Major Vendors’ Cloud Strategies (Archived Report)

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Archived Report
Major Vendors’ Cloud Strategies

by James G. Barr

Docid: 00021110

Publication Date: 1807

Report Type: TUTORIAL


The term "cloud computing" generally connotes the ability to access computing
resources such as application programs and infrastructure assets over a network.
In most cases, that network is the Internet. While a number of major firms
including Google and Amazon were quick to embrace the cloud computing paradigm –
cloud computing practically defines their business model – other, more
established information technology providers like HP Enterprise and IBM elected
to take a slower, more deliberate approach to cloud adoption and integration.
Today, of course, almost all vendors – both major and minor- are heavily
invested in the cloud.

Report Contents:

Executive Summary

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The term "cloud computing" generally connotes the ability to access
computing resources such as application programs and infrastructure assets over a network.
In most cases,
that network is the Internet.

Faulkner Reports

Cloud Computing
Trends Tutorial

Cloud computing is designed to liberate computer users – and developers – from
conventional data center-related resource constraints, delivering on-demand
computing power, storage, and services from the Internet "cloud." The
cloud, of course, is a metaphor for any unseen computing resources made
available by IT infrastructure

While a number of major firms including Google and Amazon were quick to
embrace the cloud computing paradigm – cloud computing practically defines their
business model – other, more established information technology providers like
HP Enterprise and IBM elected to take a slower, more deliberate approach to
cloud adoption and integration, carefully considering how to shape
their product and service portfolios to accommodate this new on- and off-premise
computing scheme.

Further complications – both from a vendor and customer perspective – include
integrating cloud computing with other technological developments such as
server and desktop virtualization, the proliferation of mobile devices, "Big
Data" processing, and, most recently, artificial intelligence (AI).

Finally, the cloud computing market is divided into a number of segments,

  • Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)
  • Platform as a Service (PaaS)
  • Software as a Service (SaaS)

Whether to compete in one or all of these segments, whether to develop open
or proprietary solutions, and whether to leapfrog the market by integrating
cloud computing with other IT trends like AI are all questions with which the major IT providers must wrestle.


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For major IT companies like HP Enterprise and IBM, the key to making cloud computing
their own is to find a cloud computing framework that:

  1. Is real and tangible, as opposed to the image of the cloud itself.
  2. Is supported by a reputable standards organization (or other recognized
  3. May be aligned with the provider’s own products and services, thus helping
    preserve the provider’s existing IT investments.

Such a framework, the NIST Cloud Definition Framework, was proposed by the US National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)
in collaboration with government and industry experts. See Figure 1.

Figure 1. The NIST Cloud Definition Framework

Figure 1. The NIST Cloud Definition Framework

Source: US National Institute of Standards and Technology

NIST Definition of Cloud Computing – Cloud computing is a model for enabling convenient, on-demand
network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources (e.g.,
networks, servers, storage, applications, and services) that can be
rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort or
service provider interaction.

NIST Cloud Computing Service Models
Cloud computing services are delivered via three prominent service models:

  1. Cloud
    Software as a Service (SaaS).
    The capability provided to the consumer
    is to use the provider’s applications running on a cloud infrastructure. The applications are accessible from various customer devices through a thin
    customer interface such as a web browser (e.g., web-based email).
  2. Cloud
    Platform as a Service (PaaS)
    . The capability provided to the consumer
    is to deploy onto the cloud infrastructure consumer-created or acquired
    applications created using programming languages and tools supported by
    the provider.
  3. Cloud Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS). The capability provided to the
    consumer is to provision processing, storage, networks, and other
    fundamental computing resources where the consumer is able to deploy and
    run arbitrary software, which can include operating systems and

NIST Cloud Computing Deployment Models –
Cloud computing services are deployed via four prominent deployment

  1. Private cloud. The cloud infrastructure is operated solely for an
    organization. It may be managed by the organization or a third party and
    may exist on premise or off premise.

  2. Community
     The cloud infrastructure is shared by several organizations and
    supports a specific community that has shared concerns (e.g., mission,
    security requirements, policy, and compliance considerations. It may be
    managed by the organizations or a third party and may exist on premise or
    off premise.

  3. Public
    The cloud infrastructure is made available to the general
    public or a large industry group and is owned by an organization selling
    cloud services.

  4. Hybrid
    . The cloud infrastructure is a composition of two or more clouds
    (private, community, or public) that remain unique entities but are bound
    together by standardized or proprietary technology that enables data and
    application portability (e.g., cloud bursting for load-balancing between

Whether directly attributable to NIST, most major IT
providers have implicitly accepted the NIST

  • Partitioning their product
    and service portfolios into SaaS, PaaS, and IaaS offerings.
  • Developing new cloud offerings in accordance with the
    SaaS, PaaS, and IaaS constructs.

