Amazon Web Services (AWS) has topped the list as the best cloud provider for years. It remains the dominant player in public cloud computing worldwide. Over the past year, AWS has been on a roll shipping a rich variety of new services targeting enterprise IT, a market that has proved hard to penetrate for public cloud providers but promises great returns for those that do. Additionally, in a strategy to drive the market to follow its moves, AWS has cut prices 19 times in just the past six years. Although Amazon.com doesn’t fully break out its cloud services revenues, AWS would appear to be a $6 billion company based on its performance in 2011. That’s in comparison to Amazon.com’s overall revenues of $48 billion for the year — not bad for a business reputedly created to sell the e-retailer’s excess compute capacity back in 2002.
Rackspace Inc. has been a sleeping giant. Although it hasn’t made any billion-dollar acquisitions the way several competitors have in 2012, the co-creator of the OpenStack open source cloud OS is positioned to remain a leader on the cloud provider rolls. In fact, the OpenStack community just shipped its fifth release, code-named Essex, in early April. Rackspace, which started out as a custom applications hosting company in 1998, provides traditionally managed hosting as well as public cloud Platform as a Service (PaaS), and hybrid cloud services that blend the two technologies. The company grossed almost $1.3 billion in fiscal 2011, up from $629 million in 2009, pushing growth well into double digits annually with about a fifth of that coming from its cloud businesses last year. The company began the year with 4,040 employees — who are referred to as “rackers” — more than 170,000 customers and nearly 80,000 servers in more than 233,000 square feet of data center space worldwide.
Salesforce.com isn’t living on Cloud 9 yet, but it appears ready to inhabit Cloud 2. The company that successfully pioneered cloud-based, enterprise-class CRM solutions, looks like it is poised to charge into the next era of cloud computing. This era, which its brash chairman and CEO, Marc Benioff, refers to as Cloud 2, is one that is all about social media, mobile computing and real time. Salesforce believes its acquisition of Heroku, with its popular Ruby Platform as a Service, will help it establish a leadership position there. The deal gives Salesforce access to all of Heroku’s technology and intellectual assets, along with its growing base of Ruby-based developers that have delivered some 105,000 applications. Another symbiotic element that should work in the duo’s favor is that Heroku’s platform is designed from the ground up to be multi-tenant, a hallmark of Salesforce’s Force.com platform.
Joyent Inc. has made some friends in high places. In 2010, Dell chose Joyent to power its cloud; the public cloud provider is also the cloud engine behind several online gaming platforms as well as LinkedIn, the popular professional social network. This year, Joyent has been making announcements left and right about new strategic partnerships, focusing its efforts on data-intensive, high-performance applications, including partnerships with Data Layer as a Service provider Cloudant; Nodejitsu, which develops tools for Node.js; and Venice, Calif.-based online media startup-for-startups Amplify. With a major industry focus in 2012 on big data and HPC, Joyent could be on the right track. It will be interesting to see how much clout the Infrastructure as a Service provider has, especially as it continues to licenses its cloud software to telcos that are just beginning to launch their own cloud platforms.
Citrix If market researcher IDC’s prediction that the cloud infrastructure market will grow to $11 billion by the end of next year is correct, then the folks running Citrix are going to look pretty smart. Citrix Systems Inc. has bought a basket of cloud computing infrastructure and services companies recently, most notably Cloud.com. Cloud.com’s Cloud Stack, an open source Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) platform, has proved popular among cloud providers preferring to deploy and manage open cloud services. What should also distinguish Citrix is that Cloud.com’s product isn’t built as a traditional server virtualization platform with cloud management layered on top. Rather, it enlists a hypervisor-agnostic model better suited for building larger public clouds. Cloud.com, along with the purchase of ShareFile, a provider of cloud-based data storage, should complement Citrix’s portfolio of virtualization and collaboration products including XenServer, XenDesktop, CloudGateway and GoToMeeting.
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