Artificial IntelligenceCryptocurrencyMetaverseCybersecurityTech Forward

Is there such a thing as too many clouds?

May 7, 2015, 3:10 PM UTC
Photograph by Getty Images/Image Source

Nearly everyone agrees that cloud computing is the future of information technology. But the market is fragmented and that could make it difficult for companies to choose the best home for their data and applications.

In the OpenStack arena alone there are dozens if not more cloud infrastructure options and that makes for a bewildering choice for the chief information officer (CIO) or whoever picks the cloud. You can bet that the old-line companies who sold servers and storage into his shop hope he just goes with their cloud. But most CIOs have relationships with more than one of these companies so something’s got to give. Who to choose?

The latest: EMC said this week it is working with three OpenStack providers—Canonical, Red Hat and Mirantis—to make it easier to deploy the cloud framework in corporate accounts.

To recap, OpenStack is a set of open-source technologies which enable companies to deploy their own cloud infrastructure. In theory, that infrastructure is a more flexible and potentially cheaper way to run their applications. They can deploy it in their own data centers as a private cloud or in a number of OpenStack-based public clouds around the world. In that case, workloads could run on shared infrastructure a la the Amazon (AMZN) Web Services model.

The fact that OpenStack, code for which is freely available, comprises several modules, many of which are at different stages of development, means that most companies will want to source a more complete product through a vendor;

EMC, (EMC) which has sold big storage systems and other technologies, into Fortune 500 companies for decades, knows about working with big shops. Canonical, Red Hat (RHT) and Mirantis have the OpenStack wherewithal, although EMC got a ton of that when it acquired Cloudscaling and got OpenStack expert Randy Bias as part of the deal.

But the sheer number of players is daunting. Aside from Canonical, Red Hat and Mirantis, IBM (IBM) is moving more of its SoftLayer public cloud to OpenStack. Rackspace (RAX), Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) and Cisco (CSCO) have OpenStack clouds. Dell partners with Red Hat. You get the picture. All of those choices also face distinctly non-OpenStack-based competition in AWS and Microsoft (MSFT)Azure for public cloud jobs.

The good/bad news is that the selection is getting smaller. More than two years ago a VC in Silicon Valley who requested anonymity because he has backed some of these companies, said the market, as big as it is, simply cannot support “90 different flavors of OpenStack.”

Consolidation started in earnest last year as big vendors started buying up OpenStack companies as EMC did with Cloudscaling, Cisco with Metacloud. And then there is Nebula, co-founded by OpenStack pioneers, former NASA CTO Chris Kemp, which closed up shop altogether last month.

At a recent event in Australia, Kemp said buyers should be patient with the technology, according to The Register. OpenStack, he said, will follow in the footsteps of the open-source Linux operating system which started out rough around the edges but gained huge prominence in most companies’ server rooms.

“In 1996, Linux was no fun either but it provided a lot of value,” he said. The value is that the platform was open so it could be tweaked and improved upon by many parties. The polishing and packaging came later.