Commentary
10/17/2013
02:25 PM
Alistair Croll
Alistair Croll
Commentary

Cloud Stack Wars: Tough Questions

HP, Verizon Terremark and VMware executives back different cloud stacks, leaving us with important private cloud questions. Let's explore some chinks in the armor.



7 Vendors To Watch At Cloud Connect Chicago 2013
7 Vendors To Watch At Cloud Connect Chicago 2013
(click image for larger view)
On Wednesday, Oct. 23, I'm going to have the chance to discuss the current cloud stack wars with proponents of three different stacks at Cloud Connect Chicago. While many carriers and providers mix virtualization and orchestration tools, these three organizations are aligned with three distinct technology stacks:

-- HP has embraced OpenStack strongly, and I'll be joined by Monty Taylor.

-- Verizon Terremark has a significant role in CloudStack deployments, and Jim Anthony will be participating.

-- VMware has its own suite of virtualization and cloud tools for both public and private environments, which Mathew Lodge will be able to speak to.

A couple of weeks ago, I postulated that today's cloud platforms are in a race similar to that of operating systems a few decades ago. Greg DeKoenigsberg of Eucalyptus posted an excellent rebuttal, in which he speculated that, if cloud stacks are operating systems, my analysis "would make Eucalyptus the open source little brother that the System/360 never had, that has no analogue in the history books, and that could have changed everything."

[ Trying to explain disruptive technology to colleagues? First rule: Don't talk about disruptive technology. Read more: Disruptive Technology: Follow Fight Club Rules. ]

After all this discussion, I'm eager to tackle how some of these cloud platforms are competing with one another. I've got a long list of questions, some focused on where private cloud tools in general are headed, and some specific to each stack. I'm hoping we'll get to at least a few of them on stage during our discussion.

Here are some of my generic questions about how clouds are evolving:

-- Is the Amazon Web Services API the equivalent of Cisco's command line interface? How important it is for a cloud platform to be semantically compatible with AWS?

-- Who is the real customer in an enterprise? Is it the CIO, or are you selling directly to a line of business? In other words, are you an enabler of shadow IT?

-- VMware is developing its own storage tech (vSAN), but primarily expects monolithic vBlock/Flexpod converged solutions. CloudStack is storage agnostic, creating different kinds of storage from a storage system. OpenStack is less so, including SWIFT as a co-founding project. Why are there so many different approaches to storage?

-- Large fortunes have been spent acquiring software defined networking technology for clouds. How critical is it that each cloud stack has its own SDN technology, and how will this be used to differentiate offerings? How will users avoid lock-in when the virtualization, network stack and storage are all from the same cloud "OS"?

-- Gartner says "developers drive public IaaS purchasing." Why is private cloud purchasing being driven by IT?

-- Two cloud stacks aren't here on stage with us. What do you guys think about Microsoft (considered by Gartner to shortly be #2 to AWS and which has a strong private cloud play) and Eucalyptus (the little cloud startup that could) and their roles in the coming stack wars?

I also have questions for specific stack proponents. These aren't very friendly, but it's my job as moderator to identify the chinks in the armor and ask the awkward questions I hear day-to-day from IT professionals with whom I talk about the future of clouds.

Questions For VMware's Mathew Lodge

-- Your product started as a way to consolidate multiple idle machines, then moved into QC and a reduction of moves, adds, and changes, and is now about data center automation. In that journey, you've focused on what IT operations and the CIO want. How are you adjusting that vision to include what end users and developers are after?

-- VMware was so dominant in the virtualization industry that I've had many IT professionals tell me, "I have a cloud" when they, in fact, have virtual machines. Has your earlier success lulled IT into a false sense of complacency about the importance of a service-centric IT strategy?

-- Orchestration platforms like CloudStack and OpenStack can manage you from above; Microsoft's Hyper-V is putting on pressure with a public/private solution; and open-source virtualization tools like KVM and Xen are undermining margins for pure virtualization. As cloud stacks go open source, how do you respond?

-- The new vCloud hybrid service puts you in competition with VMware partners and cloud providers who've built public offerings on your stack. What provoked this change? How have you handled the resulting channel conflict?

7 Vendors To Watch At Cloud Connect Chicago 2013
7 Vendors To Watch At Cloud Connect Chicago 2013
(click image for larger view)
Questions For HP's Monty Taylor About OpenStack

-- Folks at Mirantis and other companies have repeatedly stated their dislike for CloudStack. Is CloudStack really the enemy? Aren't there bigger fish to go after -- Microsoft, VMware and Amazon, for example?

-- There's a lot of distribution sprawl in the OpenStack ecosystem. Offerings that are labeled "OpenStack powered" from organizations like CloudScaling, Nebula, Piston and so on seem to cherry-pick some OpenStack technology, some third-party components, and some proprietary, home-grown pieces. How do buyers reconcile this with the need for portability and compatibility across OpenStack offerings? VMware and Microsoft may be proprietary, but at least you know they work the same way everywhere.

-- Mirantis is claiming to have more revenue than all other OpenStack companies put together. It's still early days, but will there be one, or a few, big winners in the OpenStack world the way Linux and Red Hat dominated the Unix world? What will that mean for the market?

-- Earlier this year, Randy Bias famously declared that OpenStack has won, and "the battle is almost over." Was he right?

Questions For Verizon Terremark's Jim Anthony About CloudStack/CloudPlatform

-- Is Citrix a hindrance or an enabler for CloudStack? What about the company's acquisition of Cloud.com and the resulting confusion about whether the stack is open or proprietary? Would the stack be healthier if it had been an open source project from the start?

-- It certainly feels like OpenStack is out-marketing CloudStack, despite the fact that SunGard, Verizon Terremark, Datapipe and IBM Softlayer are getting behind it. If perception drives community engagement, and community means success of a stack, how does this play out?

-- It's been said that the only thing you get for sitting on fences is splinters. CloudStack feels like it has one foot in private and one foot in public clouds. Can you really combine both approaches in one platform? Is CloudStack spreading its focus too thinly?

-- CloudStack has a different take on storage, building it into the stack directly and offering up a variety of storage options rather than working with external platforms (such as Swift and Ceph) for storage. A monolithic approach might seem integrated in the short term, but does it lack the technical "biodiversity" of a more ecosystem-like approach where loosely coupled components like network virtualization, compute and storage can each evolve independently?

It'll be an interesting conversation. I don't know if we'll get to all of these points -- given the available time, we almost certainly won't -- but hopefully this list will trigger some discussion both on stage and online.

Cloud Connect, taking place Oct. 21-23, 2013, offers three days of in-depth boot camps, panel discussions and access to a host of industry experts, all designed to help you weigh your cloud options and transform your business. Register for Cloud Connect now.

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