OCI’s Relevance within an Amazon and OpenStack World

Last week, yet another Cloud initiative began as the Open Cloud Initiative (OCI) launched from OSCON 2011 in Portland, Oregon.  The OCI bills itself as a non-profit organization to advocate standards-based Open Cloud Computing.   The OCI hopes to provide a legal framework based on the Open Cloud Principles Document (OCP) and apply them to Cloud computing products and services.

While conspiracy theorists will call this the “One Cloud” movement, the reality is there is little to worry about.  An OCI without Amazon, Microsoft, Verizon, AT&T, and more isn’t really an assembly of “leaders of Cloud computing” but more of an ideology.  Academics and Open Source aside, there is very little motivation for Cloud providers to work together other than standard connectivity and a few APIs.

The biggest force in promoting the OCI’s self-proclaimed slogan of “A non-profit advocate of open cloud computing” is actually another truly powerful Open Source Movements called OpenStack.  As OpenStack adoption continues to increase, they may become the defacto standard for building Clouds.  OpenStack is the core platform that allows Enterprises and Service Providers to build value-added software and/or services to create new and unique offerings or businesses to their customers.

It is the difference between “talking” and “action”.  While some in this industry like to debate the merits of Cloud computing and interoperability, others are creating and innovating.  I have already mentioned the OpenStack movement and its importance to Cloud computing, and no conversation on this subject would be relevant without talking about Amazon.

Amazon is rapidly innovating within Cloud computing while continuing to disrupt the industry, drop their published prices, and make money.  Instead of getting caught up in all this debate, Amazon is setting their agenda and putting the entire industry on the defensive.  In fact, their rate of innovation is astounding while their rate of adoption is actually accelerating.  What is their motivation to interoperate with other Cloud providers?  As long as they have open and defined APIs into the private clouds (VMware, Microsoft, Xen, KVM) of their Enterprise customers, then they are all set.

Altruistic goals cannot be confused with the capitalistic reality of the world we live in.  The OCI may have great intentions, but they plenty of work to do to make themselves relevant within an Amazon and OpenStack world.

Amazon/ Cloud Customers: “Trust, but verify”

While Amazon continues to recover from their Cloud outage, it seems that some in the industry are throwing some FUD (fear, uncertainty, doubt) their way.  After all, Amazon has been on an amazing run within the Cloud business as they continue to build-out new datacenter regions while continuing to reduce prices to their customers.

Based on the many articles written on Amazon I have the following observations.

  • Confusion rains supreme within the world of Cloud computing
  • It’s time to stop pontificating and start solving problems
  • Cloud computing isn’t simple
  • Putting Cloud in front of every product’s name isn’t helpful
  • Availability zones are misunderstood
  • Cloud does not detract from personal responsibility
  • We need more information / facts
  • Those who think this outage proves Cloud computing isn’t ready for prime time are missing the boat

While Amazon has the ultimate responsibility for this outage, why didn’t their customers have a contingency play for this scenario?  Did everyone simply think Amazon could never go down?  Haven’t we learnt anything from past outages of Google, Microsoft, and others?

Earlier this year I wrote a blog post entitled “When the Cloud Goes Down” detailing an experience I had with a provider.  The black box mentality of the Cloud needs to be replaced with an openness and transparency that does not exist today.  A dashboard showing status and health of the Cloud is simply not enough.  We need the ability to monitor and manage our slice of the Cloud independently of the Cloud provider.

Ultimately, we may have seen the perfect argument for the Hybrid cloud; defined as the ability to provide some resources on a private cloud while accessing additional resources on a public cloud.  In a Hybrid cloud model, customers would have the ability to swing services from the public cloud to their private cloud or to other public cloud providers to avoid outages.  Where is the Amazon VM Export capability?

In the end, I’ll borrow a famous phrase from President Ronald Reagan, “Trust, but verify.”  Your business may depend on it!

Cloud Wars: Rackspace Seizes OpenStack, Is Dell Next?

In perhaps their boldest acquisition to date, Rackspace has purchased Anso Labs and are now firmly in control of OpenStack.  Anso Labs is the brains behind Nova, a key component of OpenStack that was originally built for NASA’s Nebula private cloud platform; NASA eventually contributed Nova to the OpenStack project.  Rackspace now controls 3 out of the 4 board seats for OpenStack, virtually owns 2 key software pieces the OpenStack code, and has cornered the market on OpenStack brainpower.

It’s no secret that OpenStack is a blazing hot open source project, but what is Rackspace’s true motive for this acquisition?  Some have speculated that Rackspace could move OpenStack toward an “open core” strategy, opening the door for a paid commercial version of the software.  However, that would be contrary to Rackspace’s DNA and is highly unlikely yet not out of the question.

