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September 11, 2010

Jamcracker CEO Chandrasekhar on Cloud Brokerage, New IT Landscape

Nicole Hemsoth

If there is anyone better positioned to offer realistic, tempered insights about the future of the cloud, not to mention IT in general it’s someone who rode the high tide of the dot com era, only to tumble along the downward spiral with so many others.

CEO of Jamcracker, K.B. Chandrasekhar founded Exodus Communications well before the famous bubble burst and held the data centers of Yahoo, eBay, Google and a host of other major web properties on the Exodus network. Following the collapse of Exodus, Chandrasekhar chose to shift his focus, while integrating past experience from Exodus, to look to the service providers who were struggling with matters of managing and provisioning (not to mention billing) virtual infrastructure. Since its founding a decade ago, Jamcracker has been on the frontlines of this push to better manage cloud resources, albeit somewhat quietly.

As an increasing number of vendors have come into play offering all levels and types of cloud-based services, it became clear to Chandrasekhar that there might be value in having a “broker” manage some of that complexity, either on a simple management level or for all aspects of cloud services. One of the issues that is most problematic for organizations who have adopted cloud in an “ad hoc” or on an “as needed” basis have is managing services across those services.

Jamcracker, a company that develops software for provisioning private and public cloud resources and Eucalyptus, developer of cloud management software joined forces this month with an integration of their software offerings to allow enterprise customers to self-provision hybrid and private clouds. While Jamcracker has been around since 1999 as a player in the cloud space long before the term “cloud” exploded into wide use, it wasn’t until this announcement that they had been on the radar in a major way, at least not for larger institutions considering cloud possibilities.

Jamcracker’s goal is to make using cloud service providers simple as they put all cloud resources “under one roof” to simplify making the leap to the cloud. It is in this way that Jamcracker has become a “cloud broker” since it does not have services of its own, but rather, in its brokerage position, lines up options and allows customers to utilize the appropriate resources. This is the core concept behind what it calls “self-provisioning” of clouds, even though many who have actually handled any larger scale cloud computing initiatives realize that this makes the process a bit simpler than it is.

Via Jamcracker, a customer can use one interface to manage his or her resources due to what Jamcracker calls “unified services delivery and management architecture, which aggregates order management, security and policy management, user and service administration, billing and settlement, usage reporting and auditing, and license management across internally and externally hosted cloud services.”

The company’s service delivery network (JDSN) allows a service provider to bundle its services with that network for instant delivery and in theory allows enterprises to manage the entire span of a cloud service and enforce policies across several different services.

The fact that Jamcracker would emerge to offer such a service is no surprise, given its founders roots in large-scale hosting back in the mid-1990s when this was becoming a critical service for IT departments in both large-scale enterprises and smaller ones as well. We recently interviewed Jacmcracker’s CEO and founder, K.B. Chandrasekhar to discuss cloud brokerage and the coming shape of private clouds for enterprise, among other things.

HPCc: Jamcracker was founded in 1999 well before the cloud was the big buzzword—what were your early experiences with the cloud idea and what failures came early on that reshaped your objectives for the company?

Chandrasekhar: Early stage companies in Silicon Valley were the first adopters of Jamcracker’s services aggregation model, and the model was very successful as it enabled these companies to have access to business-class applications and services with no capital investment required.  However, after the 9/11 attacks there was an implosion of VC funding for these companies and with IT investments in general, so customer acquisition fell off dramatically for us. However, existing customers (who survived the tech down-turn) continued to rely on Jamcracker.  That customer stickiness gave us the confidence on the potential of ‘utility computing’, which has evolved into cloud computing today.    

HPCc: How did you carry over your knowledge from Exodus into the cloud space now, which has (arguably, of course) altered the face of enterprise IT?

