Why cloud IaaS customers care about a colo option
Ben seems to think that the Magic Quadrant mixes colocation and cloud IaaS. It doesn’t, not in the least, which is why it doesn’t include plain ol’ colo vendors. However, we always note if a cloud IaaS vendor does not have colocation available, or if they have colo but don’t have a way to cross-connect between equipment in the colo and their cloud.
The reason for this is that a substantial number of our clients need hybrid solutions. They’ve got a server or piece of equipment that can’t be put in the cloud. The most common scenario for this is that many people have big Oracle databases that need big-iron dedicated servers, which they stick in colo (or in managed hosting), and then cross-connect to the Web front-ends and app servers that sit in the cloud. However, there are other examples; for instance, our e-commerce clients sometimes have encryption “black boxes” that only come as hardware, so sit in colo while everything else is in the cloud. Also, we have a ton of clients who will put the bulk of their stuff into the colo — and then augment it with cloud capacity, either as burst capacity for their apps in colo, or for lighter-weight apps that they’re moving into the cloud but which still need fast, direct, secure communication with interrelated back-end systems.
We don’t care in the slightest whether a cloud provider actually owns their own data center, directly provides colocation, has any strategic interest in colocation, or even offers colocation as a formal product. We don’t even care about the quality of the colocation. What we care about is that they have a solution for customers with those hybrid needs. For instance, if Amazon were to go out and partner with Equinix, say, and customers could go colo in the same Equinix data center as Amazon and cross-connect directly into Amazon? Score. Or, for instance, Joyent doesn’t formally offer colocation — but if you need to colocate a piece of gear to complement your cloud solution, they’ll do it. This is purely a question of functionality.
Now, you can argue that plenty of people manage to use pure-play cloud without having anything that they can’t put in the cloud, and that’s true. But it becomes much less of a typical scenario the more you move away from forward-thinking Web-native companies, and towards the mixed application portfolios of mainstream business. It’s especially true among our mid-market clients, who are keenly interested in gradually migrating to cloud as their primary approach to infrastructure, hybrid models are critical to the migration path.