Cloud computing is probably the hottest technology in the market today, at least in terms of pure hype and buzz. But its benefits are very real, from improved business agility, reliability, scalability, performance and more.
Estimates vary widely for how large the cloud market is and how fast it’s growing. According to 451 Market Monitor, a forecasting unit of The 451 Group, the cloud computing market will reach $16.7B by 2013, up from $8.7B in 2010, according to a research roundup on the Software Strategies Blog. But Forrester thinks it’s far larger than that, poised to grow from $40.7 billion in 2011 to more than $241 billion in 2020.
Such disparity is not terribly surprising, however. Depending on the exact definition they use for “cloud market,” the research firms may take into account different products and services.
Inside the Cloud
At its core, cloud technology involves delivering IT applications as a service, like any other utility, typically from a highly virtualized IT infrastructure. As companies virtualize their infrastructure, their computing platform begins to look like a single pool of compute, storage and network resources that any application can use. And from the user perspective, cloud applications are typically delivered via a Web browser or with a lightweight client. Users can consequently access their applications from wherever they may be, bringing a great deal of convenience and flexibility.
Cloud technology comes in three basic flavors: private, public and hybrid. Private cloud is when a company owns and operates its own cloud infrastructure. Public is when the company uses infrastructure owned by a third party to run its applications, a concept known as infrastructure as a service. Or, the company may choose to buy a complete application service from the provider, known as software as a service. In between is platform as a service, where a provider offers a specific software platform on which customers build their own applications, such as Microsoft’s Windows Azure.
Hybrid cloud is when companies use of mix of private and public cloud services, which is exactly what most experts predict customers will do, at least as they first begin to dabble in cloud technology.
What makes any type of cloud technology attractive is the various benefits it brings, starting with increased agility. Cloud makes provisioning new resources far easier, as IT can provision compute resources for a new application, for example, with a few keystrokes.
Companies can also often lower costs with a cloud model. In a private cloud model, they get better resource utilization, thus lowering capital costs and improved management, which lowers operational costs. In a private model, companies reduce capital expenses, converting them instead to ongoing operational expenses – with dramatically reduced up-front costs.
Cloud makes backups and disaster recovery far easier, which improves reliability. The infrastructure is also highly scalable, especially in the public model as customers can always quickly get more resources to meet demand, such as to meet seasonal load demands.
Channel Opportunity in the Cloud
As companies pursue a cloud strategy built on a highly virtualized environment, their data centers become more dense. They tend to move toward higher-end servers, often blade servers, which increases the density of each rack in terms of the power the racks consume.
As such, the opportunity for APC channel partners is much the same as for virtualization, starting with new approaches to data center cooling, such as row- and rack-oriented cooling that directs power more precisely to where it’s needed as compared to room-based systems.
With so many compute resources concentrated in a relatively small space, cloud-based data centers also require mission critical power systems, including highly reliable UPSs and PDUs, to help ensure they don’t go down.
To manage all this infrastructure, data center operators are also likely to become increasingly interested in Data Center Infrastructure Management (DCIM) tools to help them better measure, monitor, plan and optimize their data center environments.
APC has products that address each of these challenges, which means there’s ample opportunity in the cloud for its partners.