To Be or Not To Be

With the establishment of a de facto cloud services infrastructure
consisting of SaaS, PaaS, and IaaS services, the major IT providers must decide
whether to:

  1. Be the cloud, in the way consumer-oriented giants like Google
    and Amazon have created their own cloud data centers.

  2. Be the provider of cloud infrastructure to cloud services

  3. Become a hybrid provider, offering, in some cases,
    special-purpose clouds (in support of proprietary applications), and, in
    other cases, servers, storage, and other cloud components to customers that
    want to develop and maintain their own clouds.

Major Vendors

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Analyst Cynthia Harvey observes that "Given the enormity of the infrastructure needed
… leadership in the public cloud market has coalesced in the hands of a few

Importantly, the "public cloud [space offers] competitive tools that few
businesses could afford to develop in-house, [such as] artificial intelligence,
delivered as a service though the cloud. So the public cloud has morphed from a
[vehicle] to offload your computing to a rich source of advanced competitive

The present leaders in public cloud computing are:

  • Amazon Web Services (AWS)
  • Google
  • IBM
  • Microsoft

"public cloud providers … play a … vital role in shaping today’s
enterprise IT landscape. The way they develop new tools, the prices they
post, the level of service they offer – each of these factors influences the
services that their many customers can in turn offer their customers."2


Amazon Web Services (AWS), a division of Amazon, dominates the
cloud computing market.

AWS serves developers and enterprises of all sizes, including
start-ups, government agencies, and academic institutions through a broad set of global compute, storage, database, and
other service offerings.

According to the vendor, AWS is presently active in the
emerging field of artificial intelligence, "[lowering] the costs and
barriers to machine learning and AI so organizations of all sizes can take
advantage of these advanced techniques."

In 2017, AWS announced more than 1,400 significant services and features,
including Amazon SageMaker, which enables everyday developers to build
sophisticated machine learning models.

parent company, Amazon, which "opened its virtual doors on the World Wide Web in July
1995," utilizes cloud computing to serve:

  • Consumers and sellers through it retail websites; and
  • Content creators through Kindle Direct Publishing, an online service that lets independent authors and
    publishers make their books available in the Kindle Store, along with Amazon’s
    own publishing arm, Amazon Publishing. Amazon also
    offers programs that allow authors, musicians, filmmakers, app developers, and
    others to publish and sell content.


Google is a company "built in the Cloud." Rather ambitiously, Google’s cloud strategy is to expose its
highly-rated search and advertising capabilities to the billions of people not
yet Web-enabled. As the company rightly observes,
"Fast search and high-quality ads matter only if
you have access to the Internet."

Google is sponsoring initiatives aimed at extending Internet access to the
planet’s five billion people not presently Web-ready. One such effort, Project
Loon, is a network of balloons traveling on the edge of space, designed to
connect people in rural and remote areas, help fill coverage gaps, and bring
people back online after disasters. In October 2017, Project Loon deployed a network to deliver basic
Internet connectivity to more than 100,000 people in Puerto Rico following
Hurricane Maria.

As reported by analyst Cynthia Harvey, Google, like Amazon and Microsoft,
"offers a very full range
of IaaS and PaaS services that span compute, storage, networking, big data,
machine learning, developer tools and security. Some of its best-known cloud
offerings include:

  • Compute Engine

  • App Engine

  • Container Engine

  • Cloud Storage

  • BigQuery3

According to a company
prospectus, Google "has been investing in [cloud] infrastructure, security,
data management, analytics, and AI from the very beginning, [enhancing]
these strengths with features like data migration, modern development
environments, and machine learning tools to provide enterprise-ready cloud
services, including Google Cloud Platform and G Suite.

  • "Google Cloud
    Platform enables developers to build, test, and deploy applications on
    Google’s … infrastructure.
  • "[Google] G Suite
    productivity tools – which include apps like Gmail, Docs, Drive,
    Calendar, Hangouts, and more – are designed with real-time collaboration
    and machine intelligence to help people work smarter."


One of IBM’s "strategic imperatives" is "to remake
enterprise IT infrastructure for the era of the cloud."

According to the company, the IBM Cloud is:

  • "Built for all applications
    – The IBM Cloud
    enables one data platform that, regardless of data’s location, can run all

  • "Artificial intelligence (AI)-ready: The IBM Cloud is built from the ground up
    to handle the demanding data and computational requirements of AI.

