Anyone working in the cloud today knows that it is about more than just selection a cloud or managed services provider and working with them to transform their IT to a cloud model.
A complete cloud implementation involves a number of elements — a set of “building blocks” — that come together to form a foundational architecture and infrastructure for the delivery of cloud services. These building blocks vary from application to application (ecommerce building blocks will focus more on transactions, consumer relationships, and so on, while auditing and compliance will get more attention from a health care provider), but the key point is that they will likely come from a variety of sources not tied to the platform infrastructure where applications reside.
Clouds are built on ecosystems
All of it comes together to form cloud ecosystems. In general terms, a cloud ecosystem is composed of a network of suppliers and providers, each of which plays some role in the delivery, provisioning and consumption of cloud services. Some deliver portions of the “as-a-service” cloud models (IaaS, PaaS, SaaS), while other build and/or deliver specific cloud services. Still others may provide management services that focus on the use, delivery and auditing of cloud services. Even the consumers of cloud services can be considered network participants. The ecosystem is defined by these entities as well as their interrelationships and the building blocks each of them provides.
There are a variety of ecosystem models that help organizations understand how they work, some very simple, others comprehensive and complex. Without detailing each of them, they generally build on top of “as-a-service” layers all other relevant ecosystem building blocks. What they all point to is the value businesses can reap by participating in in a cloud ecosystem.
What are the benefits of a cloud ecosystem?
For many enterprises, the major benefit of participating in a cloud ecosystem is the ability to take advantage of new business models that can optimize their reach and financial performance. Consider, for example, a cloud service provider who focuses on retail services delivered to its clients from its own datacenter. It decides to launch a related service focused on an as yet untapped market segment deployed on a public cloud vendor’s platform, because the service connects to others offered by that cloud vendor and its ecosystem partners. It can then leverage this cloud vendor and its ecosystem to connect new customers back to the services that represent its core business.
The ecosystem also helps enterprises avoid vendor lock-in by presenting it with all options available from providers in the network.
Finally, by working within an ecosystem, the task of aggregating and analyzing all the data associated with applications, their usage and performance becomes much easier.
Ecosystems are about more than public clouds
Since many enterprises begin their cloud journey on a public cloud, it’s common for public cloud providers to be considered to be at the center of cloud ecosystems. AWS is an obvious example, but SaaS vendors can also claim their own ecosystems (Salesforce has certainly built an ecosystem around its CRM platform, for example). Other providers in the ecosystem networks include software companies, consultants, and partners. The picture gets even more interesting when public cloud vendor ecosystems overlap. The ecosystem becomes stronger, but complexity and confusion can also result.
Cloud ecosystems are not only relevant to those doing business with pubic cloud providers. Private clouds are increasingly parts of hybrid cloud configurations, opening up the opportunity to tap into ecosystem services and benefits. Private clouds may also leverage applications, management and data/analytical services that may in themselves not qualify as ecosystems, but which form the basis of a private cloud-centric network of applications, services, and providers that could.
In effect, these private clouds become ecosystems of their own, presenting all characteristic opportunities, choices and complexities. They need to be understood and managed as cloud ecosystems, especially if the auditing, brokering and other management capabilities that are part of the cloud ecosystem definition are not present in the network.
Enterprises can manage their private cloud ecosystems themselves or bring on board a managed services provider to get the job done. For example, Rackspace’s VMware Cloud on AWS provides users with a VMware private cloud as part of the AWS ecosystem that includes applications from Oracle, SAP and others. Rackspace in effect becomes part of the ecosystem, enabling us to offer our customers services such as Backup and Disaster Recovery from other ecosystem participants. The ecosystem grows without locking the customer into using only AWS services.
Managing private clouds as part of cloud ecosystems
Choosing a cloud vendor that can help customers manage their private cloud ecosystems is critical for success. Rackspace can build, maintain and manage your private cloud across several cloud platform vendors and options, including VMware, OpenStack, and Microsoft. We are the experts at managing complex cloud environments, including those that leverage one or more cloud ecosystems, reducing the resources you need to provide to manage your private cloud ecosystem. This gives you greater flexibility and business growth potential. Just as importantly, we have the expertise and knowledge to work with you to help you make the best choices for your business.
Learn more about Rackspace Private Cloud as a Service.