25.10.2022
Oleg Fedorov
Product Manager

Cloud providers in the fog: New vendor uncertainty and how to resolve it

Cloud providers in the fog: New vendor uncertainty and how to resolve it

Cloud service providers are facing some tough times as they need to find new IT infrastructure and software solutions providers. Oleg Fedorov, Product Manager of Linxdatacenter, discusses what the typical challenges and real perspectives of the industry are.

The three techno-deficits

Let's start with the main areas for service providers to switch to new solutions.

  1. Hypervisors are special software for virtualizing equipment computing resources. It allows for hardware capacity allocation and management so as to maximize the economic effect of its exploitation.
  2. Software for system and data backup tasks, which allows you to perform a backup schedule of multiple OS, databases, etc.
  3. Data storage systems - equipment on which large amounts of information are stored and processed.

All the leading vendors of these solutions have left the Russian market, and this is a critical moment for providers.

Hypervisor at a crossroads

The problem with hypervisors may be solved with the help of Russian providers and vendors, various open source solutions, as well as the development of unknown to the general audience manufacturers from China.

For example, Russian cloud giants Yandex and VK have their own cloud platforms. They will cover the needs of a large part of the market, and their resources can be used by smaller cloud providers. Both companies have the most mature and productive solutions on the Russian market.

They do not offer budget services, but their price is due not only to the advanced functionality, but also to the fact that the providers have managed to eliminate a wide range of typical "child's illnesses" and little things in the work of their platforms.

The most economical option at the start is to build a cloud platform on an open source hypervisor. But there is no "contact the vendor support" option here in case of configuration and operational problems.

This option involves only contacting the developer community, which means floating deadlines for solutions - you may get it quickly, or it may take a few weeks to find the answer. For a commercial service provider business model, this is unacceptable.

The alternative solution is to hire your own staff of very advanced (and hence expensive) developers who will be completing and fixing the platform on the fly, which on a small scale will result in an astronomical cost of ownership for the platform.

Chinese expansion?

Today, a third path opens up.

The Chinese Z Stack Cloud, which is completely independent of Western vendors and used by Alibaba Cloud, Huawei Cloud, and other Asian cloud providers, is entering the cloud platform market in Russia. It is a very mature product with good functionality and support.

However, there is a nuance. China will only sell licenses, while all technical support will be located in Russia and will be provided by engineers from partner companies. This creates risks in terms of the quality of support: it will take a lot of time to master all the technological intricacies of the platform.

This model also causes communication difficulties - the manufacturer will not have direct access to the platform and therefore will not be able to connect directly to the solution of the problem. This will make it difficult to work out complex tickets.

Another point: even if the team in Russia can be taught perfectly well, it is one thing to practice skills in a laboratory, and quite another to work in a productive loop. Most of the problems appear in the product loop on the real infrastructure and with the launch of serious workloads.

Backup: a generational shift

It is about the same with the backup systems - Russian products RuBackup and Cyberprotect do not have the full functionality of the solutions from Symantec, Veeam and Commvault that have gone away.

Our tools have problems with the number of supported platforms and ways to provide backup, for example, with incremental backup.

However, Chinese vendors of backup tools AISHU, Vinchin and several others are entering the market. They will operate on the same model as Z Stack. This is a positive trend - the vacuum is being filled with proven products.

The speed and success of market conquest by this or that Chinese vendor will depend on the complex of factors: a set of technological capabilities of the solution, competent choice of marketing activities, organization of partner programs of training and software support. This process, subject to active participation of the Chinese vendor will take from one to three years.

IT infrastructure in each case is like a car in the secondary market - each car of a particular model of one year of production involves a unique set of characteristics: the history of operation and parameters of wear and tear of parts and elements. You must adjust to this, and for quite a long time.

Storage: Who's to blame and what to do

When it comes to data storage, some time ago domestic vendors of such solutions appeared on the market. With the departure of all the Western leaders, the competition has decreased dramatically.

If anyone thought that this would help our manufacturers to become better, this is not entirely true. Again, Russian solutions are underdeveloped in terms of functionality: they often lack capabilities for data deduplication (clearing space from unnecessary copies and repeating elements) and data compression.

This leads to an increase in the cost of data storage, reduces opportunities for scaling, redundancy, etc.

For example, if technology allows you to store 2 TB of data on 1 TB of physical space, it's a bargain. Lack of deduplication and compression, on the other hand, can lead to having to buy 1.5TB to store 1TB.

It will take us several years to move in this direction - and that's assuming there is a possibility of big foreign players returning to the RF. If the "IT Iron Curtain" persists in the foreseeable future, our vendors may become inert monopolists.

I would not count on internal competition between Russian players, at least in the foreseeable future. Much more time - decades - should be allocated for the development of such a process.

As for China entering this segment, there is no influx of vendors yet. At the level of equipment supplies, it is much more difficult to circumvent sanctions than with software.

Of course, it is possible to maneuver through a scheme where formally the storage manufacturer and the seller are not Chinese, but some affiliated structure in a neutral country, but this complicates the mechanisms of legal regulation of relations between the parties.

New vendors from the Celestial Empire are eager to start communicating with Russian clients, and there is enough good feedback about them in some segments from their colleagues. But the period of cooperation is still too short to draw global conclusions on its prospects. It is impossible to predict how a vendor will behave in case of changes in the international political and economic situation.

Besides, it is still unknown how new little-known partners from China will behave in case of difficulties: delays in supplies, defects in equipment, etc. No matter how sluggish the big Western vendors are, they care about their reputation, which they earned through decades of work and competition in the global market and ensure the operability of their equipment.

Unfortunately, the adequacy and reliability of a supplier is tested only by long-term cooperation, so the purchase of any new equipment today is associated with a serious risk.

How to insure yourself?

For a client of a cloud provider, the solution is to disperse their critical IT systems to different sites on different technology stacks. You can use the active-active model to switch instantly to a backup site in case the main one fails.

This is an expensive solution, but in some cases, when the entire business model is concentrated in an IT solution, it is acceptable.

It is critical for a service provider today to choose a sound strategy. All profits must be invested in the technology platform and its support to back up the promise of quality. This is the only way to defend the market share gained.

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