Are We Working on Third Cloud Layer? - InformationWeek

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Commentary
4/26/2010
12:19 PM
David Linthicum
David Linthicum
Commentary
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Are We Working on Third Cloud Layer?

As I do the cloud computing conference rounds, both big and small, I see a steady trend developing. I call it "Third-Layer" cloud computing technology, and I think the trend will continue.

As I do the cloud computing conference rounds, both big and small, I see a steady trend developing. I call it "Third-Layer" cloud computing technology, and I think the trend will continue.

There are many vendors and thought leaders out there that defining the layers of the clouds. I've even taken a shot at it within my latest book. However, I'm beginning to look at a much more simplified set of patterns to better understand the emerging marketplace.The first layer of cloud, let's call it Layer One, is the most primitive layer, meaning it does the basics of infrastructure. This layer includes storage, middleware services, communications, and even virtualization and compute services. Think of anything that's currently available in a typical data center. These are mostly IaaS players, such as GoGrid, Rack Space, 3Tera, and of course AWS.

The second layer includes those cloud computing players that really depend upon the first layer, or at least the core infrastructure that the first layer provides, but they do not offer Layer-One services. While some such as Right Scale leverage existing IaaS players, in their case AWS, many provide their own propriety infrastructure to support their services.

Most PaaS and SaaS players would fit into this layer as well, including Salesforce.com, NetSuite, and Right Now, as well as other on-demand software that supports management, governance, and even security. Google Apps is in this group, as well as Microsoft's emerging Office cloud offering. PaaS players in this layer include Google App Engine, Microsoft Azure, etc. Again, look at products that are directly dependent upon Layer-One patterns, but don't provide Layer 1 services as part of their product, generally speaking.

So, what's left for the third layer of cloud computing? It's centered around those services that are dependent upon Layer-Two cloud computing services, that add value to those services. Nothing new here; Salesforce.com has promoted their App Exchange partners for years, and most SaaS and PaaS players have add-on cloud service partners.

Again, the core thing to remember here is dependency upon a lower layer, and a way to define the market. Those that put up stacks talking about the core technologies are missing the point.

What's most interesting about the Layer-Three players is that their market is exploding right now. Just the number of cloud computing startups that I would categorize as Layer-Three is rapidly accelerating. Examples would be Cloud Sherpas, who focus on adding value to Google Apps, or anybody on the Salesforce.com App Exchange List.

While these are the "small booth" guys at the cloud computing conferences these days, I suspect many will become larger players as cloud computing matures. Moreover, they will be easy acquisition targets for the Layer-One and Layer-Two players. I for one will be keeping an eye on these guys.As I do the cloud computing conference rounds, both big and small, I see a steady trend developing. I call it "Third-Layer" cloud computing technology, and I think the trend will continue.

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