Over And Out? Relying On Amazon, Google Public Clouds Could Be Your Downfall


Public cloud service offerings from providers such as Amazon and Google are under attack from channel executives who say their companies' services are more stable, secure and profitable for partners to sell.

At the CRN Channel Chief Roundtable, held at March's XChange Solution Provider 2013 conference in Orlando, Fla., top channel chiefs claimed that cloud services from the likes of Amazon and Google are experiencing more outages and security issues than the cloud offerings from their own companies. The roundtable featured top channel executives from Verizon, SAP, Comcast, VMware, Hewlett-Packard and Cisco.

Several of those channel leaders contended that solution providers that embrace Amazon-like public cloud offerings are jeopardizing not only the data of their customers, but also their own livelihoods.

Janet Schijns, vice president of medium business and channels for Verizon Enterprise Solutions, charged that some public clouds are simply "inferior" compared to the secure, 100 percent uptime offered by the Verizon Terremark platform. She pointed to Verizon's performance last October during Hurricane Sandy, one of the largest storms ever to the hit the East Coast.

"Hurricane Sandy hit New York/New Jersey where I live and our customers who, by the way, are on Cisco architecture with VMware, did not have a single outage," said Schijns. "More importantly, our customers that had to move [IT] facilities had virtual disaster recovery backup with the click of a finger. They were able to replicate and get back up and running [instantly]. We had other customers that came to us that were not in those kinds of cloud environments. They were in some unnamed public clouds. It took them 14 weeks to get their data back. Fourteen weeks."

Schijns refused to single out Amazon Web Services with regard to its Hurricane Sandy performance, but noted that she met personally with New York and New Jersey customers who had manufacturing supplies stopped by customs and sent back overseas because they were unable to process the appropriate online paperwork in wake of the disaster.

"So even though they found another manufacturing facility to manufacture in, their supplies were sent back," said Schijns. "They couldn't get access to the drawings for the setups. They are going out of business because they couldn't get access to their data."

Schijns said that solution providers that put their customers' data in what she considers inferior public clouds are jeopardizing their own business. "I owned my own business for 15 years," asserted Schijns. "I would not have put my business data on an Amazon cloud." She charged that even a single outage of a critical application for an hour can be the breaking point that results in a customer "never buying from you again." For solution providers, many of whom have "mortgaged their homes and taken huge credit lines with huge risks," Schijns said, the choice between a reliable, secure platform like Verizon and a substandard public cloud offering can mean the difference between success or failure.

Amazon Web Services does not appear to have suffered outages during Hurricane Sandy but has had a number highly publicized outages, including a Christmas Eve outage that affected Netflix, an Amazon Prime video competitor. Last year, Amazon also was hit by outages on Oct. 22 and June 14.

Google hasn't been immune to outages either. Google Drive cloud storage service interruptions occurred on March 18 and 19. Last year a Dec. 10 outage affected Gmail, Google Play, Google Drive, Google Calendar and Chrome Sync.

Amazon Director of Global Alliances Terry Wise and Google Enterprise Partners Chief Adam Massey were both invited to the CRN Channel Chief Roundtable but declined to attend. As of press time, Amazon had not responded to requests for comment with regard to the security and reliability of its offerings and the profitability of its channel program.

A Google spokesperson pointed to Gmail's 99.983 percent uptime in 2012 and Google Apps as the first cloud productivity suite to receive Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA) certification as evidence of the reliability and security of Google Apps for Business. What's more, the spokesperson said that there are now 6,000 Google Apps resellers, up from only 3,000 a year ago.

"We're thrilled with the momentum of Google Apps for Business, Education and Government," the Google spokesperson said. "To date more than 5 million businesses run their organizations on Google Apps, giving their employees cutting-edge tools while saving millions of dollars every year."

SECURITY QUESTIONS

Public cloud offerings from the likes of Amazon and Google also were singled out by the channel chiefs for security issues.

Mike Kozel, vice president of partner management for SAP America, said security concerns around public clouds are causing SAP partners to move more toward private cloud offerings. "I just don't think we're there yet [with public clouds]," Kozel said. "So our VARs are going to lean toward doing this in a private environment where we keep it secure. It's much tighter.

"The fact of the matter is, if you put a VAR who's going to be responsible for the entire implementation and the solution, then it's putting it at risk to go up to a public cloud," Kozel said. "The reliability, the uptime, the security -- all of those things -- the customer is going to look at that VAR as the person that's responsible."

