Is Apple about to join the cloud computing fray?
Apple hasn’t been a big player in enterprise computing to date, nor has it shown any particular desire to enter the space. Perhaps it seems too buttoned-down for a company that wants to present itself as a maverick inventor, a champion of liberalism, education and arts? Maybe it realises that financial directors are unlikely to sign off on pretty boxes that come with a pretty price tag? Or perhaps it’s just been waiting for computing to come out of rack mounts before making its move?
Apple in the cloud: what’s the history?
Apple already has a consumer cloud offering – iCloud – that it offers to users for storage of files, media and photos. But enterprise-level cloud it ain’t. And, like much of Apple’s previous products (we’re thinking back to iTunes) it doesn’t play quite so nicely if you don’t subscribe to the full Apple ecosystem. iCloud on PC has been compared unfavourably to Google Drive and Microsoft OneDrive. It has pretty design on its side, and it’s seamless if all your devices are manufactured by Apple, and particularly if you use Apple productivity tools, such as Pages, Numbers and Keynote. Otherwise, the advice is to shop around.
Apple in the cloud: what’s the business angle for cloud?
If Apple takes its all-in approach to the commercial market, it’ll be laughed out of the boardroom, so it would need to integrate with existing infrastructure tools, such as container management system Kubernetes. It would also need to be compatible with an array of different architectures and that’s before it can demonstrate a value proposition. If it pursues an enterprise approach, it’s going head-to-head with experience at scale. Can it compete?
Apple in the cloud: what’s behind the cloud rumours?
There have been mutterings in the cloud community for a while about Apple’s possible entry into the commercial cloud market. The company announced a $10 billion data centre construction investment in 2018. But a spate of new hires has galvanised rumours of a cloud push. They include Michael Crosby, an ex-Docker engineer who is credited with the design of modern containers, Arn Gupta and Maksym Pavlenko, formerly of AWS, and Francesc Campoy, an ex-Google employee who has been tasked with working on Apple’s Kubenetes development.
Apple in the cloud: are the cloud rumours true?
Could be. Apple’s traditional growth pots have slowed, meaning it needs to explore new revenue streams. It has the investment clout to go into market, and might think it can improve cloud computing for many business customers. It may also be looking at cloud offerings for underserved sectors in SME to start with, where its plug-and-play ethos might play well, even running at a slight premium.
Apple in the cloud: what if Apple doesn’t have cloud plans?
Apple has historically been quite a secretive company, and it hasn’t made any comments on its intentions with this bank of heavyweight cloud hires. That’s fuelled speculation that it wants to take on the existing players. But it’s also likely that Apple has internal cloud plans that will support its continued mission to grow its services, such as Apple TV+, Apple Music and iCloud. Currently, it relies on AWS and Google to deliver much of the heavy lifting on those. If it were trying to bring that outsourcing in house, the last thing it would want to do is let its suppliers know, particularly as they are also competitors. Apple is one of AWS’ bigger clients.
Apple in the cloud: what next?
It’s a question of watching for more hires in the cloud space and seeing what and when Apple sees fit to make an announcement. Our best guess is that even if it does have designs on a chunk of Google and AWS’s business, it’ll test internally on its own products before heading to market. Watch this space.
GfK and VMware: Innovating together on hybrid cloud
GfK has been the global leader in data and analytics for more than 85 years, supplying its clients with optimised decision inputs.
In its capacity as a strategic and technical partner, VMware has been walking GfK along its digital transformation path for over a decade.
“We are a demanding and singularly dynamic customer, which is why a close partnership with VMware is integral to the success of everyone involved,” said Joerg Hesselink, Global Head of Infrastructure, GfK IT Services.
Four years ago, the Nuremberg-based researcher expanded its on-premises infrastructure by introducing VMware vRealize Automation. In doing so, it laid a solid foundation, resulting in a self-service hybrid-cloud environment.
By expanding on the basis of VMware Cloud on AWS and VMware Cloud Foundation with vRealize Cloud Management, GfK has given itself a secure infrastructure and reliable operations by efficiently operating processes, policies, people and tools in both private and public cloud environments.
One important step for GfK involved migrating from multiple cloud providers to just a single one. The team chose VMware.
“VMware is the market leader for on-premises virtualisation and hybrid-cloud solutions, so it was only logical to tackle the next project for the future together,” says Hesselink.
Migration to the VMware-based environment was integrated into existing hardware simply and smoothly in April 2020. Going forward, GfK’s new hybrid cloud model will establish a harmonised core system complete with VMware Cloud on AWS, VMware Cloud Foundation with vRealize Cloud Management and a volume rising from an initial 500 VMs to a total of 4,000 VMs.
“We are modernising, protecting and scaling our applications with the world’s leading hybrid cloud solution: VMware Cloud on AWS, following VMware on Google Cloud Platform,” adds Hesselink.
The hybrid cloud-based infrastructure also empowers GfK to respond to new and future projects with astonishing agility: Resources can now be shifted quickly and easily from the private to the public cloud – without modifying the nature of interaction with the environment.
The gfknewron project is a good example – the company’s latest AI-powered product is based exclusively on public cloud technology. The consistency guaranteed by VMware Cloud on AWS eases the burden on both regular staff and the IT team. Better still, since the teams are already familiar with the VMware environment, the learning curve for upskilling is short.
One very important factor for the GfK was that VMware Cloud on AWS constituted an investment in future-proof technology that will stay relevant.
“The new cloud-based infrastructure comprising VMware Cloud on AWS and VMware Cloud Foundation forges a successful link between on-premises and cloud-based solutions,” says Hesselink. “That in turn enables GfK to efficiently develop its own modern applications and solutions.
“In market research, everything is data-driven. So, we need the best technological basis to efficiently process large volumes of data and consistently distill them into logical insights that genuinely benefit the client.
“We transform data and information into actionable knowledge that serves as a sustainable driver of business growth. VMware Cloud on AWS is an investment in a platform that helps us be well prepared for whatever the future may hold.”