The Role of Network Services in IaaS Solutions

Abstract CubesIn my last blog I discussed the expanding set of cloud-based IaaS solutions.  I also used the results of a survey that I recently gave to roughly 200 IT professionals as the basis for a discussion of the factors that are driving and inhibiting the adoption of IaaS solutions.  I am going to use this blog to discuss the networking services that IT organizations expect to see as part of cloud-based IaaS solutions.

As I mentioned in my last blog, the initial set of IaaS solutions that were brought to market by Cloud Service Providers (CSPs) were the basic compute and storage services that are necessary to run applications.  Analogously, the network that was used to access these services was typically the Internet — little, if any, sophisticated network functionality was provided by the CSPs, and that approach was generally deemed to be good enough.

In order to document the changing nature of the IaaS market, I asked the survey respondents a number of questions about the role that network services play in their selection of cloud-based IaaS solutions.  The survey gave a number of examples of possible network services, including load balancing, firewalls, IDS/IPS, and WAN optimization.  Almost ninety percent of the survey respondents indicated that all of these network services should be part of a cloud-based IaaS solution.  That statement might be a bit misleading as I didn’t assign a cost to those services in the survey question and it is easy for someone to want additional functionality if it comes at no cost.

I asked the survey respondents who they wanted to manage the network services — did they want to manage those services themselves or did they want the CSP to do that?  With the exception of WAN optimization, the majority of the survey respondents wanted to manage the functionality themselves.  In the case of WAN optimization, the results were split evenly — half the respondents wanted to manage WAN optimization themselves and half wanted the CSP to manage it.

In part to make up for not asking about the survey respondents’ willingness to pay for network services, I decided to use the importance of those services as part of the overall evaluation process as another indicator of the shifting IaaS market.  With that goal in mind, the survey respondents were asked, “When your organization evaluates cloud services such as computing, storage, and virtual private data centers, how carefully does your organization evaluate the enabling network services such as Load Balancer, Firewall, and WAN optimization?”  Almost two thirds of the survey respondents indicated that these services are either a major or critical component of the overall evaluation process.  Less than ten percent of the respondents indicated that those services are not part of the evaluation of cloud-based IaaS solutions.

I started these two blogs by stating that 2013 will be a pivotal year for the use of IaaS solutions.  That is true both in terms of the types of services that are deployed and the amount of those services which gets consumed.  It is also true in terms of the role of network services as part of an IaaS solution.  While the fact that ninety percent of the survey respondents indicated that these network services should be part of any IaaS solution is an overstatement, the general trend is clear.  IT organizations are beginning to expect that cloud-based IaaS solutions offer sophisticated network functionality, and that functionality includes WAN optimization.