Forthcoming webinar: What is a cloud database?

Cloud computing and big data are two of the hottest topics in the industry today, which makes cloud databases a particularly hot prospect for 2012. What is a cloud database, however? On Thursday, December 15 at 12:00pm EST I’ll be taking part in a webinar with Karen Tegan Padir, Vice President of Products and Marketing, EnterpriseDB on the subject of cloud computing and true cloud databases.

In this webcast, you’ll get an overview of the current state of cloud database computing, and more specifically the differences between cloud databases and databases in the cloud. I’ll be providing an overview of the functional requirements that separate databases running in the public cloud, and databases that will be used to power private and hybrid clouds.

Then Karen will provide an overview and demonstration of Postgres Plus Cloud Server, which provides DaaS for PostgreSQL databases and went into public beta earlier this week.

You can register for the event here

The SharePoint ecosystem and the cloud

Looking further into the growing ecosystem of vendors that extend and support Microsoft SharePoint, we get to the question of where ISVs fit when SharePoint is in the cloud.  The short answer, really, is that they don’t.  OK, that’s an oversimplification of course, but there is currently a far more limited role for third parties looking to extend SharePoint if it is run in a shared cloud environment.  And this points to some contradictions in Microsoft’s strategy.  On the one hand, we see a big push around SharePoint as a platform and this growing ecosystem of third parties.  On the other hand, Microsoft is touting SharePoint Online as part of the upcoming Office 365 cloud-based service (to replace the existing Business Productivty Online Suite, aka BPOS), which really has very little support for third parties.

BPOS, which bundles SharePoint Online along with Exchange and a few other services, is currently offered in both Standard and Dedicated versions.   In the Standard version, customers have multi-tenant infrastructure that is shared across customers.  With the Dedicated version (or BPOS D), they have (obviously) dedicated infrastructure, which pretty much traditional application hosting; with this BPOS D configuration, Microsoft is the hosting provider, though this scenario would really not be much different from having another hosting provider run your SharePoint deployment on dedicated servers.  Office 365 will also be made available on either shared or dedicated infrastructure.

There is currently no support for trusted third-party code in the Standard version of BPOS (aka BPOS S), nor will there be in the Office 365 Standard version.  Customers that want to extend their SharePoint deployment with, say, workflow tools from Nintex or imaging capabilities from KnowledgeLake (or any of their own custom code), will have to run their SharePoint deployments on prem or in a dedicated environment, hosted by either Microsoft or another hosting provider.

That isn’t to say that integration with BPOS / Office 365 is impossible — web services-based integration that requires no server-side installs on the SharePoint servers isn’t an issue.  So, for example, Metavis Technologies has migration tools that can move data to / from BPOS without installing anything on the SharePoint servers and so can work with SharePoint as part of BPOS S (and Office 365 presumably).  Similarly, on the Exchange side of BPOS, email archiving to a cloud provider like LiveOffice works via a data export function that doesn’t touch the cloud-based Exchange servers.

Maybe the argument is that orgs don’t want to run more sophisticated content management apps in pure cloud environments.  That may be an ok way to segment the market today but it will be limiting in the future.   One of the advantages Microsoft has today over an upstart cloud player, like for example, is the growing ecosystem of extensions that can help fit SharePoint into a broad array of use cases.  But these aren’t there in the cloud. If Box (or another player) could grow and support an ecosystem in the cloud (and support custom code and in-house developers), it might get some advantage; this is the strategy SpringCM has been attempting, with some, limited success, with its platform approach to ECM in the cloud.  Salesforce has also been more aggressively building its social software offering, Chatter (see recent acquisition of Dimdim as case in point).  This doesn’t meet a plethora of content management requirements yet but is potentially competitive to SharePoint as a social software service for internal use.

There are clear limitations to the approach Microsoft is currently taking with the SharePoint ecosystem and BPOS / Office 365 and it seems this will be something that Microsoft will have to ultimately address if it wants to be serious about offering SharePoint as cloud services.  This isn’t the only issue that might keep organizations away from the Standard version of Office 365 (i.e., how much SharePoint functionality will it include and how often will it rev?), but it could be a big one.

e-Disclosure – cooperation, questionnaires and cloud

Yesterday I attended the 6th Annual e-Disclosure Forum at Canary Wharf in London, organized by the globe-trotting triumvirate of Chris Dale, Browning Marean and George Socha. It was a good program, with an audience comprising a mix of lawyers, litigation support professionals, IT practitioners, tech software and service providers and other assorted folks, like myself. It’s the second year I’ve attended and these were the key themes I picked up on:

