At Cloud Scale, Data Centers are the New Servers

Joyent’s Jason Hoffman likes to talk about the data center being the new box. I suggested a similar idea in July, noting that Microsoft is turning the cloud business into the PC business (sub req’d). The analogy goes that, with more organizations hosting applications in the cloud and data volumes skyrocketing, the cloud data center takes the place of the on-premise server. And if the data center is the server, the cloud computing management software, atop which applications run, must be the new operating system. Much like there was Wintel (Windows-Intel) in the client-server world, Hoffman thinks there can be Joytel (Joyent-Intel) in the cloud world. I think he’s onto something. However, as detail in my Weekly Update at GigaOM Pro, I don’t think he’s the only one with such aspirations.

As with most things cloud computing, exact numbers are hard to come by, but anecdotal evidence suggests that MSPs and data center operators are driving spending on cloud software. Joyent, for its part, has an OEM deal with Dell — Dell Cloud Solution for Web Applications — that makes Joyent a key component of Dell-based cloud deployments. On Friday, the two companies announced that Canadian ISP Uniserve Communications as customer. Likewise, cloud software vendors like, Morphlabs and Enomaly all depend heavily on service-provider customers. Established software vendors like VMware, Platform Computing, Adaptive Computing and Univa UD all have thriving service-provider bases for their cloud computing software, too.

Hoffman’s assessment appears pretty accurate. Much like Microsoft made a fortune providing the OS for individual machines, cloud vendors will have to make their fortunes providing OSes for data centers. Perhaps that’s why Dell’s Data Center Solutions business is driving server sales: the customers of the future don’t want one box, they want a data center full of them.

If this is indeed the case, cloud software vendors had better have their technologies in order. Any organization that wants to fulfill the oft-cited desire to operate “like Google,” whether serving applications internally of offering virtual servers to customers, needs massive scale and software designed to handle it. If demand picks up like some predict (even if not within the next year) and like data production suggests, software built to operate at data center scale will flourish, while software built for boxes will fall along the wayside. Rackspace gets it. Dinged for scalability issues, it launched OpenStack to remedy its software situation. Are you ready for this brave new world?

Read the full post here.

Image Source: flickr user library_mistress

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