Chandrasekhar:  Exodus was a pioneer in cloud computing that provided a highly available infrastructure with elastic bandwidth.  All customers had to do was to bring their computers and the rest was plug and play.  Exodus also created self-service tools to enable end customers to do remote management of their systems.  We provided the data centers that helped spawn the explosion of the ASP model, and the resulting need to aggregate the delivery and management of these services for end-customers.  That became the inspiration for starting Jamcracker.
HPCc: Where are you seeing the most momentum—or where is the most need coming from—for enterprise cloud computing? What are customers asking for of their private or public clouds that they still aren’t getting? How can these things be delivered?

Chandrasekhar: There are really two different drivers for enterprise cloud computing.  The first has to do with the consumerization of IT in conjunction with the proliferation of public cloud/SaaS offerings over the past few years.  Increasingly, enterprise end-users are by-passing IT and purchasing subscription licenses on their own when they need some new capability.  Secondly, enterprise IT organizations who are well down the path of virtualizing their data centers are interested in adopting the cloud delivery model to enable similar self-service fulfillment capabilities for their end-users.  What we’re seeing as a result is that enterprise IT groups are wanting to adopt what’s increasingly referred to as a ‘cloud service broker’ model, which means they themselves become an internal services provider for their organization. In this role, they enable departments, business units, subsidiaries, etc. to mix and match best-of-breed services from their own data centers along with public cloud/SaaS offerings from external providers – with a single point of aggregation, delivery and user/service lifecycle management.
HPCc: You noted not long ago that the public cloud will be the domain of SMBs while larger enterprises focus on private clouds. Is this a permanent trend and why—or why might the balance change in coming years?

Chandrasekhar:  Larger enterprises that have already made a significant investment in their data centers and virtualizing these assets will tend to focus on enabling private clouds for IaaS delivery, with public IaaS clouds being leveraged for disaster recovery, ad hoc needs such as development and testing or for off-loading non mission-critical workloads.  Smaller businesses who haven’t made a significant investment in internal IT will naturally tend to adopt public cloud offerings.  Over the longer term, we expect that increasing numbers of larger enterprises will offload more and more of their computing needs to the public cloud.
HPCc: Describe the cloud service broker model and what will this mean for the landscape in coming years if it catches hold and how will you be involved in this?

Chandrasekhar:  The term ‘cloud service broker’ (CSB) has emerged as a service provider and enterprise IT model for enabling, delivering and managing disparate cloud services within a unified provisioning, billing, security, administration and support framework.  This is equally beneficial to:

– Enterprises that are looking at setting up a vendor-neutral Cloud infrastructure as a natural progression of their virtualization strategy and to consolidate external cloud/SaaS usage.

– Service Providers that are looking at unifying the delivery of Cloud services and positioning their networks as a true cloud computing platform.
Different CSB models will emerge, but ultimately we believe it will evolve to a point where large enterprise IT organizations will become CSBs as will Service Providers.  Jamcracker’s platform will enable these organizations to setup and operate their own CSB infrastructures. Jamcracker will also provide a common interconnecting framework that will enable all of these CSB operators and cloud service providers to interoperate and transact with each other.
HPCc: What is meant by self-service provisioning of infrastructure and how do you think your partnership with Eucalyptus will bring more customers on board when they can find similar services elsewhere?

Chandrasekhar:  Self-service provisioning is all about extending the ‘consumerization’ of IT to internal computing resources.  Usually it entails presentation of available virtualized services in a catalogue, and from there authorized users can self-select what they need and have it automatically be provisioned for however long they need it.  It can also include enabling IT to ‘charge back’ or at least account for usage by individual departments. 
Eucalyptus provides tools that enable enterprises to build out private or hybrid IaaS clouds on top of VMware, Xen and KVM – based hypervisors.  They started out as an open-source provider of these tools, and as a result have built up good traction in the market.  Increasingly we’re going to see a mix of different hypervisors in enterprise data centers, and as a result IT organizations will want to consider offerings like Eucalyptus for building out internal IaaS clouds, and with Jamcracker they can aggregate and unify the delivery of their Eucalyptus clouds along with the rest of their public and private IaaS, PaaS, SaaS and other cloud services. 

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