  • Practice Direction 31B – not surprisingly this was a major issue throughout the day, considering may of those present for instrumental in drafting it, including Chris Dale and Senior Master Steven Whitaker (among others) and it only passed into the rules on October 1.  For those that don’t know, 31B amended the rues of civil procedure in the UK (the rough equivalent of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure in the US), as they pertain to the disclosure of electronic documents (which can of course include email and other forms of communications). One aspect of the changes is a questionnaire to be used in more complex cases that involve a large number of documents. Not only does it sound to us like a sensible way of helping to to contain and get parties prepared for the case management conference (meet and confer in US parlance), but quite frankly it could be useful starting point  for organizations simply to looking to get their house in order to get prepared for future litigation.
  • Another key theme was the effect on recent UK cases on the way parties are now cooperating in case management meetings. One speaker, Jeremy Marshall, head of commercial litigation at Irwin Mitchell said that in his experience there’s a vast difference in terms of what happened before landmark cases such as Earles vs Barclays Bank in 2009 and the Digicel vs Cable & Wireless case in 2008 and what happens now. Companies know that if they don’t cooperate to make sure the necessary documents are disclosed, they could be penalized by the court, even if they win the case. For more on the Earles case and what it means regarding the destruction of documents see Chris Dale here.
  • Cloud. I had a lot of conversations with IT and legal people at the conference and they’re still not seeing the necessary granularity in service level agreements (SLAs) from cloud service providers. If you need to search your data for the purposes of e-Disclosure, it’s not clear in what format the data will come back to you or even if such a search is possible. That’s a bit of a deal-breaker, over and above any trepidation firms might feel about using cloud for any perceived security issues.
  • In general I detected a much clearer understanding on the part of US attendees of the issues in the UK market. Gone are the days it seems of assuming that the exhaustive e-Discovery process in the US is suitable without any alteration in the UK. The two countries obviously share a common law tradition, but like so many other things, there are distinct differences in the way litigation is done and that – aided in part by Chris Dale et al’s work – is now getting through to US vendors, which after all, dominate the market from the technology point of view.
  • Tips for next year to the organizers?
    • come up with a hashtag so we don’t write out ‘6th annual #eDisclosure conference’ in our tweets 😉
    • make the sessions a tad shorter
    • get a couple of additional panelists to mix it up a bit

But overall it’s the best way I know for taking the pulse of the UK e-Disclosure market in a single day.

We’ve also been active in this area ourselves recently with webinars on litigation readiness with Zylab and Katey’s participation on a Brighttalk webinar on cross-border eDiscovery. But most importantly, we have new e-Discovery research out in the shape of our cloud e-discovery [PDF]and cloud archiving [PDF] reports.

Cloud e-discovery – examining the evidence

This week we publish a new long-form report, Cloud e-discovery: litigation comes down to earth – download an executive summary here.

In cloud e-discovery we see two major market shifts: corporations in-sourcing e-discovery to lower costs, while outsourcing IT infrastructure and services around it through hosting.  Still in early adoption, it is a leap of faith on some level, and carries both risks and benefits.  While most users in our 2010 e-discovery survey were bringing the e-discovery process in-house, only 16% were using cloud to do it, for a variety of reasons including security, data loss, regulatory concerns, and ease of retrieval.

But consider that hosted e-discovery has actually been around for over 20 years. What’s more, while some enterprises are resisting the cloud, their law firms, service providers, and other outsourcers entrusted with their data are not.

Witness this month’s 2010 Am Law tech survey – 80% of law firms are using hosted technology, 60% of those for e-discovery.  In fact, e-discovery tops all hosted software usage, far surpassing HR (21%), spam filter/email (21%), storage (6%) or document management (5%).  And while 79% report a positive experience, 30% said the savings were not what they expected.  Limited customization, diminished data control and security were even greater concerns.

And what of the bigger-picture risks?  Cloud topped the agenda last month at the Masters Conference as well: the growth of public and private cloud data from mobile use and social media, potential regulatory pitfalls, the benefits and risks of hosted e-discovery, and growing cross-border issues.  No blue-sky thinking here, just hard truths on the cloud from those on the front lines.

From e-discovery lawyers and consultants:

  • “[Public] cloud providers can’t meet the needs [of e-discovery] today.”
  • “Your data, your problem.”
  • “Data privacy in the EU is like free speech or freedom of religion in the US. . . they will give up the cloud before they give this up.”

