VMware wants all those cloud workloads “marooned” in AWS

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Even though VMware initially called its Amazon competitor vCloud Hybrid Services, make no mistake, it’s the company’s public cloud (now renamed vCloud Air.)

And, [company]VMware[/company] really wants workloads that might run ow on [company]Amazon[/company] Web Services to come on over, says Bill Fathers, EVP and GM of cloud services for VMware.  That’s a tall order. Face it, AWS has been around as, an old boss would have said since “Hector was a pup.” The first services launched in 2006, and vCloud Air is, what?? a two-year old toddler. Fathers said VMware now has thousands of customers on vCloud Air  but said that wasn’t the plan. Initially, VMware wanted a few hundred key companies to act as “beachhead clients” who derive real value from its cloud, especially from vCloud Air’s networking infrastructure and has surpassed that goal, he said.

But Fathers point is that a small percentage of total computing is now running on any public cloud — he thinks it’s now 5 percent up from the two to three percent he thought it was last June at Structure. Which means that there’s a ton of work up for grabs.

And while AWS looks to be the enemy for VMware’s cloud, the same is not true for Google — VMware last week announced plans to offer and support four Google services including BigQuery, on vCloud Air.  This week it brought out its promised Integrated OpenStack. 

Fathers positions both the Google relationship and this week’s Partner Exchange announcements. And he’s clearly not backing away from a fight with the biggest of big clouds.

Bill Fathers, VMware EVP and GM cloud services

Beyond the VMware universe there was a bit of big data moving and shaking with Cloudera buying Explain.io and its self-service query modeling expertise and Datastax picking up Aurelius, the keeper of the Titan graph database. Could this be a sign of even more M&A to come? That’s something we’ll hear more about at Structure Data from March 18-19 in New York from the CEOs of Cloudera, Hortonworks and other data powerhouses, so book your tickets now.

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Here’s why CERN ditched OpenNebula for OpenStack

CERN has been testing options for a massive private cloud to serve 11,000 physicists around the world. It’s dropped OpenNebula in favor of OpenStack, but was that a valid or hype-driven decision?

OpenNebula 4.0 guns for the vCloud crowd

With VMware users now accounting for 70 percent of OpenNebula’s customer base, the focus in the new release is very much on making OpenNebula a no-brainer replacement for vCloud.

VMware will have to wait a little longer to join OpenStack

It’s hurry up and wait when it comes to VMware’s bid to become part of OpenStack’s inner circle. Its application for Gold membership status — along with applications from Intel and NEC — will have to wait for the next Open Stack Foundation meeting.

Competition for the private cloud heats up

Despite OpenStack’s continued growth, a combination of product updates and acquisitions from Citrix, Eucalyptus, Red Hat and VMware over the past week demonstrate that the race to become the dominant private cloud provider, as well as win over the enterprise, is far from over. Is one of these solutions “better” than the others? Not unequivocally, since each has characteristics that appeal to specific customers. OpenStack, for example, continues to attract attention with a good story about providing cloud infrastructure for all, including NASA and other strong partners; but VMware can leverage its significant installed base in the virtualization space to sell hard. Meanwhile, none of the others are standing still.

First, a quick recap on this week’s news:

  • Citrix. Citrix used VMworld this week to announce that the next version of the CloudStack product will be completely open source, rather than continuing to follow the less permissive open-core model of earlier releases (and competitor Eucalyptus). Citrix has an existing route into data centers with its networking and virtualization business, a strong product with real-world deployment and now an open-source story. Some doubts remain around the future relationship between CloudStack and OpenStack, despite explicit pledges of support. It’s also unclear how CloudStack fits with an earlier Citrix project: Project Olympus. At the end of the day making source code freely available for reuse is a worthy step, but it’s not one that will be decisive in driving the selection of a private cloud solution.
  • Red Hat. Red Hat is also pursuing an open-source line, leading what The Register describes as an “effort to succeed where OpenStack has struggled in building an open-source cloud founded on broad community input.” It’s difficult to interpret OpenStack’s growing mind share as evidence of “struggle,” but Red Hat’s multihypervisor, multicloud approach to Aeolus does represent a different take: Aeolus intends to bridge different environments in a permissive fashion. Red Hat has an interesting story to tell about freedom, flexibility and choice. But enterprises are far more likely to be looking for support, evidence of adoption elsewhere and a clear road map into the future. Interesting as it is technically and philosophically, Aeolus may not be the solution they need.
  • Eucalyptus. Back in May, as Ubuntu promoted OpenStack’s private cloud over previous favorite Eucalyptus, I wrote, “it is becoming increasingly unclear whether [Eucalyptus] has a compelling future.” But last week, Eucalyptus Systems announced version 3.0 of its product, setting its sights on providing “highly available” enterprise clouds capable of responding to hardware failure. The company already has some big names (former MySQL CEO Mårten Mickos) and real-world deployments at scale; it should shout far more loudly about them. Those, together with this week’s features, may be sufficient to tip the balance of market interest back in Eucalyptus’ direction.
  • VMware. As Ben Kepes notes, VMware’s sweeping announcements at VMworld see the company attempt to extend its closed-source reach, encompassing both private clouds inside the data center and hybrid solutions that reach beyond the enterprise. Derrick Harris suggested last month that “VMware wants to be the OS for the cloud,” and that shows no sign of changing soon. VMware is well-known and familiar, with a lock on the enterprise virtualization market that will be hard to shift, especially as it continues to innovate.

Current favorite OpenStack, meanwhile, continues to generate headlines of its own, and it has assembled an impressive set of partners (including Citrix and Verizon-acquired CloudSwitch). But it remains relatively untested in terms of deployment. To move from commentator’s favorite to enterprise solution of choice, OpenStack needs to round out its feature set and provide more examples of successful adoption. It may never choose to compete across VMware’s entire product portfolio, but OpenStack today remains narrowly focused. VMware is ambitious and efficient, useful characteristics in an expanding company but also illustrative of an attitude and mind-set that will appeal to many customers.

