The Cloud Software Battle

With the cloud market picking up steam and expected to be the largest growth area in IT for years to come, there is a massive battle for position as the cloud software leader. With the public cloud vendors entrenched in their decisions, the service provider and more specifically private cloud deployments are truly the battle field with well armed competitors duking it out.

Competitive Landscape

The are three main competitors in the field with no clear winner to date.

Cloudstack

With substantial backing from Citrix and over $1B in annual transactions on their clouds, Cloudstack is very well funded and has an established footprint.  Through the aquisition of cloud.com in 2011 and release to the Apache Community in 2012, Cloudstack is known as the most robust and stable option.

Cloudstack has a smaller open source following than Openstack but is backed by Citrix and their high ranked friends.  While the participants are less, the active comments and contributions seems to be equal to Openstack.

Openstack

Founded by Rackspace and NASA in 2010, Openstack has seen tremendous growth and adoption in recent years.  Also residing in the Apache Community, Openstack is perhaps the most feature rich and flexible but is known to be complex and more difficult to implement.

Openstack lacks some enterprise features and may be less stable than it’s competitors.  However, with the largest open source following, Openstack has the most advanced support for different compute, storage and networking technologies.

vCloud Director

With the dominance of the ESXi hypervisor, VMware is almost an incumbent competitor for cloud with vCloud Director.  As opposed to the two open source competitors, VMware is substantially more expensive but provides some unique functionality for a VMware deployment.

As an enterprise centric solution, vCloud is quick to deploy and scales well.  In addition to price, the major drawback is interoperability and integration with other technologies.

Service Provider Considerations

Service providers are a significant piece of the battlefield.  When deploying a service provider public cloud or hosting private clouds, you have many considerations to factor. In our blogs, we have covered the need for flexibility, automation, scalability, interoperability and control of your cloud.

Cost of Entry

Your return on investment (ROI) should be at the forefront of your business case analysis.  In order to compute your ROI, we need to analyze the cost versus the possible revenue.  We will leave the revenue for another blog, but simply highlight the obvious cost differences between an open source solution like Cloudstack or Openstack compared with licensing fees from VMware.

Who are your customers?

Knowing your customer requirements will also help you choose the right cloud software.  As each offering has its pros and cons, knowing what is important to your customers will ensure a good fit.  If you currently offer managed services and have a substantial VMware based virtualization environment, vCloud may be a good fit for your customers, so they can use a familiar set of tools.  If you are trying to lower the cost of such a deployment, moving these systems to a KVM hypervisor with Cloudstack or Openstack would be a good idea.  Conversely, if your customers are looking for the most robust, yet cost effective solution, Cloudstack may be the best fit.  Alternatively, if adoption on new technology is a priority, Openstack may offer new functionality before it is vetted by Cloudstack.  These suggestions are just examples of some of the possible comparisons that need to be made.

Sustainability

In addition to understanding your customer needs, you need to plan for the future.  Its likely that all three options will be around for quite some time, so you need not worry about picking the absolute winner.  It is important, though, to make a selection that your team will be able to sustain and that your future customers will value.

Outlook

For the foreseeable future, we don’t see any of these players pulling too far ahead or dropping out of the game.  It seems more likely however that each will find their place in the market and tailor their solution to best match the need of that customer segment. An immediate differentiation may come from the service provider versus enterprise segments.  VMware is an obvious candidate to lead the enterprise but you never know.  On the service provider side, it is too early to tell.

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Photo Credit: Paris on Ponce & Le Maison Rouge

Topics: cloud computing