Brian Taylor

April 11, 2012

3 Min Read
Gartner: Cloud Battle is About Vendors, Not Technologies

By now, unless you’ve not been paying attention, you know Citrix has decided to align CloudStack with Apache Hadoop, which means Citrix (NASDAQ: CTXS) has sided with Amazon Web Services (NASDAQ: AMZN) in a very demonstrable way. The news, called a “bombshell” by some, had many reporters, pundits and bloggers — myself included — wondering whether this signaled a new competitive phase between CloudStack, an open source cloud infrastructure, and OpenStack, the other open source cloud infrastructure.

But Lydia Leong of Gartner Research says that’s not the real battle. This is not a fight between “open source upstarts,” she writes in a recent blog. “This is a war between vendors,” and the main opponents are Amazon Web Services (AWS) and VMware (NYSE: VMW).

Here’s the gist: There are two “primary ecosystems” in the world — VMware and Amazon. In her blog post, Leong refers to VMware as “cloud-out” and Amazon as “cloud-in.” In the VMware ecosystem, you move your existing data center “out” into the modern world with virtualization. In the Amazon world, a client builds applications directly “in,” or within their cloud IaaS.

AWS is big, as we already know. Leong writes very strikingly that other cloud providers “are almost a decoration to the Amazon ecosystem.” It is also, in her opinion, the “de facto standard” for cloud APIs and for how a cloud service “should be designed.” While CloudStack has been competing against other service providers, it “has been more interesting in its use to be a ‘cloud-in’ platform for organizations … using AWS in a significant fashion.” CloudStack is mostly used by bigger organizations, she notes, that also tend to be evaluating other cloud options, including OpenStack.

It’s about vendors, Leong reminds us — not open source communities, but tech corporations competing (and sometimes cooperating) in a rapidly changing cloud environment. In her post, Leong notes CloudStack is “Citrix’s effort to take on VMware and enlist the rest of the vendor community in doing so.” (And if she’s right, I will be happy to say I brought this to the attention of our Talkin Cloud channel partners when it really mattered.)

You have to know what battle you are planning for if you want to succeed. Just as Andrew Grove, former CEO of Intel, said: “Only the paranoid survive.”

OpenStack, interestingly, is “caught in middle” Leong believes, as many of its supporters are wary of a “VMware-centric world” and also one where Amazon really does become the 800 pound gorilla in the cloud room. As I understand it, CloudStack has the advantage of clearly established battle lines – it’s on Amazon’s side. But OpenStack does not so much have a “side” — it’s not AWS, but it’s not VMware either. So OpenStack’s game plan is what? Make sure AWS doesn’t become the dominant player and just keep innovating?

While it’s still too early to say, CloudStack might — and I repeat, might — have a real edge in terms of clarity of mission. That is, until another big player comes along. That may be several years away, but in this environment, tech companies constantly must plan for the development that could render their business models obsolete.

This is certainly an interesting time to be a cloud blogger, let me tell you. And before I sign off, let me share something else: Many are assuming, and I’ve asked the question already, that one platform will come to dominate. That was true in the PC era with Microsoft and second-place holder Apple. Will it necessarily be true in the cloud era? Talkin’ Cloud will be seeking answers to that and many more questions.

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