Amazon first promoted the concept of infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS), the model of requesting and delivering servers in the cloud, and a number of providers, namely Rackspace, Microsoft, Savvis, HP, and most recently Google have followed.
The common thing with all these providers, irrespective of when they started offering IaaS, is that at the compute level they are still virtual servers or virtual machines (VMs).
You get to choose from a list of available "templates". For example, with Windows Server 2008 with 2 CPU, 4GB RAM and 50GB of storage, you can choose different variations on that theme.
Some of these variations also include applications such as SQL Server packaged into the basic template. This is a great model when your target audience is the development and testing community or even an IT administrator.
But what about the other markets?
In my interactions with a number of service providers and datacentres that would like to become the next Amazon, and that currently count SMBs as their primary customers, the demand is very different.
SMBs want the service providers to furnish them with a set-up where they can house their websites, email or CRM servers. Most of these solutions require more than one type of server template to be deployed.
So how does a cloud service provider do this? The servers are provisioned separately, assigned with internet protocols and connected with the right kind of storage. If there are multiple SMBs requesting the same thing, there needs to be a better way than always provisioning servers one by one.
This brings us to what I call solution templates.
A solution template is something that solves a business problem such as delivering a web server in three-tier architecture.
Let the three tiers be the presentation layer, the business logic and database layer respectively, and each of them be a different server. Then a solutions template defined by the cloud service provider will have three servers as part of it, connected to each other so they are all part of the same internet protocol subnet.
The right kind of storage is assigned to the servers, with the fastest one being for the database server. The cloud service provder will also determine a price for this template, possibly by the month.
So if there is a request for a three-tier web server, all the cloud service provider has to do is provision that solution template. Indeed, if there is a self-service capability, the customer can do it.
Therefore you can have a solution template for almost every business problem – an email solution template, a CRM solution template, a scalability testing template and even a big data solution template, and so on.
As we move further into 2013 this could be the year to start moving towards solution templates. With solution templates, the offerings of IaaS providers will become much richer and indeed more relevant to people working outside the development and testing community.
This is the next big challenge which is being addressed, so be alert for the solutions template that cloud service providers can deploy in 2013.
Giridhar Lakkavalli is head of vmUnify solutions at Mindtree
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