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Enterprise and Cloud

Anybody working in storage cannot fail to come across the term ‘Enterprise Storage’; a term which is often used to justify the cost of what it is commodity item that is stuck together with some clever software; ask a sales-man from a vendor as to what makes their storage ‘Enterprise’ and you will get a huge amount of fluff but with little substance. ‘Enterprise Storage’ is a marketing term.

And now we are seeing the word ‘Enterprise’ being used by some Cloud Service Providers and Cloud Vendors to try to distinguish their Cloud server from their competitors, especially when trying to differentiate themselves from Amazon. Yet, is this just a marketing term again? I don’t think it is but not for entirely positive reasons.

If your application has been properly architected and designed to run in a Cloud based infrastructure; you almost certainly don’t need to be running in an ‘Enterprise Cloud’ and the extra expense that brings; if you have tried to shoe-horn an existing application into the Cloud, you might well need to consider an Enterprise Cloud. Because many Enterprise Clouds are simply hosted environments re-branded as Cloud, often utilising virtualisation sitting on top of highly resilient hardware; they remove many of the transition costs to the Cloud by not actually transitioning to a Cloud Model.

A properly designed Cloud application will meet all the availability and performance requirements of the most demanding Enterprise and users whether it runs in an commodity cloud or an Enterprise Cloud. Redeveloping your existing application portfolio may well feel prohibitively expensive and hence many will avoid doing this. Ultimately though, many of these existing applications which live in the Enterprise Cloud will transition to a SAAS environment; CRM, ERP and other common enterprise applications are the obvious candidates. This will leave the those applications which make your Business special and from which you derive some kind of competitive advantage; these are the applications and architectures that you should be thinking about re-architecting and re-developing, not just dumping them into an ‘Enterprise Cloud’.

Try not to buy into the whole ‘Enterprise Cloud’ thing apart from as a transitionary step; think about what you need to do to run your business on any ‘Commodity Cloud’; how you design applications which are scalable and resilient at the application layer as opposed to infrastructure, think about how you make those applications environmentally agnostic with the ability to take advantage of spot pricing and brokerage. Or if you really don’t believe in the Cloud, stop pretending to and stop using Enterprise as camouflage.


  1. Tom Leyden says:

    Hi Martin,

    Interesting read as usual. While I mostly agree with what you wrote, I have two comments to add:

    * My experience is that “enterprise” is commonly used when referring to storage (and beyond) by others than just marketeers (I always try not to be guilty of that, but I do get your point). What I’m referring to is when companies are investigating into hardware quality, “Enterprise grade” is term often used. Startups in particular will get a lot of questions like “Is your hardware Enterprise Grade?” These questions do not come from the marketeers.

    * I fully agree that “Enterprise Cloud” does not make a lot of sense. The industry finally kind of agrees on public private and hybrid, so no need to add confusion. I have seen a lot of messaging about “enterprise applications in the cloud” lately though. One company I have been advising to has been using it as well. What they mean by that are exactly those applications you refer to: CRM, ERP stuff that is/will/should/must never (pick what you like) be moved to a (private/public) cloud. I used to call those legacy applications but I’ve been told that might sound negative. Because I think not all of those applications need a private cloud, we agreed on calling them “complex applications in the cloud”.

  2. Rob Commins says:

    Hi Martin –

    The marketing of cloud and especially enterprise-cloud is certainly mercurial at best. I’ve been working with xSPs for about 12 years now. There is really one bottom line that customers can use to judge “enterprise grade” for themselves – the SLA. A loosely written SLA with little or no reference to availability, time to restore, maintenance windows, etc., can assuredly be called “commodity-class cloud”. More rigid SLAs can be termed “enterprise-class cloud”.

    A typical enterprise-class cloud offering will have steep remedies for breaching an SLA. The service provider will most likely use more robust infrastructure and charge more for these higher grade services.

    So, in the end, marketers will continue to blur the definition of cloud offerings, and customers will have to closely review their SLAs to ensure their requirements are met. Nothing new – except new jargon.

  3. […] Glasborow at Storagebod raised a question about “Enterprise Cloud”. This whole cloud thing is quite the […]

  4. Chris James says:

    Hi Martin,

    You made several good points but I feel I need to point out a couple of things:

    ‘A properly designed Cloud application will meet all the availability and performance requirements of the most demanding Enterprise and users’

    It certainly will but only if it’s properly designed and the keyword here is *if* – how do you know if it’s properly designed? Hardware vendors routinely give you five nines availability SLAs but try and get a performance SLA and you will have a big problem. The only way to guarantee application performance is to monitor every component of the infrastructure the application runs on. Until now the default way to guarantee performance has been to massively over provision the SAN elements and this is a very expensive solution to the problem. But take a properly monitored cloud environment and it will perform well, with guaranteed SLAs for application performance. It will also cost less to run, scale, upgrade and maintain.

    ‘how you design applications which are scalable and resilient at the application layer as opposed to infrastructure’

    There are two pieces to the enterprise application, and these are often described as software and hardware or application and infrastructure. In my experience latency can be caused by both these elements so it is important to get them both right. There are lots of tools that let you monitor the application layer but recently things changed and now you can get a view of the whole infrastructure end-to-end, for the first time getting a clear view into the entire SAN, and this is literally worth more than the sum of its parts.


    Disclaimer: I work for Virtual Instruments.

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