Editor’s note: In the run-up to our CloudBeat conference next week, we asked innovative, stealth-mode cloud software startup Connectloud to give us an exclusive write-up of its upcoming cross-cloud technology, uCloud. This piece is written by Connectloud CEO Zeeshan Naseh.

Enterprises today are reeling from unprecedented disruption to their business models and effects of globalization that inflict new competitive and pricing pressures. These dynamics have put CIOs under the gun to meet twin goals that would seem to form a paradox:

  • To construct and operate an agile IT infrastructure capable of scaling quickly and securely to meet evolving business demands.
  • To reduce IT operating costs and total cost of ownership.

In response to these competing demands, CIOs are turning from old computing resources – resource-intensive on-premises data centers that often are duplicated, siloed and underutilized – to the Cloud. Infrastructure-as-a-Service and Software-as-a-Service models can help achieve some goals, especially related to cost.

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According to a recent study conducted by the University of Manchester Business School, the shift is working:

  • 74 percent of large enterprises and 64 percent of small and midsize businesses said Cloud computing had decreased their IT costs.
  • Nearly three-quarters of retailers surveyed reduced costs enough to invest more money into their businesses.
  • 23 percent of large companies surveyed said they saved between $750,000 and $6 million annually.

Respondents also reported improvements in disaster recovery, agility, and their ability to speed up application development and deployment. On the surface, the Cloud would seem to have answered our needs.

On closer examination, however, enterprises find obstacles still constrain them. The foremost concern is that turn-up of Cloud capacity takes too long. Cloud stacks can take months and many engineering hours to construct and maintain. High-dollar professional services are driving up the total cost of ownership dramatically.

Today’s global Cloud business is measured in hundreds of billions of dollars (Gartner predicts $677 billion from 2013 through 2016) and growing. The Cloud business, in a nutshell, is driven by automation software that drives the elastic and self-service attributes of the Cloud.

Gartner breaks the current Cloud automation software market down into several types of vendors, ranging from the “Big 4” IT operations management (ITOM) providers, limited by their complexity, to so-called fabric-based infrastructure vendors that lack breadth and depth in IT operations and service. As Gartner notes, “No vendor provides a complete CMP [Cloud Management Platform] solution. Therefore, for some requirements, IT organizations may need additional tools or may have to integrate multiple CMP tools.”

So the current marketplace includes different ways of solving the basic problem of private cloud build-outs. Some software vendors focus on building internally hosted private clouds while others emphasize Software-Defined Networking controllers that relegate switches and routers to mere plumbing. Nobody to-date is achieving the entire objective for clients.

A piece is missing. And that’s the piece that we’re building at Connectloud. Our first product, uCloud, is about building the next-generation Cloud on top of multiple Clouds and fulfilling the CIO’s dream of reduced costs and limitless agility. We call it the IT industry’s first Software Defined Cloud. The goal is to empower enterprises with quickly scalable, secure, multi-tenant automation across Clouds of any type, for clients from any segment, across geographically dispersed data centers. I believe many technology vendors will follow us as the industry opens up.

The idea of a Software Defined Cloud is to unify both the cloud deployment model – which could be any cloud, or multiple clouds, because in the future nobody would have only one – and Network Function Virtualization. The market really needs this fully unified CMP that can both orchestrate your compute and virtualized software-based networking components.

The value proposition to the client is tremendous if all things are done together – computing, networking, and data storage. If our company, or another player pursuing similar goals, can deliver this, I believe the whole market will take a leap. Enterprises could quickly and cost-effectively provision, manage, and operate Clouds across infrastructure technologies. Cloud-provisioning that used to require months is literally reduced to hours or even minutes.

Traditional IT vendors are well aware of the problem and are showcasing directional consent of a unified platform by supporting and contributing to OpenStack. However, those vendors’ current-generation CMP products understandably focus on their own hardware platform lines and are far from becoming multi-vendor solutions. On multiple occasions, Gartner has noted that larger vendors “typically offer solutions that extend to different layers of the architecture, and thus present both a risk of lock-in as well as a risk of undermining ROI with the sheer complexity of implementation and operation.”

As the future takes shape, the needs of business extend far beyond singular, automated data Clouds. The need now is to manage and automate across Clouds. The need now is to think far beyond the compute to where pure software brings in the immense possibilities of Open and Free Information Technology without the bonds of vendor lock-in.

It is time the industry sees a next-generation Cloud approach, which creates a unified fabric on top of multiple Clouds and fulfills the CIO’s dream of reduced costs and limitless agility.

Zeeshan NasehZeeshan Naseh is CEO of venture-backed Connectloud. Prior to launching the startup, he directed global cloud services at Cisco Systems, taking the company’s cloud services business from whiteboard to global field launch. Among his key accomplishments while building the cloud business was his development of the Cloud Vision and Architecture Framework that
linked technology infrastructure with software. Zeeshan also is an inventor who holds more than 20 technology patents in Data Center and Cloud.

uCloud and Software Defined Cloud are registered trademarks of Connectloud.