AWS vs. VMware vs. OpenStack: And The Cloud Winner Is...

As much as we don't like markets being dominated by a single vendor, it's almost as bad to try to choose between a chaotic mix of vendors. That's the current state of the cloud market, and it's giving some prospective buyers fits. For public cloud, Amazon is the early leader, but within the enterprise...? It's not so clear.

The major cloud vendors admit as much. In a recent Quora thread, executives from Eucalyptus, VMware and more debate who leads the Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) cloud market. Answer? 

It depends.

AWS vs. VMware vs. OpenStack?

Eucalyptus CEO Marten Mickos starts it off, answering the question of "In the IaaS cloud market, who will win between AWS, VMware and OpenStack?" with:

All three camps have their respective strengths. VMware is the undisputed leader in virtualization and more broadly in on-premise infrastructure software. So far they have little to show when it comes to public clouds. OpenStack has huge popularity and the backing of legacy IT vendors. They are fighting the public cloud and the private cloud battle at the same time. Amazon Web Services are overwhelming leaders in public cloud, an industry that is growing fast. AWS hasn’t done much with large enterprises or on-premise environments. They do have Virtual Private Cloud (VPC), Direct Connect (DC), and the partnership with Eucalyptus.

But it's not as if these vendors are operating in a vacuum. As VMware cloud executive Matthew Lodge notes, both AWS and VMware bring existing fan bases (he calls them "power bases") to the cloud party. VMware has an enviable foothold with enterprise IT and AWS owns developers. OpenStack, as Lodge points out, has "undoubted enthusiasm around the project from vendors and early users" but "no strong power base" and still lacks many public clouds built on its technology, and has been particularly slow to gain traction in Europe

Cloud Apples vs. Cloud Oranges

Which, of course, is a reminder that at times we're comparing cloud apples and cloud oranges here.

IaaS architect Jason Heiss hones in on this, posing a mock rhetorical question - "In the housing market, who will win between Century 21, Home Depot and a lumber mill?" - and then stressing that each of these cloud providers is "selling different things to different people," concluding "They'll likely all 'win,' in the sense that cloud adoption is still nascent in many companies."

I'm not sure that I agree that all will win, even in Heiss' sense. While the cloud a growing market with lots of room for "winners," enterprises are going to settle on a few vendors, not many. VMware has the "power base" with enterprises, and AWS has the same with developers. Eucalyptus ties the enterprise into the power of AWS through its API, and OpenStack has a great deal of momentum from vendors who want it to succeed against incumbent power bases.

In other words, this game is nowhere near over, and it may be too soon to pick a winner.

Can Any One Vendor Win The Cloud?

And even when we do pick a winner, are we picking a winner in enterprise cloud deployments, public cloud deployments, hybrid cloud deployments, deployments of public clouds built on one's cloud technology, or something else altogether? Defining the market matters, and at present it's not clear that there's any useful way to describe the overall "cloud market" as a coherent thing that any one vendor could possibly win.

So when you read that OpenStack has upended the private cloud market, or read a blow-by-blow account of who's winning between CloudStack or OpenStack, a healthy dose of skepticism may be in order. Not of the analyses, which are often quite good, but rather of the very idea that any particular vendor could win this amorphous market we call "cloud."

 

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