Cloud Startup Nimbula Opens Doors to Partners

Hot private-cloud startup Nimbula is getting in on the ecosystem act, announcing this morning a partner program currently consisting of Opscode, Puppet Labs, Scalr, enStratus and Cloud Cruiser. Nimbula is the brainchild of Chris Pinkham and Willem von Biljon, two of the driving forces behind the creation of Amazon Web Services (s amzn). Nimbula’s decision to build a partner ecosystem is further proof that, no matter how smart the founders or how good the product, it’s very difficult to go it alone in the cloud computing software space.

It’s a strategy we’ve seen before from cloud startups such as Eucalyptus Systems and projects such as OpenStack. Building the base Infrastructure-as-a-Service software is one thing, but it’s a whole other thing to create all the bells and whistles (e.g., monitoring, end-user self-service, configuration automation, auto-scaling, etc.) that customers might want on top of IaaS. In fact, most of Nimbula’s new partners are involved with Eucalyptus and/or OpenStack, too. We’ve also seen the ecosystem strategy in the public cloud space, first from Amazon Web Services — which utilized a robust ecosystem to grow its customer base before, some have argued, cannibalizing those partners with a variety of internally developed features — and subsequently from Rackspace (s rax), GoGrid, Heroku and others.

That Nimbula has launched a partner program isn’t surprising in the least, then, but the similar ecosystems around a variety of IaaS platforms could end up being very important. For starters, the overlap in partners suggests that the best IaaS platform will win out in the end, as there could end up being very little ecosystem differentiation when it’s all said and done. Also, it opens the door for some private-cloud software vendor — existing or not-yet-launched — to pull an Amazon and start developing all the features once provided by partners into its own product. Even VMware (s vmw), which arguably has the most complete private cloud portfolio around, relies on partners for certain must-have cloud computing capabilities. With adoption yet to really take off, though, there’s still time for vendors to figure out how they’ll ultimately distinguish themselves from the pack.

Nimbula also announced today that its flagship product, Nimbula Director, will be generally available within 30 days. The company formally launched last summer at our Structure conference, where it was a finalist in the Launchpad competition.

Image courtesy of Flickr user melaclaro.

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