At the end of the day, it may not be the “best” cloud that wins but the cloud provider with the best story and the best fit with existing enterprise systems, vision and road map. Could that end up being VMware?

Question of the week

Are this week’s announcements enough to shift the apparent dominance of VMware and OpenStack?

Dell launches a VMware-based cloud; Azure next

Dell has officially become a cloud provider with the launch of an Infrastructure-as-a-Service cloud built atop VMware technology. The move is just the first in Dell’s three-pronged IaaS attack, which will soon include clouds based on the Microsoft Windows Azure and OpenStack platforms.

Open source and the IT company, a lucrative proposition

[OpenStack] looks not only like an open-source alternative to Amazon Web Services and VMware vCloud in the public Infrastructure as a Service space, but also a democratizing force in the private-cloud software space.

As my colleague Derrick Harris suggests, the open-source cloud-computing project OpenStack has come a long way in just a year. But it’s only one of a growing number of open-source projects challenging expensive and proprietary incumbents across the IT industry. From storage to networking, open-source projects are emerging that offer viable alternatives. Take, for example, Backblaze, which just this week freely shared detailed specifications for a storage device capable of holding 135 terabytes of data. Though the majority of customers continue to prefer products backed by the expertise and support of commercial organizations, existing suppliers from Citrix and Cisco to Dell and IBM are proving quick to incorporate open-source advances into their commercial products, lowering their own costs in the process.

For more on the ways in which commercial IT providers are adapting to open source, see my latest weekly update at GigaOM Pro (subscription required).

Despite growth in open source, commercial solutions still dominate

Open-source cloud computing project OpenStack turned one this week, and cloud backup provider Backblaze freely shared detailed specifications for a storage device capable of holding 135 terabytes of data. Open-source options for everything from servers and data centers to clouds and application platforms are growing more robust. And yet both new and established commercial providers continue to sell products and services. Despite the ready availability of free solutions, the majority of customers continue to prefer products backed by the expertise and support of commercial organizations.

Launched a year ago, OpenStack has already reached a state of maturity sufficient for GigaOM’s Derrick Harris to suggest that it “looks not only like an open-source alternative to Amazon Web Services and VMware vCloud in the public Infrastructure as a Service space, but also a democratizing force in the private-cloud software space.” Eighty-nine companies are now involved, Rackspace is transitioning its existing cloud-computing offering to the OpenStack Compute code, and competitors such as Dell and Internap are preparing their own OpenStack powered services for launch.

Backblaze’s work is different. It is less about a community effort and more about the work of a single company. Nevertheless, it is a good example of an open-source solution that challenges the economics behind existing proprietary approaches. Backblaze’s figures suggest that Amazon could charge almost $2.5 million to store a petabyte for three years and that Dell hardware would cost just over $500,000 to buy and run. But the Backblaze design would cost less than $100,000 over the same period. The company’s founder and VP of engineering, Tim Nufire, is, however, quick to stress that “the economies of scale only kick in if you really do need to store a full petabyte or more.” By taking an approach that lowers the cost of storage, Backblaze has enabled third parties such as Vanderbilt University to consider projects that previously might never have begun.

OpenStack and Backblaze are just two parts of the continuing wave of open-source innovation; other examples include projects such as Eucalyptus, Nimbula, Cloud Foundry, Hadoop and others. Although the fruits of these projects are freely available for anyone to implement, the reality remains different. Especially in mission-critical business areas, many companies remain uncomfortable about downloading plans or compiling code for themselves. Instead, they turn to third parties to help deploy these freely available tools, and they take out support contracts to ensure that someone is always available should things go wrong. Red Hat demonstrated this model almost 20 years ago, selling support around the freely available Linux operating system. Eucalyptus continues in almost exactly the same manner today, and in the OpenStack community we are already seeing the emergence of commercial support from Rackspace Cloud Builders and others. And while some of these third parties (Eucalyptus Systems, for example) are newcomers established specifically for this purpose, many are the existing hardware vendors and systems integrators from whom enterprise IT departments have bought for decades.

But rather than stand idly by and allow open-source alternatives to cannibalize their revenues, established providers such as Dell, IBM and Citrix are finding ways to engage with and develop on top of open-source activity. For example, Citrix, with OpenStack and Project Olympus, is building on top of open-source code in order to create new commercial offerings that benefit directly from the community’s work. Last week’s acquisition of Cloud.com, however, may have altered the detail of this approach, as a recent weekly update explored.

The cost savings that are available to end users willing to sacrifice support and accountability are equally relevant to providers of commercial software and services today. By building their next generation of products on top of open-source foundations, these companies lower their own costs, gain access to innovation from a community of developers for whom they do not need to pay and — potentially — innovate faster and more affordably. Commercial success and open source do not need to be opposites, and the partnership between the two will increasingly be seen as mutually beneficial.

Question of the week

In which areas will companies be willing to adopt open-source solutions on their own?

Today in Cloud

I’m not certain VMware’s vCloud Service Director leak was unintentional, as it’s an ideal time for VMware to remind potential cloud customers that it isn’t finished innovating on the cloud-enabled-data-center front. While startups selling IaaS software for both service providers and data centers are getting boatloads of VC money, there have been interface issues between on-premise vSphere environments and hosted vCloud environments that make VMware-based hybrid cloud computing a less-realistic option than advertised. vCloud Service Director aims to solve these issues, and then some, and this leak might be VMware’s way of telling interested parties that if they can hold out until September, VMware will deliver the cloud solution they’ve been waiting for.