Last week I took a brief look at two companies who believe they have the solution to energy efficient clouds (see here). Both approaches certainly sound like they should deliver more energy efficient clouds than can be constructed using conventional commodity servers, but that may not be enough, for several reasons:
- Niche solution: Both Tilerra and SeaMicro’s approaches only address a part of the cloud compute infrastructure market, specifically platform-as-service clouds. They are not suitable for hardware-infrastructure-as-a-service clouds which must provide x86 compatibility and the flexibility to run different size workloads. SeaMicro’s approach gets a tick for the first condition, but can’t support virtual machine workloads that require more compute power than a single Atom CPU can deliver. Tilerra fails on both counts, in that it lacks x86 compatibility and uses processor cores that offer modest individual performance.
- Vendor stability: For a company like Google, this isn’t a major problem, if they decided that such an architecture is the way to go, then they can pick up either company for what would amount to small change for them. But for less established players, particularly VC funded startups this would be a deal breaker. I’ve worked with VCs in the past, and they are unlikely to back a startup that has to rely on the success of another startup’s product.
- Established vendors: The established vendors are increasingly focused on the needs of cloud service providers for two reasons. First, they represent a significant market opportunity since they buy servers in the tens of thousands. Second, if cloud displaces conventional IT as many predict, then cloud providers may become the primary market. So I expect that we’ll see a lot innovation from the established vendors in this area, and their manufacturing economies of scale will be tough to beat.
So, Kudos to Tilerra and SeaMicro for innovative products, but it’s going to take a lot more than elegant engineering to build a business here, and I’m not sure that either company fully comprehends that.
Posted by: Nik Simpson