineering undertaking, John Considine was quoted by The Register as saying:

“Where we run into a lot of problems is when you talk about independent lifecycles for all of those components. We really had to build what we consider an integrated system to make it work. We control everything from the manufacture of the disk drives down to the firmware on the storage cards; we find it has to be tightly integrated.”

Is this really the learning curve and depth of engineering investment required to deliver a true cloud? The ROI on both the initial investment and the ongoing support of a proprietary infrastructure stack requires a business that will generate billions in revenue over its life. Very few public or private clouds will ever achieve that scale. Fortunately for those that can’t afford to make these type of acquisitions or internal engineering investments there are other options. At SolidFire we are focused on helping our customers realize the complete range of benefits of cloud computing, including scalability, performance, reliability, and consistency, utilizing a storage platform built from the ground up for large clouds. Combined with our partnerships around OpenStack, CloudStack, and fabric-based networking, SolidFire can help any service provider or enterprise deliver the full promise of the cloud.

-Dave Cahill, Director of Strategic Alliances

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