The Red Ocean of Cloud Infrastructure Stacks (updated)

Update: am revising this still… Reposting now – but send me your comments via @CloudBzz on Twitter if you have them.

It seems like every day there’s a new company touting their infrastructure stack.   I’m sure I’m missing some, but I show more than 30 solutions for building clouds below, and I am sure that more are on their way.  The market certainly can’t support so many participants!  Not for very long anyway.  This is the definition of a “red ocean” situation — lots of noise, and lots of blood in the water.

This is the list of the stacks that I am aware of:

I. Dedicated Commercial Cloud Stacks

II.  Open Source Cloud Stacks

III.  IT Automation Tools with Cloud Functionality

IV.  Private Cloud Appliances

I hope you’ll pardon my dubious take, but I can’t possibly understand how most of these will survive.  Sure, some will because they are big and others because they are great leaps forward in technology (though I see only a bit of that now).  There are three primary markets for stacks:  enterprise private clouds, provider public clouds, and public sector clouds.  In five years there will probably be at most 5 or 6 companies that matter in the cloud IaaS stack space, and the rest will have gone away or taken different routes to survive and (hopefully) thrive.

If you’re one of the new stack providers – think long and hard about this situation before you make your splash.  Sometimes the best strategy is to pick another fight.  If you swim in this red ocean, you might end up as shark bait.

HP Cloud Strategy? No So Much…

At Interop this week I met with Doug Oathout, VP of Converged Infrastructure at HP.  It’s often been very frustrating trying to figure out if HP really has a cloud strategy and is poised to compete in this market.  While nobody would claim that HP is delivering any clarity on cloud right now, it sounds like they might be moving down the path a bit and a more comprehensive strategy might someday emerge.

What Doug talked about first was the economic value of a converged infrastructure (naturally).  In this regards they are positioning against Cisco and the broader VCE Coalition with particular emphasis on openness vs. the more prescriptive VCE approach (any hypervisor vs. VMware only, automation tooling that crosses into legacy environments, etc.).  Cisco might say that the downside of supporting that level of openness is complexity and increased cost.  We’ll let them duke that out but it’s clear that a market that used to be fragmented (storage, servers, networking, etc. sold by different vendors and integrated at the customer) has tilted towards more integrated and verticalized infrastructures that result in far fewer components and much less work to deploy.  I had to wonder if there was an opportunity for someone to do the same thing with commodity gear targeting the mass-market service provider space.

As for cloud offerings, there seem to be only three at the moment (at least that I was able to learn about in this meeting).

The first is private clouds built from their Matrix converged infrastructure and Cloud Service Automation (CSA) tools bundle (an integrated set of Opsware and other tools).  I guess I’d characterize this as IBM’s CloudBurst circa 2009 and Unisys’ Secure Private Cloud, but with a weaker story on cloudy capabilities such support for multi-tenancy, scaling out and more.  It’s the “cloud-in-a-box” approach.

Their second cloud offering is a quick-start service (“CloudStart“) to roll out a simple “cloud in a box” solution on customer premise in 30 days. Obviously that’s kind of a bunch of hype because the process changes, integrations etc. you need to do to really drive value out of an enterprise cloud program take many months of deep effort.

Their third area is not really a defined offering.  They are doing services around some other cloud technologies, most notably Eucalyptus.  This is natural given the deficiencies in cloud functionality with their CSA-based approach.

Notably absent are any offerings out of their former EDS managed services unit.  Doug mentioned a Matrix Online offering for standing up short-term infrastructure blocks for testing purposes, but it’s not a cloud, isn’t multi-tenant even, and requires HP labor to do the provisioning.  Like I said, not a cloud (if it even exists – can’t find it on the HP site)

Meanwhile, it seems like IBM is not putting as much emphasis on the CloudBurst approach anymore, instead focusing on their Smart Business Development & Test public cloud offering.  Sources tell me that this offering is doing quite well and several months ago there were tweets about them having run out of capacity.  HP currently has no such offering.

The takeaway for me was that HP is making inching progress in a couple areas of their business, but no discernible progress on driving a delivering a comprehensive, aligned and compelling enterprise cloud story to the market.  Looks like we’ll be waiting for a bit longer…