From Microsoft General Counsel, speaking on cloud regulation:

  • “Things will move quickly, and if something bad happens, things will move faster still.”

From an enterprise buyer on procurement:

  • “It will take 19 months to work out e-discovery issues once you start talking about it.”
  • “Every dollar they save on cloud will be three dollars in legal.”
  • “I hate when people say ‘it’s not gonna stop – it’s already there.’ It makes customers think there is no choice but to comply.  But maybe ‘cloud’ will go away?”

And for the last word, a characteristically common-sense admonition from UK expert Chris Dale (speaking on ECA):

So, how to navigate it all?  For a succinct analysis of the cloud e-discovery market, our report is available to 451 CloudScape or Information Management subscribers, or get an executive summary here.  It offers a market overview, benefits and risks of cloud e-discovery, adoption trends and inhibitors, market drivers, current vendor and service-provider offerings, and the future direction of the market, particularly for enterprise customers.

Also note a complementary report, Cloud archiving: a new model for enterprise data retention, by Simon Robinson and Kathleen Reidy.  They estimate the market will generate around $193m in revenues in 2010, growing at a CAGR of 36% to reach $664m by 2014.  This report covers growth drivers, the competitive landscape and the outlook for consolidation, featuring detailed vendor profiles and end-user case studies.

Sizing and analyzing the cloud-based archiving market

The cloud archiving market will generate around $193m in revenues in 2010, growing at a CAGR of 36% to reach $664m by 2014.

This is a key finding from a new 451 report published this week, which offers an in-depth analysis of the growing opportunity around how the cloud is being utilized to meet enterprise data retention requirements.

As well as sizing the market, the 50-page report – Cloud Archiving; A New Model for Enterprise Data Retention – details market evolution, adoption drivers and benefits, plus potential drawbacks and risks.

These issues are examined in more detail via five case studies offering real world experiences of organizations that have embraced the cloud for archiving purposes. The report also offers a comprehensive overview of the key players from a supplier perspective, with detailed profiles of cloud archive service providers, with discussion of related enabling technologies that will act as a catalyst for adoption, as well as expected future market developments.

Profiled suppliers include:

  • Autonomy
  • Dell
  • Global Relay
  • Google
  • i365
  • Iron Mountain
  • LiveOffice
  • Microsoft
  • Mimecast
  • Nirvanix
  • Proofpoint
  • Sonian
  • Zetta

Why a dedicated report on archiving in the cloud, you may ask? It’s a fair question, and one that we encountered internally, since archiving aging data is hardly the most dynamic-sounding application for the cloud.

However, we believe cloud archiving is an important market for a couple of reasons.  First, archiving is a relatively low-risk way of leveraging cloud economics for data storage and retention, and is less affected by the performance/latency limitation that have stymied enterprise adoption of other cloud-storage applications, such as online backup. For this reason, the market is already big enough in revenue terms to sustain a good number of suppliers; a broad spectrum that spans from Internet/IT giants to tiny, VC-backed startups. It is also set to experience continued healthy growth in the coming years as adoption extends from niche, highly regulated markets (such as financial services) to more mainstream organizations. This will pull additional suppliers – including some large players — into the market through a combination of organic development and acquisition.

Second, archiving is establishing itself as a crucial ‘gateway’ application for the cloud that could encourage organizations to embrace the cloud for other IT processes. Though it is still clearly early days, innovative suppliers are looking at ways in which data stored in an archive can be leveraged in other valuable ways.

All of these issues, and more, are examined in much more detail in the report, which is available to CloudScape subscribers here and Information Management subscribers here. An executive summary and table of contents (PDF) can be found here.

Finally, the report should act as an excellent primer for those interested in knowing more about how the cloud can be leveraged to help support ediscovery processes; this will be covered in much more detail in another report to be published soon by Katey Wood.

EMC World redux, and EMC’s own ‘journey’

We recently attended EMC’s annual user conflab – EMC World – in Boston. The 451 Group was there in force, with Kathleen Reidy and Katey Wood representing our Information Management agenda, as well as Henry Baltazar and myself on the storage side. Yes, it’s taken me longer than I though to put some thoughts together – which I am attributing to the fact that I have been involved in the Uptime Institute’s Symposium in New York this week; an excuse that I am sticking to!

For our take on some of the specific product announcements that EMC made at the show, I would refer you to the reports we have already published (on V-Plex, Atmos, SourceOne, mid-range storage and Backup and Recovery Systems). But aside from these, I was struck by a few other broader themes at EMC that i think are worth commenting on further.

