Cloud Wars: the Demise of Simplicity and Standardization | Gaining Altitude in the Cloud

Posted On April 30, 2012

In its comparatively short yet highly significant lifetime, the cloud industry has quickly devolved into a confusing morass of technology jingoism, marketing hype, aggression, and even negative allegations. Though the SaaS world is reasonably understood, it’s the infrastructure cloud that is creating an enterprise cloud war. Just think about the flurry of announcements and assertions about the big boys of technology taking sides with various cloud platforms or hypervisors:

  • Rackspace announced that OpenStack will be its cloud platform for public infrastructure service
  • Terremark introduced its private cloud offering built on VMware’s hypervisor
  • Sungard and CSC are using the vBlock architecture (based on VMware) for their cloud offerings
  • Savvis has chosen VMware for its Symphony Dedicated cloud
  • IBM is investing in a KVM-based public cloud offering
  • Amazon Web Services are based on proprietary implementation of open source Xen
  • GoGrid prefers the Xen hypervisor
  • HP proclaimed support for KVM/OpenStack for public cloud services
  • OpenStack announced large technology providers such as IBM, Yahoo, HP, AT&T, Dell, Cisco, and Canonical becoming platinum and gold members of OpenStack Foundation. Citrix, a supporter of OpenStack until a few weeks back, bemoaned that it is “tired” of the speed of evolution of OpenStack, and thus gave its CloudStack platform to the Apache Software Foundation. Though market watchers may say that Citrix made the move because OpenStack was perceived as being inclined towards the open source KVM hypervisor rather than Citrix’s  XenServer (a commercial hypervisor by Citrix based on open source Xen)
  • Amazon partnered with Eucalyptus, another open source cloud platform, for hybrid cloud computing thus giving Eucalyptus a big boost as a cloud platform
  • VMware claims there are over 100 providers across 24 countries that offer cloud services based on its technologies. Large enterprise technology providers have partnered with VMware for various cloud offerings
  • Similar providers (e.g., Dell, Fujitsu, Hitachi, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, and NEC ) earlier also signed the Microsoft Hyper-V Cloud Fast Track Program to offer private cloud

Therefore, as happens in enterprise IT, large providers are partnering with all the known players to offer services across different markets, technologies, and customer type. It is evident that the large enterprise providers are choosing commercial platforms for private cloud and open source for public cloud offerings. Unfortunately, this whole muddle of messages have left buyers in an increasingly dense smoke cloud of confusion regarding vendor lock-in, maturity of technologies, reliable support for platforms, services around cloud, etc.

Granted, the implementation architecture of these cloud platforms/hypervisors are in some respects similar, yet the way they handle files, storage, virtual LANs, etc., have sometimes subtle and other times very evident differences.  Customers need different tools and resources to manage these myriad of platforms, hypervisors, and technologies.

However, the premise of cloud was based on standardization and simplicity, wherein customers were simply supposed to self-provision their infrastructure needs irrespective of the underlying platform, and manage it with minimal effort. But the ecosystem doesn’t seem to be evolving in that manner. Rather, it appears to be becoming more confusing and a personal dual between technologists and supremacy of technology than an attempt to improve enterprise IT delivery. Indeed, with so much variation in cloud middleware, how can we expect simplicity and standardization? Which leads to the all important question, will the cloud end up being another technology silo or will it transform the enterprise IT landscape?

To cut through this complex maze of intertwined offerings, buyers must understand the nuances of different cloud technologies, including their impact, limitations, costs, and use specific to their own ecosystem. Approaching it in this manner, the cloud can be a real game changer. Providers will keep on overselling and hyping up their offerings and the buyers require relevant skills to evaluate these offerings for their requirements.

Of course, this is easier said than done. While it’s a given that the enterprise technology world can never be imagined to have a single technology, system, or innovation, and differences will always prevail, there is a dire need to simplify the entire cloud paradigm in terms of its architecture, standards, implementation, usage, and evolution. Too many complexities may scare buyers, and the industry may miss out on exploiting a once-in-a-generation idea.

Everest Group Executive Viewpoints icon Related Articles