Having just returned from the European Red Hat Partner summit and the VMware vForum where I presented, it took me a while to digest the “openness” of it all …
The key messages conveyed in both events were (un?)surprisingly similar, considering that we have a major opens source software company on one side and a more traditional “business” model on the other.

Being proprietary rocks…
Let’s be straight – one could argue that in an ideal world (for selfish, money-making businesses without ethics) there would be no open source, being proprietary rocks!
After all making money by attracting and “retaining” clients (I’m deliberately not saying “locking them in”) is ultimately the goal of every business – and that actually applies to VMware in the same way as Redhat (let’s not mix up the ‘open source community’ with Redhat as a BUSINESS) …
Now that would obviously completely ignore the power and dynamics of an open technical community but more importantly that’s not in the interest of the consumer…
Public cloud promises to empower the consumer – so they will increasingly be looking for choice … no capital dependency, outsourced, pay per use service operation models enable you (in theory!) to switch providers like I just switched my energy and gas supplier to EDF last week – go to a comparison site, find the best deal and “click” … done (obviously not reality today with cloud). 

Public cloud can only exist on open source … or …?
What both events made crystal clear is that increasingly many “traditional” businesses will be forced to have a foot in both camps in order to balance customer demand for open choice with a business model allowing them to make money and retain customer “affinity” (or would we otherwise have  URLs like this …?http://www.microsoft.com/opensource/;-P

There was a bold statement by a speaker at the Red Hat summit:  “Public cloud can only live on open source!”
I was initially inclined to agree but then thought this through again and adjusted it mentally to what I believe to be more appropriate: “public clouds need to live on INTEROPERABLE source”…
Open source should of course help to facilitate this but if I just end up with a bunch of non-intuitive, non-integrated code, with undocumented APIs and outlandish image formats then the fact that its open source doesn’t help me at all.
So I am not saying that I don’t believe in open source, quite the opposite, all I’m saying is that the “open source” stamp on its own is not good enough and as a consumer of resources (not a developer) I would absolutely consider a proprietary solution as long as it is intuitive, cheap, with well-documented APIs and – that is the key – inter-operable with other public providers.

The Public cloud is only as good as the “connectors” to it  – Key Battle 1: Hybrid Connectors
VMware very much owns the majority of today’s virtual enterprise footprint and with that has a critical control point in the private cloud. The Public cloud is a completely different story with over 80% being OSS based and VMware yet hardly to be seen.
Especially for VMware it must be of utmost importance to provide a ‘best of breed’ connector between existing vSphere infrastructures and public vCloud Director resources before others provide this linkage to other (non-VMware) public platforms. So I expect a lot of focus on vCloud Connector functionality from VMware (in the same way as on ‘Concero’ from Microsoft).
For me VMware’s ‘must win’ play is to entice Service Providers to take advantage of the existing vSphere footprint “Hey look, all your customers already have VMware, the only thing you need to do is to provide public vCloud Director resources for them to burst out to – we provide the connector, it’s as simple as this!”
Of course it’s not that simple but there is a chance to develop a public VMware cloud ecosystem around vCD in this way – again before someone else offers seamless alternatives (more than just Amazon’s VM Import). But will it be enough to only provide linkage to public VMWare vCD resources? IMHO absolutely not. I am very curious to see how much VMware will enable connectivity to other public provider platforms going forward … Again, it will be a fine balancing act but I’m convinced that it won’t be successful otherwise.

Red Hat has indicated that CloudForms (their IaaS platform) can indeed manage VMware though their DeltaCloud driver and – while currently positioning CloudForms for private and hybrid – their vision (of course) is for DeltaCloud to be the top-level public layer linking into private (or public) VMware clouds …

Who will be the next Microsoft? Key Battle2: PaaS
Now – here’s the real battle for Cloud control (or better ‘ecosystem control’) … Who will provide the application platform for the volumes of future cloud-based applications? Who will control the ecosystem of future application suites? Who will be the next Microsoft? Again, it’s all about control points and the pain of moving. If switching public cloud providers could really be as easy as switching utility providers, switching your application platform (as ISV) is rather like moving house! Being open is a great value proposition here and it’s not just the OSS providers who have realised this …

Red Hat recently announced their hosted “OpenShift” PaaS platform which essentially allows developing and running Java, Ruby, PHP and Python applications and comes in 3 different editions. From 1) “Express” (free) which provides a runtime environment for simple Ruby, PHP and Python apps over 2) “Flex” for multi-tiered Java and PHP apps with more options (like mySQL DBs and JBoss middleware) to full control with the “Power” edition supporting “any application or programming language that can compile on RHEL 4, 5, or 6” and enables to deploy apps directly on EC2 and (in the near future) to IBM’s SmartCloud.