Tony Anderson, director of indirect marketing for HP's Enterprise Group Americas, said Amazon and Google are great brand names with low prices, but he sees those public cloud services still used primarily for development and test purposes in business environments.

"I think there are still some security questions," Anderson said. "Maybe there's a couple questions based on recent events, but as alluded to earlier, it is going to be a hybrid world. So is everything going to go there [Amazon and Google]? I don't think so. Some of it's going to be on-premise and some of it is going to be private cloud. How well they [Amazon and Google] play in that hybrid world, I think, is still to be determined."

In February, Oxford University became so fed up with phishing attacks directed at Google Docs users that the school temporarily blocked access to Google's cloud service. The decision was quickly reversed, but not before Oxford officials chastised Google for taking too long to fix the problem.

Meanwhile, Amazon's S3 storage service was recently hit with a report from Rapid7, a Boston-based vulnerability management company, which found that misconfiguration issues were causing S3 clients to inadvertently expose sensitive data that could be used in future cyberattacks. In an effort to allay public cloud security fears, Amazon Web Services in March introduced the CloudHSM (Hardware Security Model), which gives customers access to dedicated security appliances that provide secure key storage and a set of cryptographic operations.

RETAINING CONTROL

Frank Rauch, vice president of VMware's Americas Partners Organization, said he respects Amazon and Google but thinks solution providers are better off keeping ownership of the customer's data center and offering cloud services -- public or private -- in a secure, federated cloud environment. "I would be worried about my customer base just floating up to a public cloud because you lose your stickiness," Rauch said. "You lose a lot of your value. You're not getting the services drag. You're certainly not getting into hardware. You're not getting traditionally what surrounds that solution. "

Rauch stressed that solution providers are giving up critical management control if they embrace Amazon and Google offerings. "If you're a VAR, do you really want your customer base up there even if you have the recurring revenue stream?" he asked. "I would argue probably not. You still want to be able to manage it in the data center."

That cloud management opens the door for partners to assist customers with the full panoply of solution offerings, from BYOD and mobility to storage, networking and cloud management, said Rauch.

Furthermore, Rauch said, that scenario allows solution providers to assist customers with "burst in, burst out" on-demand cloud capability in a federated, secure environment. "To me that's a great environment," he said. "If I was a VAR, that's what I'd be doing."

PUBLIC CLOUDS AND SMBs

Richard McLeod, senior director of Cisco's Worldwide Collaboration Channel Sales, said there are certainly some applications that are suited for the public cloud, but others are better off either on-premise or within a secure private cloud offering. The key for solution providers, he said, is to be able to advise clients which apps and data can be public and which should go private. No matter what happens, McLeod sees customer interest in public clouds growing. "The market and the customers are moving in that direction," he said. "Are they moving totally in that direction? Absolutely not."

Craig Schlagbaum, vice president of indirect channel sales at Comcast's Business Class Services division, also sees a movement toward public cloud offerings, particularly with smaller and midsize customers, because they're a cheaper alternative to building a private cloud. He said the key to ensuring cloud reliability is making sure customers have the right bandwidth to deliver those cloud services. And that, he said, can be an opportunity for the channel.

"More important is engineering the appropriate bandwidth so if there is a failure you may have a cable solution that goes directly to the customer," he said. "There's no local loop and there's no issues with hurricane stuff there when you've got redundancy with usually two or three providers depending on the size of the customer. There the channel comes in to engineer the appropriate bandwidth into those facilities so that if there is an outage, they're not relying on one single provider. So I don't really care whether it's public cloud or private, as long as the customer has the right bandwidth to get there. Because if they don't have the right bandwidth to get there, they're not getting on any cloud whether it's private or public. So you have to do what the customer wants. And if the customer is going to go there, that's just reality. You've got to deal with that. "

Schlagbaum believes Amazon and Google are building strong partner offerings that suit solution providers selling to small- and midsize-business customers. "Not everyone is going to want a private cloud," he said. "So you're going to have to accommodate that. I think their channel models are good for that."

Schijns, for her part, maintained that small businesses should not compromise on security or reliability with what she calls inferior public cloud offerings. "Just because you're small doesn't mean you should have to have a cloud that goes down, gets hacked and isn't available for you," she said. There simply are, she said, better choices for partners and their customers.

PUBLISHED APRIL 15, 2013

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