How Some Journalists Confuse People About Cloud

Simon Wardley and I had a quick exchange about the sloppily written and factually inaccurate writing of Wired’s Jon Stokes. Simon commented about a November post on Wired CloudLine as follows:

@swardley:  “This Wired post on cloud from Nov ’11 – where it isn’t wrong (repeating unfounded myths), it is tediously obvious –”

I piled on and Simon posted about another post here.

@swardley: “Oh dear, another of the wired author’s articles – – is so full of holes, well, no wonder people are confused.”

Stokes replied here.

@jonst0kes:  “@cloudbzz @swardley And I’d like to think that one of you could write a real takedown instead of slinging insults on twitter.”

Challenge accepted.

Let me just start by stating the obvious – When a respected editor like Stokes at a very respected zine like Wired puts up crap, misinformation and rubbish, it just confuses everybody. If very knowledgable people like Simon Wardley are calling bullshit on someone’s weak attempt at journalism, then you can bet that something is not right.

Wired Cloudline Post by Jon Stokes – “An 11th Law of Cloudonomics

Stokes:  “Don’t build a public cloud–instead, build a private one with extra capacity you can rent out.”

I’m sorry, but if you’re renting out your cloud, it’s public – so you’re building a public cloud and you better damned well know what you’re getting into. Anybody who has a clue about building clouds knows that there are tremendous differences in terms of requirements and use cases – depending on the cloud, the maturity of your ops team, and a whole bunch of other factors. Yes, you can build a cloud that is dual use, but it’s rare and very difficult to reconcile the differing needs. I know of only one today – at it’s in Asia, not in the U.S.

Stokes: “If you look at the successful public clouds—AWS, AppEngine,, Rackspace—you’ll notice that they all have one thing in common: all of them were built for internal use, and their owners then opted to further monetize them by renting out excess capacity.”

Garbage!  Amazon’s Bezos and CTO Werner Vogels have repeatedly disputed this.  Here is just one instance that Vogels posted on Quora:

Vogels: “The excess capacity story is a myth. It was never a matter of selling excess capacity, actually within 2 months after launch AWS would have already burned through the excess capacity.”

Rackspace built their public cloud as a public cloud, and never had any internal use case that I can come up with (they’re a hosting company at their core – what would they have a private cloud for internally??). For private clouds, they actually use a very different technology stack based on VMware, whereas their public Cloud Servers is built on Xen. But again, their private clouds are for their customers, not for their own internal use.

Stokes: “It’s possible that in the future, OpenStack, Nimubla, and Eucalyptus will create a market for what we might called “AWS clones”—EC2- and S3-compatible cloud services that give you frictionless portability among competing clouds.”

Eucalyptus is the only stack that is remotely an AWS clone – and that’s how it started as a project at UC Santa Barbara. OpenStack is based on Rackspace and NASA Nebula – not AWS clones – and Nimbula is something built by former AWS engineers but is also not a clone. There are some features that are common to enable federation, but that’s hardly being a clone (we call it interoperability). And none of them give you frictionless portability between each other.

Stokes: “In that future, we could see a company succeed by building a public cloud solely for the purpose of making it an AWS clone.”

Huh? That’s about the least likely scenario for success I could dream of. If all I do is build an AWS clone to compete against Amazon with its scale, resources and brand, then I’m the biggest moron on the planet. That would be total #FAIL.

Stokes: “…attempts to roll out new public clouds and attract customers to them will fail because it’s too expensive to build a datacenter and then hang out a shingle hoping for drop-in business to pick up.”

Generally I agree with this, but not for the reasons Stokes gives. Most cloud providers don’t need to build a data center. You can get what you need from large DC providers (space, power, HVAC, connectivity) and build your cloud. But you need to have a reason for customers to consider your cloud, and the idea of “build it and they will come” is a truly lame strategy. I don’t know a single cloud provider today that is operating on that model.

Stokes: “And most cloud customers are drop-in customers at the end of the day.”

Most startups might “drop in” on a cloud. But most enterprises certainly are more mature than that. You don’t drop in on IBM’s cloud (which is pretty successful), or Terremark’s or Savvis’s. Gartner MQ upstart BlueLock is (a) not even remotely an AWS clone, (b) having really great success, and (c) does not want or allow “drop-in customers” at all (you need to call them and talk to a sales rep).

Going forward I expect better from Stokes and the folks at Wired.


(c) 2011 CloudBzz / TechBzz Media, LLC. All rights reserved. This post originally appeared at You can follow CloudBzz on Twitter @CloudBzz.

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