  • "Secure to the Core: IBM’s cybersecurity offerings act as a business immune
    system, with AI technology at its core, delivered from the IBM Cloud. These
    systems help to defend and respond to cyber-attacks across an organization’s
    data, applications, mobile and endpoint devices."

While not one of the "big three" cloud computing
providers (Amazon, Google, and Microsoft), analyst Cynthia Harvey observes that "IBM’s cloud business has been coming on strong.

"IBM’s "most visible" cloud service is its Bluemix Platform-as-a-Service."4 Bluemix
is built on the open standards foundation of Cloud Foundry and powered by
IBM Cloud’s infrastructure. Bluemix
offers cloud-based services, APIs, and leading third-party services to
developers in an integrated platform.

As with Microsoft and its Azure
line, IBM’s public cloud is particularly popular with organizations that
have a long-term relationship with – and investment in – "Big Blue."5

IBM boasts a world-class cognitive cloud platform featuring IBM Watson
services that developers can embed into their applications to "create
differentiating customer experiences and powerful insights."

Evidencing IBM’s cloud influence, IBM
and SAP formed a strategic alliance in which SAP runs its business applications on IBM’s cloud.


Microsoft currently occupies second place in the public cloud market,
behind only AWS.

Microsoft believes that
businesses move to the cloud is one of the company’s largest opportunities. "The shift to the cloud is driven by three important economies of scale:

  1. "Larger data centers can deploy computational resources at significantly lower
    cost per unit than smaller ones.
  2. "Larger data centers can coordinate and
    aggregate diverse customer, geographic, and application demand patterns
    improving the utilization of computing, storage, and network resources.

  3. "Multi-tenancy lowers application maintenance labor costs for large public

Microsoft asserts that its "server products and cloud services, which
include Microsoft SQL Server (“SQL Server”), Windows Server, Visual Studio,
System Center, and Microsoft Azure (“Azure”), make [it] the only company with a
public, private, and hybrid cloud platform that can power modern business."

Microsoft’s cloud presence includes SaaS versions of its popular Office
365 portfolio (Word, Excel, etc.), as well as Microsoft Dynamics.


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Enterprise planners are constantly under pressure to do more
with less. The ability
to acquire on-demand computing resources without an extensive and expensive
infrastructure build out – the very essence of cloud computing – remains

Major IT providers like HP Enterprise and IBM will continue
to position themselves to catch the cloud computing wave, aligning the relevant
portions of their product and service portfolios to accommodate the three basic
cloud computing service models: IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS. More important,
perhaps, than the services they offer will be the implied promise that major IT providers have the experience, expertise, and resources to keep
data safe
in the "Wild West" atmosphere that characterizes today’s cloud computing

At the same time these industry stalwarts are concentrating on the cloud, they
will avoid "getting their heads caught in the clouds" – ensuring that other
fast-moving information technology trends, like virtualization, Big Data,
mobile computing, edge computing, and AI, receive adequate attention.

As public cloud products become more reliable, expect the public/private divide
to tip in the direction of public clouds – good news for Amazon, Google, and
Microsoft, and the hardware providers that enable massive public cloud build-outs.

Finally, as more providers find a way
to apply the cloud computing label to their products and services, firms will renew their efforts to create and cultivate custom cloud
brands, along the lines of the "software-defined datacenter" or
"IT as a Service." These re-branding efforts will likely produce new
and exciting variations on the cloud computing concept.


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While Amazon, Google, and Microsoft have dominated the discussion relative
to cloud computing, established vendors like HP Enterprise and IBM should continue to flourish in the
cloud. After all, these firms
manufacture the equipment that supports cloud computing. They can create
their own cloud infrastructures and provide cloud services to enterprise
customers, especially smaller, non-traditional customers – the type of
customers that ordinarily would not purchase "on-premise" equipment from big box

addition to offering their own cloud services, HP Enterprise, IBM, and others can supply the
equipment needs of other cloud providers, potentially a more lucrative revenue

firms like HP Enterprise and IBM are poised to profit from the cloud computing
revolution simply because cloud computing is complex. Many customers – and
prospective customers – will no doubt conclude that if any partner can make
sense of cloud computing and "steer us in the right direction," it
must be
one of information technology’s major, time-tested institutions.


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About the Author

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James G. Barr is a leading business continuity analyst and business
writer with more than 30 years’ IT experience. A member of "Who’s
Who in Finance and Industry," Mr. Barr has designed, developed, and
deployed business continuity plans for a number of Fortune 500 firms. He
is the author of several books, including
How to Succeed in Business BY
Really Trying
, a member of Faulkner’s Advisory Panel, and a senior editor
for Faulkner’s Security Management Practices. Mr. Barr can be
reached via email at

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