You've heard from us for a while that your cloud, whether public or private, should not be an island. Should this be true of your public cloud provider too?

A growing number of service providers are jumping into the Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) market not by building their own solution but by jumpstarting the effort with a cloud platform software provider like VMware, OnApp or CA. The benefits of this approach:

  • Faster time to market
  • Less R&D expense
  • In some cases brand equity
  • Potentially greater enterprise compatibility
  • And somewhat being part of a network of compatible providers

So how real are these benefits and do they translate into a better solution for enterprise infrastructure & operational professionals? Forrester examined this question in its latest report – the third and final part of our public IaaS cloud market overview. I would love to tell you that we reached definitive conclusions on the solutions in question, but like many things in this maturing market, it depends, and it's really too early to expect such finality. But there is tremendous promise to these solutions and they definitely hold the potential to make your favorite service provider partners more valuable to you.

As we pointed out in Part I of this analysis, a big benefit traditional service providers can deliver to enterprises is a portfolio of services under the same contract and behind (potentially) the same management interface. Spreading workloads between traditional hosting, outsourcing, private and public clouds without having to change vendors holds strong appeal. The challenge is to ensure this value comes without significant compromise. Welcome back to the age-old debate of unification versus best-of-breed. 

What we found in our analysis is a breadth of offerings that fulfill these benefits to widely varying degrees. OnApp has a big collection of third-tier service providers using its software but doesn't connect these vendors into a network of providers. VMware is clearly the most enterprise compatible but is being more deliberate in its network building. And without clear leadership in this area, some service providers are hedging their bets

The good news is there are some very strong options here. On the downside, choice can often be too much of a good thing, especially when comparing options that don't have clear consistency. All vCloud providers are definitely not equal and you simply can't compare a CA AppLogic provider directly against a Citrix CloudStack provider. So what's the best approach for making provider selection decisions? 

Start with your workloads and your requirements. The comparison should be how each provider meets those needs. Now this doesn't mean you should try to bend a cloud into looking like your data center – that ain't gonna happen. You need to have a strong understanding of what IaaS is, what are the differences between public, hosted private and your own internal private cloud approaches and cloud economics before you can realistically enter a fair RFP process. If you are thinking you can just pass anything that fits into a VM in your data center over to a cloud provider and get cost savings, you are in for a rude awakening. 

Start with the right workloads, the right expectations from a cloud and from there you will be able to evaluate the cloud options before you, using our market overview analysis. 

Need more guidance? Come to our web briefing on this forthcoming report next week or contact your Forrester sales rep today for a cloud strategy assessment engagement to start 2012 off right.