VMware had before announced their own open (yes open) “Cloud Foundry” PaaS project, it has incarnations as fully hosted service (currently in beta), as open source project (CloudFoundry.org) or a free single PaaS instance for local development use. 
This is quite an ingenious move IMHO which could not only foster the adoption of this critical layer for VMware (away from e.g. MS Azure, Google’s App Engine or Amazons’ Elastic Beanstalk) but will also be helpful in countering competitive ‘lock-in concern’-campaigns.

Professional Suicide
Yes, I honestly believe that KVM has a good chance to become hypervisor of choice for public cloud. However … that is unlikely to be the control point… . So which management platform(s) will take that all important crown …? I don’t want to hazard a guess, there are many …and that is part of the problem, the open source “communities” would need to become more of a COMMUNITY if they want to succeed. ESX could not be beaten with 7 or 8 different (but weak) flavours of Xen and that was just a single OSS project splintered by commercial offerings … in the same way the sea of OSS based cloud controllers with eucalyptus, openstack, cloudstack, deltacloud, opennebula will face  focussed (more proprietary) heavy-weights like Microsoft, Google and Amazon – with different commercial models and lots of money to throw at this.
The increasing number of OSS management solutions and “open bodies” will also make VMware less nervous than intended as long as they indirectly compete with each other …

In the current mess of FUD and openness, a somewhat splintered OSS ecosystem versus the lure of “best of breed” with vendor lock-in attached, the key challenge for the poor consumer and IT provider will be to figure out the developing control points and the dependencies they buy into … e.g. is a multi-hypervisor management layer the way “out” of vendor lock-in or the lock-in to the other vendor’s higher layer management solution…? 😉

BUT (and it’s a big “but”) I would argue that anyone not strategically looking at these open solutions is at best ignorant or – e.g. if you are a service provider yourself – more likely long-term professionally suicidal … yes, in an ideal world everyone wants ‘today’s best of breed’ but more critically you have to maintain your negotiation potential through the ability to switch and if only for that reason alone you need to keep your options open!
And while I spoke to many completely different clients at both events, that was a common concern raised by most of them.

Industry endorsement like the recent OVA announcement will help to give Red Hat and KVM the needed credibility and weight … let’s see how well the vision will be translated into tangible solutions.


– CloudForms (IaaS) is in beta with availability planned for fall 2011
– OpenShift ‘Express’ and ‘Flex’ are available as beta and ‘Power’ will be available later this year

PS Before you dismiss this as the ramblings of a Linux geek in sandals and bum bag – I am not and I don’t own any … – but yes, I do ramble on occasionally … 😉


### Archived Article – thanks to Andreas Groth – WhatMatrix Community Affiliate (originally published on Virtualizationmatrix.com) ###

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Andreas Groth

IBM Cloud Architect with extensive expertise in complex solution design, networking and cloud/virtualisation platforms, translating technologies into real-life solutions for end-clients and channel partners. Currently leading technical consultancy engagements as Channel Solutions Architect for the IBM Watson and Cloud Platform. - Chartered IT professional of the British Computer Society (MBSC CITP) - Chartered Engineer Institution of Engineering and Technology (CEng IET) - IBM Certified Senior IT Specialist - Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer (MCSE) - VMware Certified Professional (ESX2, VI3 and vSphere) – VCP # 1281 Andreas is the creator of virtualizationmatrix.com. Specialties: • x86 virtualization and cloud technologies - VMware, Microsoft and Open Source (Xen and KVM). • Consultancy for server/desktop virtualisation and cloud delivery models - new focus: SoftLayer • Creator of IBM's first virtual desktop reference architectures (SmartCloud Desktop Infrastructure) • IBM System x (x86) and IBM BladeCenter system hardware and IBM Storage/Network Solutions. • Public Speaker at numerous external and internal WW and European Technical Conferences. • Technical Publication Writer with 2 IBM Redbooks, several papers and 2 international patents.

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