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.

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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.

Three Cheers: Cisco Unleashes a UCS Surprise with ‘xBlocks’

With today’s webcast and subsequent announcements, Cisco showed their continued focus and commitment to the UCS platform.  The results are breathtaking; a new B230 M1 ½ blade with 16 cores and 2048/4096GB of memory, a new Nexus 5500 series that doubles the port density of the previous generation 1U models for up to 960Gbps of throughput, and virtual appliances for both Virtual Security and WAAS.  Perhaps the most interesting announcement of the webcast focused on VDI (Virtual Desktop Infrastructure) sporting a partnership between Cisco, Citrix, and NetApp that I’m dubbing xBlocks.

Like vBlocks, xBlocks maintain their own Reference Architecture that was jointly developed by Citrix and NetApp and validated by Cisco as a CVD (Cisco Validated Design).  Unlike vBlocks, xBlocks shed VMware for Citrix and offer an implementation based on Citrix’s XenDesktop infrastructure.  Additionally EMC is swapped for NetApp as they are the perfect non-competitive complement to Citrix.

While Cisco is heavily invested in VMware, this announcement demonstrates Cisco’s desire to broaden the UCS audience.  Of course, this isn’t the first time Cisco has ventured from VMware’s path as in June of 2010 Cisco announced a strengthening of their relationship with Red Hat and their KVM hypervisor.

Finally, Cisco confirmed 1700 UCS customers worldwide with 200 Unified Computing Authorized Technology Providers (ATP).  This means that Cisco almost doubled the total number of UCS customers from the quarter before.  If anyone doubted Cisco’s ability to disrupt the server market, then these numbers clearly demonstrate that Cisco is succeeding at an alarming rate to their competitors.

Is Cisco blowing up the old notion that innovation only comes from start-ups or small companies?  Are Chambers’ course corrections leading to a right hand turn and the complete transformation of an industry giant?  Is HP focused on this market or are they too busy buying and integrating companies?  Is Larry pacing his mansion contemplating how to leverage Sun to get into this fight?

Three cheers to Cisco:  innovators without baggage, partnerships without exclusivity, and a platform that is breathtaking.  What’s next, I can’t wait!

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