"Immature" is one of those code words that execs trot out when they're faced with disruptive competition that's likely to eat their lunch over the long haul. For example, VMware CEO Paul Maritz likes to dismiss OpenStack as immature. While OpenStack may not feature parity with VMware's cloud offerings, it's likely to be "good enough" much sooner than Maritz cares to admit.

Maritz was saying that VMware's "greater, nearer-term challenge will probably come from Microsoft." This is classic framing, trying to ensure that customers compare VMware's offerings against a similar proprietary offering. But customers will increasingly employ the long view and consider open cloud options as well.

Immaturity Doesn't Last

Open clouds, OpenStack being just one, are following a similar development trajectory to Linux and open source databases. In phase one, the technology is for early adopters and not at all comparable with proprietary offerings. Early adopters and companies that take a long view and/or have a good reason to disrupt the market deploy and contribute to the projects to push them toward maturity.

Not long after this, the tech remains immature but is considered good enough for many workloads. It starts pushing into mainstream usage more and more with each release. IT staff tests it and finds that it can get the job done without having to waste budget on the proprietary software.

At this stage, proprietary vendors like VMware can still make a case for their products for high-end deployments, and for being better documented and/or having more features. But for many customers, that doesn't matter. The tech is good enough to get the job done, and the money not spent on software licenses easily compensates for the gap between the open source project and the proprietary alternatives.

OpenStack, et al, are very close to good enough, or have already reached that stage for many workloads. Quite a few companies are already deploying CloudStack and Eucalyptus.

From here, it's not going to be long before Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) is just as much a commodity as the compiler, operating system, database, hypervisor and hardware.

VMware has already lived through this cycle at the hypervisor level. It wasn't that long ago that VMware folks were claiming that the hypervisor was still a value proposition. Ultimately, the company had to concede that the hypervisor had become a commodity component and made ESXi free to customers. The value had moved up the stack to management tools, where VMware still had an advantage.

But open tools are once again nipping at VMware's heels, beginning to make the IaaS stacks a commodity proposition.

Take the Long View

Despite the relative immaturity of open IaaS platforms, it makes sense to start evaluating them now with an eye to standardizing on an open stack (but not necessarily OpenStack).

One, it's almost certain that the platforms will reach maturity soon. Naturally, the larger the user and contributor pool for each platform, the better.

Secondly, if a company hasn't already made an investment in a proprietary platform, why lock yourself in now? While VMware or Microsoft would no doubt like to lock up the private cloud market, buying into those platforms now is a good way to ensure that you're going to be stuck with them in the long run.

Maybe VMware or Microsoft have the right platform for your environment, but the current state of OpenStack shouldn't be the deciding factor. All of the open cloud projects have been maturing rapidly, and it'd be foolish to assume they won't be ready for your workloads sooner rather than later.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.