What’s more likely, is Rackspace’s growing reliance on OpenStack represented too high of a risk for a company that has its eyes set on dominating Cloud computing.  I have always contended that Open Source is a development strategy not a business model.  Therefore, Rackspace’s business model was at risk because their open source development strategy hinged on the talents of Anso Labs.

Additionally, Anso Labs brings Rackspace new Cloud services capabilities in the areas of consulting, training, support, integration, and customization of both OpenStack and Nova. Imagine Rackspace offering their customers the ability to build their own private clouds while augmenting them with their public and/or hybrid cloud offerings.  In essence, OpenStack to Rackspace becomes Eucalyptus to Amazon.

Where there is brilliance in this acquisition there are also risks.  Will the team at Anso Labs accept their new owner’s vision and/or plans? What happens to OpenStack’s growing community of participants and contributors?  Will the bright lights of the free spirits of Anso Labs be extinguished by the weight of a public company?

Finally, an unintended consequence of seizing control of OpenStack may be making Rackspace a M&A target themselves.  While Lanham Napier, Rackspace’s CEO said, “We have not built our company to sell it” the market may think otherwise.  If JMP Securities analyst Patrick Walravens’ observation that investor’s main issue with Rackspace is “the capital-intensive nature of their business…capex guidance is up 41% from a year ago…” then an acquisition by an infrastructure provider may make perfect sense.  Is Dell Next?

Cloud Wars: Dell Fights Back With UEC

While Verizon is acquiring Terremark and Time Warner Cable, yes TW Cable, is acquiring NaviSite, Amazon continues to disrupt the industry with their 12 plus Cloud offerings.  The more EC2 grows, generated $220 million in 2009 with predicted revenue of $500 Million in 2010 and $750 Million in 2011, the more it validates that customers are willing to transform their purchasing behavior from hardware devices to compute nodes.

Meanwhile, Enterprises are struggling with virtualization and virtualization stall with the impending reality that they must operate within a Cloud model.  Here lies VMware, the dominant x86 virtualization provider, as they have a complete set of products and 3rd party certified partners to help their customers go virtual.  Let’s face it; ESX/ESXi and vCenter are excellent products.  Additionally, VMware has introduced vCloud and vCloud Express “VMware Power. By the hour.” Essentially, this technology allows Enterprises to build a private cloud and Service Providers to build public clouds and to provide hybrid cloud offerings.

Of course, this pits Amazon’s Cloud Offerings, which are not built with VMware’s technology, against VMware and some of their most powerful partners.  Amazon utilizes the Xen hypervisor along with other customized/internal solutions.  Understanding that VMware is the dominant Enterprise x86 virtualization technology, Amazon has introduced VM Import.  VM Import allows Enterprises to easily migrate VMware Guests (VMDK) into the Amazon EC2 Cloud.

However, what if I want to create a private EC2 within my Enterprise?  Along comes Dell’s Ubuntu Enterprise Cloud (UEC) infrastructure solution. Dell UEC combines the power of Dell’s server hardware with the software of Ubuntu Linux and Eucalyptus providing Enterprises with the same virtual machine images and management APIs that Amazon uses for EC2.  Well it is not exactly EC2, as some will argue that Eucalyptus is not a full implementation of the EC2 API, and it is a matter of fact that Amazon has plenty of additional customized internal tools/systems that make EC2 a reality.  Not to mention that EC2 relies on the Xen hypervisor while UEC utilizes KVM virtualization.  All in all, it’s a great start.

As always, Dell has published an excellent UEC Reference Architecture White Paper for UEC Standard Edition.  This begs the question whether or not Dell will offer Enterprise and/or Service Provider Editions of UEC.  In any case, Dell now has a visionary offering that they will be able to evangelize to their current customers and prospects.  In fact, as UEC matures, Dell is sure to add elements of their entire product portfolio; namely Compellent storage equipment, more powerful server platforms, and perhaps networking/storage hardware via their partnerships with Juniper, Brocade, and others.

One last thought, Dell has incredible flexibility in creating unique cloud offerings via simply changing software and hardware partners.  For example, offering a solution based on Red Hat with Delta Cloud or perhaps a secondary UEC offering that utilizes OpenStack.  This flexibility also translates to Dell’s Open Management philosophy, which is sure to attract additional software partners thereby creating a UEC partner ecosystem.

Oracle Takes Dead Aim At VMware’s Vision

Still wondering why Oracle purchased Sun?  Day One of Oracle’s OpenWorld 2010 cleared up at least one reason; Oracle has its own “stack” and it does not include VMware. 

When Sun was originally purchased by Oracle, my attention immediately fell to Sun’s virtualization assets and engineering talents.  Before the acquisition, Sun was amassing an arsenal of virtualization and management assets including xVM, VirtualBox, and Solaris.  If you factor in hardware development and JAVA, then Sun had everything they needed to “change the world.”  That is, everything except a track record for translating engineering into revenue.

