Following Unisys’ announcement on Wednesday regarding their cloud computing strategy (Unisys Moves to Break Through Barriers to Adoption of Cloud Computing) I had the opportunity to speak with Rich Marcello, president of Unisys Systems & Technology, and Sam Gross, VP of Unisys Global IT Outsourcing Solutions. What struck me was the coherence and clarity of their cloud computing vision as compared to HP or IBM.
Unisys’ strategy bridges public, private and hybrid cloud models, and includes well-differentiated infrastructure, platform and software as a service offerings (IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS). Further, they wrap this all in a set of comprehensive service offerings that they can deliver globally. It’s a big vision, and if they can pull it off it should make them one of the more interesting providers out there. One of their key differentiators is Unisys Stealth (described below).
The Big Picture
As you see here, Unisys is providing a pretty comprehensive vision.
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- Private Cloud – Unisys will turn your existing data center assets into a private internal cloud with all of the things you’d expect – virtualization, automated provisioning, etc.
- External Cloud – through a network of five data centers owned an operated by Unisys, they will provide companies with external cloud computing environments. This is not really a public cloud in that people can’t just come in and sign up. It’s part of their managed services portfolio and is tightly aligned with their private cloud solutions.
- Cloud-in-a-Box – due later this year, Cloud-in-a-Box will be a pre-configured cloud infrastructure delivered either as software or with a software+hardware model. This is like Joyent or Enomaly.
- Hybrid – early next year Unisys plans to provide a hybrid cloud model where your applications can run on both internal and external cloud resources. This is a virtual data center model.
XaaS – X as a Service
To my knowledge, Unisys is the first to publicly support having a complete set of offerings for XaaS. Amazon is really IaaS, and Google is more of a PaaS play. Salesforce is a combined PaaS/SaaS offering (PaaS for force.com and SaaS for their SFA/CRM applications). Even within these offerings, Unisys has some interesting differentiation.
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- IaaS – most public clouds are built on a “scale out” model with many smaller machines. In addition to “scale out,” Unisys also includes “scale up” capabilities to allow you to use large, enterprise-class hardware in your cloud (for running databases, for example). What’s important about this is that Unisys allows you to provision servers that match the software licenses you already own. If you have an Oracle database license for an 8-way Solaris server with 8GB of RAM, you can’t use that on Amazon’s EC2.
- PaaS: Java and .NET – Unlike Salesforce which requires you to program to their model, Unisys provides a container model to allow your Java and .NET applications to run in the cloud. You write the application and deploy into these containers – you don’t have to install or manage the core components (e.g. WebSphere and DB2 or Windows and Oracle), you just deploy your applications. This should appeal to IT.
- SaaS – while the offering is a bit limited at this point, Unisys is offering a set of end user business applications in their cloud (email, SharePoint, virtual desktops).
- My Secure Application as a Service: AaaS – this is where an existing application you have deployed can be moved into the cloud and managed from a provisioning and security perspective.
Unisys claims to have an 800-person services organization that can provide a complete range of assessment, advisory and implementation services to their customers. This is in contrast to what they termed “do-it-yourself” clouds from the other guys.
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Unisys Stealth – A Secret Weapon
As has been reported in many quarters, security is the #1 deterrent to more enterprise cloud adoption. While Unisys uses standard enterprise-grade security technologies you’d expect to find in a large IT shop, they also have a unique solution called Unisys Stealth (link goes to a paper describing Stealth that is specifically targeting the Defense industry). Announced last November, Stealth is a network appliance that makes data and even hardware (desktops and servers) invisible to network sniffers and other similar technologies.
Stealth works at the link layer (layer 2) of the TCP/IP stack, which means that every packet on the network is cloaked unless you have the right key.
“The result is a cloaked network that secures data-in-motion
and hides servers and PCs in plain sight. Devices that do
not have the same workgroup key remain cloaked from
unauthorized eyes. Without the correct key, users cannot ask
for the data from the server or send data to the server or
workstation. They can’t even ping the server or workstation.”
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So now you can run any application in the cloud and only authorized users (controlled by your network administrators) can access the information. Stealth even applies to your storage infrastructure — your SAN becomes invisible and therefore inaccessible to hackers. All of this is accomplished without any changes to your application. You add the appliance to your network, Unisys deploys it in the cloud, and voila – instant cloaking.
Unisys has articulated a comprehensive and cohesive cloud computing vision, while simultaneously addressing security in a new and very powerful way. If they deliver all that they are claiming, Unisys should be well-positioned for success in the great cloud migration.