I’ve looked at Clouds from both sides now - from a DECIDE perspective-

A Data Centre Operator and Cloud Service Provider view of the potential impact of the DECIDE toolset.

As the DECIDE Project enters its final phase, and the functionality of the integrated DECIDE tool becomes more developed, it is clear that its commercialisation will pose questions for the Data Centre market and for Cloud Service Providers (CSPs). DECIDE has the potential to be a ‘game changer’ in the field of application development and hosting, but its capabilities have implications for enterprise and Co- Location (Co-Lo) data centres housing the delivery of cloud services as well as the CSPs themselves.

DECIDE enables application developers to rapidly architect, develop, optimise, contract, deploy, monitor, and redeploy, if contracted service levels are breached, in diverse multi cloud environments.  The component tools which combine to deliver DECIDES integrated workflow empower application developers to make cloud hosting choices which best meet their own or their clients’ business requirements. Although this has been possible since the inception of Cloud Services, hosted in data centres, it has been time consuming and often difficult to accomplish cost effectively, meaning that developers have opted for simplicity, usually housing their applications and services in a single environment, backed up to a second where resilience was required. The proliferation of the containerised solutions and the popularity of ‘dockerisation’ both for LINUX and Windows based applications has increased dramatically over the last three years. This has led to developers having the opportunity to optimise the non-functional requirements in order to maximise the available benefits. Multi Cloud environments can be used to ensure that NFRs needing specific legal, performance, value targets are achieved but, until now, the labour overhead required to take maximum advantage has been considerable. Current evaluation results show that using DECIDE can reduce that overhead by up to 50%, meaning that developers can and will change their behaviour, developing, contacting and deploying application with providers who meet their criterion. Continuous monitoring informs application operators of breaches of the agreed service level agreements and can be configured to redeploy the relevant container(s) to another, compliant, provider with minimal effort. In hard cash terms, the previous generations of monolithic and early containerised applications differed little for data centre operators and CSPs from the older conventional enterprise and Co-Lo server, and indeed Cloud hosting, revenue models in that the contracts were ‘sticky’ with service users often staying with the same Cloud provider for lengthy periods. Developers utilising DECIDE will be empowered to be considerably less ‘sticky’, simply because the balance between inertia and movement will be shifted. Prima facie, this appears likely to redefine the revenue and investment models of the digital service provider’s value chain but the situation is more actually rather more complex.

Whilst DECIDE will undoubtedly bring a challenge to CSPs and their data centre partners, it is a challenge with opportunities firmly embedded. In order to be able to contract, deploy, re-contract and redeploy and take advantage of the agility that DECIDE delivers, there needs to be a corresponding ecosystem composed of providers of digital services and for them, DECIDE provides a fast, simple route into a changing and expanding market. Simply registering and outlining their Cloud services within DECIDE will ensure that CSPs are exposed to discerning clients with specific, legal, geographic, quality and volume of service and /or commercial requirements.  Whether a small scale specialist cloud provider or a large scale multi-national CSP, the services will be catalogued, automatically assessed, contracts made and digital assets utilised, all without sales resource and possibly combined with an enterprise data centre providing an internal private cloud offering for its corporate owner. Certainly all CSPs and their hosts will need to carefully consider their USPs and optimise their offers and the mode of actually ‘doing business’ will change. It is anticipated that there will be some increased client mobility, particularly when DECIDE is begins to proliferate amongst the developer client base but with CSPs having differing strengths it is likely that many of the resulting movements are likely to be ‘self- compensating’ for CSPs and data centre hosts alike, providing the Cloud offers are strong. Cloud providers choosing not to participate in the supply side of DECIDE risk being marginalised and potentially seeing the revenues decline, in turn creating risk for their Data Centre hosts.

That all means that its good news all around and everybody wins? Well, perhaps not quite. The operators of private clouds, housed in enterprise data centres face a real risk of shrinking or disappearing altogether as their specific raisons d’etre are diminished by the cornucopia of specialist services more clearly defined and rendered more easily accessible. Some, meeting very specific requirements, for example very high performance, may see little or no impact. However their added value will be more closely scrutinised than ever before as the ability to optimise internal and external resources and the resulting hybridising of service delivery become even more commonplace.

So is DECIDES automated multi cloud workstream a threat or an opportunity? For developers and operators, the ‘service user’ community, it is very definitely an opportunity. From the service delivery side the outlook is more nuanced but, for the most part, creative, effective service providers will rise to the challenge and thrive on the opportunity to make the most of their strengths.