Handicapping the cloud: A VC weighs in on who can topple AWS

It might seem like Amazon(s amzn) Web Services has an insurmountable lead in the cloud computing space, but North Bridge Venture Partners’ Paul Santinelli (pictured above, on the far right) isn’t so convinced. He was the guest on the latest episode of the Structure Show, GigaOM’s cloud computing podcast, where he shared plenty of strong opinions on who’s positioned to make a killing in the cloud space. (Listening options below.)
Santinelli acknowledges AWS’s lead, but he’s pretty sure the dynamics will change once more cloud users start understanding the economics of cloud and seeing the light around hybrid environments. “I think as more people learn the difference between a stable versus a variable workload in their application,” he said, “… this is where the financial analysts come in and they start needling through spreadsheets to figure out, ‘OK, if I move this workload here, what does that save us?'”
With that in mind, here are six quotes from Santinelli about what companies and approaches he thinks are for real, and which are still questionable.
On IBM: “I would say the biggest threat in that public cloud space going after sort of VMware(s vmw) and Amazon — clearly IBM(s ibm) with the SoftLayer acquisition.”
Earlier in the interview, Santinelli noted regarding IBM, “[T]here’s yet another competitor in the market with a large name behind it and, as you know, corporate America loves IBM.”
On Rackspace: “I would say the No. 2 player in that space is clearly Rackspace(s rax). If Rackspace looked at the Metaclouds of the world as potentially the consulting arm and engineering arm to drive them in the [private] cloud, I think they could be a very close No. 2.”
On Red Hat: “They have a phenomenal … team at that company who understands how to scale real infrastructure. … They potentially could be a threat.”
On VMware: “I think it’s really tough, and I think it’s tough because it’s a moving target for them. … Things don’t quite gel. It’s kind of the old, ‘Are we throwing a wolf in the sheep corral?'”
On HP: “I think it’s very tough for [HP (s hpq)] to move off the schneid to actuality get to be a public cloud provider. And I don’t think people would take them very serious.”
On Eucalyptus: “When I look at Eucalyptus, I think they were way out in front of a market that wasn’t quite there yet, and I think they delivered a first set of tools that weren’t quite ready for what the market expected them to be.”
And keep in mind: These comments comprise about 2 minutes of a nearly 20-minute interview chock full of great content. There’s some even juicier stuff in there, too — including about OpenStack, software-defined networking (and whether VMware should have bought Nicira), and the wisdom (or lack thereof) of selling hardware — so you’ll probably want to hear the whole thing.
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On iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/structure-show-who-will-win/id682584795?i=164251031&mt=2