• 09/19/2013
    2:59 PM
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Private Cloud Wars: OS Wars, The Sequel

You can't put a layer on something and call it new, as we learned in the OS wars of old. Are we doomed to repeat the battles of the past?

In the middle of a rant about clouds a few weeks ago, I made a broad, sweeping and likely misguided statement: "Today's private cloud wars are just like the desktop OS wars of 20 years ago."

My certainty may have been fueled by a glass of wine too many, but this didn't stop me from diving in further. Each dominant private cloud platform has been shaped by its community, its underlying motives and its partnerships -- just as the operating systems of the nineties had been. If this was true, I reasoned, we could learn much from earlier battles.

As I made my case, I came up with the following table on a napkin.


I hesitated to write down this table. It will make a lot of people angry, many of them friends. Some vendors won't like the fact that they aren't on this shortlist. That's partly because the table isn't based on reality -- it's based on the perception that many IT professionals have of the current market landscape, and what many IT buyers tell me behind closed doors.

Recovered from the previous night's festivities, I pulled the crumpled-up napkin from my pocket and thought about it. While the comparisons may be flawed, there are useful lessons here.

-- Integration happens when people rally around one thing. Unix only really took off when it had a center of gravity (Linus Torvalds) and a company that needed to standardize things (Red Hat.) Right now, while there's a lot of visibility, there's little consensus. This undermines the labor-saving value of clouds, because it means we spend a lot of time on integration and custom development.

-- It's not just the desktop. While Microsoft was the dominant desktop provider for decades, the rise of mobile computing and tablets blindsided it. Cloud solutions that don't work across other devices risk succumbing to a similar fate. As I often forget, streaming apps and managing remote desktops are two of the big use cases for clouds.

-- Services shake things up. In an unfortunate one-two punch for Microsoft, the shift from software licenses to SaaS is hard. Thousands of salespeople and channel partners, whose mortgages and moorings depend on commission from licenses, are learning that many clients would prefer services to software.

-- Apps matter more than legacy protocols. IBM spent a lot of time making OS/2 work with legacy mainframe protocols and existing enterprise environments. But eventually, those legacy systems caught up -- you could talk to a mainframe over TCP/IP -- and what mattered was a diversity of applications running atop the OS. Windows won.

-- You can't put a layer on something and call it new. Early versions of Windows were skins atop MS-DOS, but it wasn't until a native, GUI-based operating system emerged that its dominance was cemented. Similarly, clouds are more than just the automation of virtual machines.

-- People are wary of a single source. Apple's insistence on owning the apps, the OS and the hardware turned many technologists off; designers loved their Macs because they "just worked." Citrix has mitigated this with Apache and its Open Core strategy; but it's a tricky balance to strike. Only once the desktop was a given -- and app diversity came from online sites and services -- did Apple's "benevolent dictatorship" of the desktop seem popular once again.

What do you think? Is the private cloud war just the OS war all over again, and are we doomed to repeat the battles of the past? Or is this genuinely new and different, and will today's providers face a separate set of challenges and triumphs we haven't yet uncovered?

This is one of the reasons I love Cloud Connect. It's a great place to have these kinds of discussions -- often over wine and loud voices -- and speculate on where these platforms' roadmaps might lead us.

Alistair Croll will be a keynote speaker at Cloud Connect, taking place Oct. 21-23, 2013. Cloud Connect 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.


re: Private Cloud Wars: OS Wars, The Sequel

I notice a lingering effect of the wine since you confused Unix for GNU/Linux.
As for the question asked YES there will be fights like the OS wars of old.
It boils down to - My way is better because... In other words - Give me your money and you won't be sorry.

re: Private Cloud Wars: OS Wars, The Sequel

"...are we doomed to repeat the battles of the past?" Yes, unfortunately.

re: Private Cloud Wars: OS Wars, The Sequel

Our cloud expert Charlie Babcock reported this week on PayPal's decision to embrace both OpenStack and VMware technology in its future data center plans. PayPal cited the vendor lock-in concern, among others. See :

re: Private Cloud Wars: OS Wars, The Sequel

I see what you're saying about the difficulties of putting these into categories. Unfortunately, I don't think CloudPlatform fits that well with the Apple analogy. While it's true that it's product, rather than project, focused & "just works," there are number of hardware vendors that would not agree with assessment that it's Citrix centric including folks like Cisco, ALU & SolidFire to name a few on the hardware side. On the software side, I've seen a huge spike in software integrations in the last 12 months. That's where the analogy also falls apart -it's not part of a closed ecosystem like Apple has created. If you had to peg an OS - I'd actually liken it Linux, and in particular, Red Hat. CloudPlatform is like RHEL. A number of folks use CentOS and Fedora - those line up closer to Apache CloudStack. Perhaps another analogy to explore is Android, but the Open Source side outside of Google, is VERY geek focused rather than IT focused so it's not a perfect analogy/comparison either..

Need to correct - CloudPlatform is not an Open Core model; that's Eucalyptus.
CloudPlatform is the commercially supported version of Apache CloudStack & includes best in breed VMware support. A majority of the enterprise customers I know of are running ESXi as their hypervisor of choice & they don't pay a dime more for that support. Granted, VMware support is not as interesting for SPs though a number do run VMware and are not VMware Service Providers (VSPPs.) The fact that the product focuses on two different unique workloads - the traditional, HA enabled enterprise workload as well as the AWS/OpenStack style workload is a huge differentiator. While enterprises talk about wanting to move to cloud, it will take a number of years. Supporting both the legacy & the new has been a critical concern that resonates well with enterprise buyers. It's part of the reason why there are a number of paying CloudPlatform customers.

Lastly, on the Open Source side, I know of a number of big names that use Apache CloudStack & do not have a commercial relationship with Citrix. It is growing and active community outside of the commercial side of the equation.

re: Private Cloud Wars: OS Wars, The Sequel

I think we are evolving toward many types of clouds based on similar commodity components and some shared standards.-- but good at different things. Google Compute Engine is different from Amazon Web Services, which is different from Microsoft Azure. They're all built with similar components but architected to do different things.In this sense, we're not just repeating the OS wars.

re: Private Cloud Wars: OS Wars, The Sequel

Here is an interesting retort to Alistair's napkin diagram: http://gregdekspeaks.wordpress...

re: Private Cloud Wars: OS Wars, The Sequel

The wars are in some senses similar but quite different in the details...most of the credible options are open source so no vendor is necessarily involved in the decision. OpenStack is a collection of related projects, heavily funded without great prospects of ROI as a reaction to AWS and Vmware's dominance in public and "private" cloud respectively. From what I have seen, no two Openstack clouds of any significant scale are similar. CloudStack is a single project (and therefore more consistent) that is AWS friendly yet agnostic and isn't burdened by the infighting/co-opitition seen in the OpenStack ecosystem presently. CloudStack tries to solve fewer problems with a more focused approach on time-to-value and long term reliability/supportability. Eucalyptus is open core therefore not fully open source and is focused on copying AWS services, which has a niche target demographic (but an interesting niche). Hard to tell what their future will bring as this strategy is highly dependent on what AWS does, and past decisions at Amazon tend not to favour partners like this. I think all projects will have success and grow, and which one is right for you will depend on your requirements and use cases.