Home Can Eucalyptus Compete with OpenStack? Mårten Mickos Says Yes

Can Eucalyptus Compete with OpenStack? Mårten Mickos Says Yes

The big story in the open source cloud these days is OpenStack. Rackspace’s baby is sucking all the oxygen out of the room when it comes to attention, but what about the first, and production-ready, open source cloud computing platform? You might think that Eucalyptus is in dire straits with companies joining OpenStack en masse, but that’s not the case. I spoke with Eucalyptus CEO Mårten Mickos at length yesterday, and he seems very sanguine about its prospects.

Eucalyptus isn’t getting as much attention these days, but it might be because the Eucalyptus team is just busy writing and selling software. While OpenStack is still in rapid development mode, it’s not in widespread deployment. Eucalyptus, on the other hand, is.

“Yes, it’s interesting to see how much support OpenStack has, especially from hardware vendors” says Mickos. “They have lots of contributors, and hardware vendors building clouds, but it’s not production ready yet, but we have to assume it will get there and be a force to reckon with in the cloud space. But our growth hasn’t been impacted in any way, or it may have been impacted in a positive way.”

Of Community and Linux Distributions

While Mickos wasn’t wringing his hands over OpenStack’s growth so far, he did note that Eucalyptus had “not handled its open source work properly.” Mickos says that the company failed to engage the community in its work, and did not have “an architecture of participation where it’s fun” to contribute.

That said, Mickos has not given up on building a more enthusiastic community around Eucalyptus. “We’ve been criticized for being insular, and we’ve taken it to heart to fix that. We will make sure that we are the open source vendor we want to be.”

Eucalyptus has also fallen out of favor with the Linux distributions to some extent. Where Ubuntu, for instance, once featured Eucalyptus as its cloud software of choice they’re heavily partnered with OpenStack. SUSE has backed OpenStack as well, while Red Hat has its own cloud offerings.

The conventional wisdom has long been that software needs to be packaged with the Linux distributions to succeed. Mickos says that was definitely the case when he was with MySQL, but today? Not so much. “I think we’re seeing that the world operates differently than when I joined MySQL. It was critical to be part of the distro. We switched to the GPL only to be included. The role of the distros is different now.”

Now, says Mickos, Amazon Web Services (AWS) is playing the role of the Linux distributions. “We see AWS as the distro of today. Not technically, but in terms of where developers go to. Where they get their stuff, share code with each other… is on AWS and other people’s clouds as well.”

Where in the World is the Cloud?

The AWS-compatible cloud infrastructure is being deployed by a lot of companies, says Mickos. Eucalyptus isn’t disclosing how much it’s making or how many customers, but Mickos says that the company is adding customers “at an amazing rate.” The company has grown from 15 people in 2010 to more than 70 employees, and has recently opened a new headquarters in London to serve EMEA.

Right now, Mickos says that he’s seeing huge growth in “emerging economies.” Eucalyptus is seeing a lot of interest, especially in China and India. Mickos says that the company is “strong” in the U.S., but says that it’s stronger in Europe, China and elsewhere.

There’s little wonder that Eucalyptus has a strong market in China, as Amazon isn’t there to compete with. However, Mickos says that it “cuts both ways.” Eucalyptus does well in markets where Amazon isn’t, and it does well as a complement to AWS in geographies where AWS is strong.

Room for More

Mickos says that he doesn’t really see AWS as competition anyway, but as more of a partner. Not in any official sense, of course, but Eucalyptus provides the private cloud half of AWS by emulating their APIs. That, says Mickos, is Eucalyptus’ strength. Currently Eucalyptus implements the APIs for EC2, S3 and EBS. Mickos also says that with the 3.0 release that’s coming, there will be some identity management that goes past what Amazon provides.

Nor does OpenStack seem to concern Mickos. He acknowledges that OpenStack is likely to be a competitor at some point, but says that they’re not running up against it in the market now. Even when OpenStack is widely considered production ready, Mickos says its focus will be different.

Mickos says he largely sees OpenStack being used to set up public clouds that would compete with AWS, not private clouds.

“The way we stand out,” says Mickos, “is fidelity with AWS API. There’s no other product that allows you to move workloads back and forth like we do. We’ve been in production for two years already, and we can install and get going very quickly.”

For what it’s worth, I tend to agree with Mickos that there’s room for more than one (or two, or even three) big players in this market. Whether Eucalyptus will be one of them remains to be seen, but it has a leg up in being production ready and a drop-in companion/alternative to AWS. When everything shakes out, I’d look for Eucalyptus to be one of the key players. I’d be interested in hearing from others on this, though. Do you think Eucalyptus has what it takes?

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