First, the unavoidable — and even overwhelming — high-level message at EMC World revolved around the ‘journey to the private cloud,’ – in other words, how EMC is claiming to help customers move from where they are now to a future where their IT is more efficient, flexible and responsive to the business. Whether or not you believe the ‘private cloud’ message is the right one – and I talked with as many ‘believers’ as I did ‘skeptics’ – there’s no doubt that EMC has the proverbial ball and is running with it. I can’t think of many other single-vendor conferences that are as fully committed to cloud as EMC, and given EMC’s established position in the enterprise datacenter and its range of services that range across virtualization, security and information management, you can understand why it has cloud religion.

But there undoubtedly is risk associated with such a committed position; I don’t believe ‘cloud’ will necessarily go the way of ‘ILM,’ for example, but EMC needs to start delivering tangible evidence that it really is helping customers achieve results in new and innovative ways.

Another issue EMC has to be careful about is its characterization of ‘virtualization’ versus ‘verticalization.’ This is designed to position EMC’s ‘virtualization’ approach as a more flexible and dynamic way of deploying a range of IT services and apps across best-of-breed ‘pools’ of infrastructure, more dynamically than through the vertical stacks that are being espoused by Oracle in particular.

Though I believe that a fascinating — even idealogical — battle is shaping up here, it’s not quite so clear-cut as EMC would have you believe. What is a vBlock if not a vertically integrated and highly optimized storage, server, network and virtualization stack? And doesn’t the new vBlock announcement with SAP offer an alternative that is in many ways comparable with the Oracle ‘stack’ (especially if you throw in Sybase as well)? I get the difference between an Oracle-only stack and a more partner-driven alternative, but I think the characterization of virtualization as ‘good’ and verticalization as ‘bad’ is overly simplistic; the reality is much more nuanced, and EMC itself is embracing elements of both.

Speaking of journeys, it’s also clear to me that EMC is on a journey of its own, both in terms of the products it offers (and the way it is building them), and in terms of how it positions itself. EMC has always been a technology company that lets its products do the talking; but in an era where larger enterprises are looking to do business with fewer strategic partners, this isn’t always enough. Hence, the ‘journey to the private cloud’ is designed to help EMC position itself as a more strategic partner for its customers, while efforts such as the VCE (VMware, Cisco and EMC) coalition bring in the other infrastructure elements that EMC itself doesn’t offer. At the conference itself, much of the messaging was focused on how EMC can help deliver value to customers, and not just on the products themselves.

This approach is a rather radical change for EMC. Though it remains at its core a conservative organization, I think this more ‘holistic’ approach is evidence that two senior management additions EMC has added recently are starting to make their presence felt.

The first hire was that of COO Pat Gelsinger, an ex-Intel exec who has been brought to assemble a plan to execute on the private cloud strategy. As well as a very strong technical pedigree, Gelsinger’s strength is the combination of an ability to conceive and articulate the big picture, as well as understand the tactical steps that are required to realize this; including product development, customer satisfaction and M&A. It seems to me that Gelsinger is already immensely respected within EMC, and already seems regarded by some as CEO-in-waiting; a transition that would be a shoe-in should this strategy pay off.

The other key addition is that of ex-Veritas and Symantec CMO Jeremy Burton as EMC’s first chief marketing officer. To me, this appointment underscores EMC’s need to market itself both more aggressively, as well as differently, in order to maintain and grow its position in the market. Though Burton has only been in the job for a few weeks, we got a sense at EMC World of how he may reshape EMC’s public image; a more light-hearted approach to keynotes (some of which worked better than others, but you have to start somewhere!) bore Burton’s hallmarks, for example.

But if Burton came to EMC for a challenge, I think he has one; EMC’s reputation and brand in the large datacenter is solid, but it has work to do to build its image in the lower-reaches of the market, an area that CEO Joe Tucci has highlighted as a major growth opportunity.

Although this is as much a product challenge as anything else, EMC must also carefully consider how it brands itself to this audience. Will an existing EMC brand – Clariion, Iomega or even Mozy — appeal to a smaller storage buyer, or does it come up with something entirely new? Given its disparate product set here, could an acquisition of an established smaller-end player provide it with an instant presence?

Then there’s the issue of direct marketing; today, EMC spends a fraction of its rivals on advertising in the trade and business press. Given Burton’s background at Oracle and Symantec, plus the growing imperative for IT companies to appeal to the C-level suite to reinforce their strategic relevance, could EMC soon be featuring on the back page of the Economist?