Love him or hate him, Larry Ellison has no such issues.  His track record speaks for itself as Oracle has an uncanny ability to execute.  With the launch of Exalogic Elastic Compute Cloud, Oracle has signaled to the market that they are ready for a fight.  While most believe Oracle is gunning for Amazon Web Services, I believe hidden in their messages and jabs at IBM is their true target of public, private, and hybrid clouds ala VMware.

VMware unleashed their vision of the future at VMworld 2010 that included vSphere, vDirector, vCloud, vFabric, SpringSource, and more.  What’s missing?   Oracle would point to VMware’s ratio of vision to products, their lack of owning an operating system, and their dependency on third parties to deliver server power (I’ll give them storage as EMC is VMware’s parent company).  Oracle’s vision is unique in that they control the entire Cloud stack using proven technologies and deployments; unleashing the potential of Sun hardware, JAVA, and Fusion.

Exalogic Elastic Compute Cloud has a few things going for it:

  • Power – Scale Out and Scale In  
    Cores 96 to 2880, SSD 256GB to 7.7TB, RAM 768GB to 22.4TB, and SAS disk 40TB to 320TB
  •  Applications – JAVA and Fusion
     Oracle’s Applications as well as others that run on Oracle Solaris and Oracle Linux

Although, I’m not thrilled with Oracle’s reliance on InfiniBand, it makes sense given Sun’s product portfolio and expertise.  Also, we need to learn more about how you manage this system including orchestration via business process management solutions.  However, this is a great start for Oracle. 

One last thought, Oracle took a subtle jab at VMware, EMC, and Cisco when they proclaimed, “Run 1000s of existing applications” and “No Certification Required.”  Perhaps Ellison should not be picking a fight with Mr. Chambers at Cisco.  For the common denominator of vBlocks (VMware, xBlocks (Citrix), and rBlocks (Red Hat) is UCS and its momentum may be unstoppable.

Quick Alert: CA Hits a Homerun and Acquires Nimsoft

After a string of questionable acquisitions, CA hits a homerun by acquiring Nimsoft for a cool $350 million.  Nimsoft is a pioneer of “Unified Management” and an emerging competitor to the Big 4 monitoring companies.  Nimsoft gives CA a double-shot-in-the-arm of much needed excitement, product differentiation, and thought leadership.

What does Nimsoft bring to CA?

  • Approximately 800 Enterprise and Managed Service Provider Customers
  • An innovative Unified Monitoring approach spanning Cloud Computing, SAAS, Data Center, Application, Database, and Virtualization Management
  • Unified Reporting including Customer Dashboards
  • Next generation Event Correlation and Analysis
  • Strong Upward Growth
  • Easy to Use, Powerful, and Elegant Software Solutions
  • Unified Monitoring APIs and 3rd Party Extensions to quickly add existing CA solutions
  • Talent, Leadership, Execution, and more

It is great to hear that Nimsoft will not be folded into CA but instead will be run as a separate business unit.  However, instantly CA feels a bit more hip, in-touch, and ready to step-up to the challenges their customers face.  Suddenly the chuckles of “they bought who” at IBM, HP, and BMC gave way to “holey s***, CA just bought Nimsoft!”

If CA can keep Nimsoft’s talent, rationalize their product portfolio, and integrate some key CA assets into a single integrated solution suite, then they will be a force to reckon with.  Additionally, by no means do I think the M&A activity is over for CA or any of the Big 4.

Congrats to Nimsoft for collecting a cool $350 million and building a strong, innovative, and growing business.  Congrats to CA for recognizing all of the above and adding a gem to their cloud computing management portfolio.

Riddle Me This: Cloud Sprawl

Riddle me this: Imagine taking a dollar bill and cutting it up into four pieces. Each piece is placed inside different containers that are identical. Carry the 4 containers together in a bag and their total value remains $1. Now, take a second dollar bill and cut it into four pieces making sure they are the same dimensions as the first one and put it into 4 identical containers to the first batch. Place the 4 new containers in the same back and shake. All eight containers have a value of $2. Next, each into the bag and throw out one of the containers. The value of all 7 containers is now only $1 yet you have 3 extra containers. Finally, throw out the 3 remaining pieces from the original dollar bill that is missing a piece inside the bag.

Extra credit: Multiply the above riddle by 1000 and repeat.

Extra Extra Credit: Do the above with a mix of $1s, $5s, $10s, $20s, and $100s.

This is Cloud Sprawl and today this is an impossible task. Cloud Sprawl includes remnants from virtual machines, data, users, storage blocks, acls, firewall rules, vpns, passwords, and more.

What’s the answer to Cloud Sprawl? A new management paradigm. A move away from the after-thought that is server, storage, security, and network management. A move away from wrap-and-roll buying decisions. A move away from the hype that is today while building a real plan to get there tomorrow.

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