Blog post

Ecosystems in conflict – Amazon vs. VMware, and OpenStack

By Lydia Leong | April 06, 2012 | 12 Comments


Citrix contributing CloudStack to the Apache Software Foundation isn’t so much a shot at OpenStack (it just happens to get caught in the crossfire), as it’s a shot against VMware.

There are two primary ecosystems developing in the world: VMware and Amazon. Other possibilities, like Microsoft and OpenStack, are completely secondary to those two. You can think of VMware as “cloud-out” and Amazon as “cloud-in” approaches.

In the VMware world, you move your data center (with its legacy applications) into the modern era with virtualization, and then you build a private cloud on top of that virtualized infrastructure; to get additional capacity, business agility, and so forth, you add external cloud IaaS, and hopefully do so with a VMware-virtualized provider (and, they hope, specifically a vCloud provider who has adopted the stack all the way up to vCloud Director).

In the Amazon world, you build and launch new applications directly onto cloud IaaS. Then, as you get to scale and a significant amount of steady-state capacity, you pull workloads back into your own data center, where you have Amazon-API-compatible infrastructure. Because you have a common API and set of tools across both, where to place your workloads is largely a matter of economics (assuming that you’re not using AWS capabilities beyond EC2, S3, and EBS). You can develop and test internally or externally, though if you intend to run production on AWS, you have to take its availability and performance characteristics into account when you do your application architecture. You might also adopt this strategy for disaster recovery.

While CloudStack has been an important CMP option for service providers — notably competing against the vCloud stack, OnApp, Hexagrid, and OpenStack — in the end, these providers are almost a decoration to the Amazon ecosystem. They’re mostly successful competing in places that Amazon doesn’t play — in countries where Amazon doesn’t have a data center, in the managed services / hosting space, in the hypervisor-neutral space (Amazon-style clouds built on top of VMware’s hypervisor, more specifically), and in a higher-performance, higher-availability market.

Where CloudStack has been more interesting is in its use to be a “cloud-in” platform for organizations who are using AWS in a significant fashion, and who want their own private cloud that’s compatible with it. Eucalyptus fills this niche as well, although Eucalyptus customers tend to be smaller and Eucalyptus tends to compete in the general private-cloud-builder CMP space targeted at enterprises — against the vCloud stack, Abiquo, HP CloudSystem, BMC Cloud Lifecycle Manager, CA’s 3Tera AppLogic, and so on. CloudStack tends to be used by bigger organizations; while it’s in the general CMP competitive space, enterprises that evaluate it are more likely to be also evaluating, say, Nimbula and OpenStack.

CloudStack has firmly aligned itself with the Amazon ecosystem. But OpenStack is an interesting case of an organization caught in the middle. Its service provider supporters are fundamentally interested in competing against AWS (far more so than with the VMware-based cloud providers, at least in terms of whatever service they’re building on top of OpenStack). Many of its vendor contributors are afraid of a VMware-centric world (especially as VMware moves from virtualizing compute to also virtualizing storage and networks), but just as importantly they’re afraid of a world in which AWS becomes the primary way that businesses buy infrastructure. It is to their advantage to have at least one additional successful widely-adopted CMP in the market, and at least one service provider successfully competing strongly against AWS. Yet AWS has established itself as a de facto standard for cloud APIs and for the way that a service “should” be designed. (This is why OpenStack has an aptly named “Nova Feature Parity Team” playing catch-up to AWS, after all, and why debates about the API continue in the OpenStack community.)

But make no mistake about it. This is not about scrappy free open-source upstarts trying to upset an established vendor ecosystem. This is a war between vendors. As Simon Wardley put it, beware of geeks bearing gifts. CloudStack is Citrix’s effort to take on VMware and enlist the rest of the vendor community in doing so. OpenStack is an effort on the part of multiple vendors — notably Rackspace and HP — to pool their engineering efforts in order to take on Amazon. There’s no altruism here, and it’s not coincidental that the committers to the projects have an explicit and direct commercial interest — they are people working full-time for vendors, contributing as employees of those vendors, and by and large not individuals contributing for fun.

So it really comes down to this: Who can innovate more quickly, and choose the right ways to innovate that will drive customer adoption?

Ladies and gentlemen, place your bets.

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  • Sam Johnston says:

    Will CloudStack/Eucalyptus/etc. be offering patent indemnification for their users?

    Until they do you might want to think twice about infringing on Amazon’s patents, and even then it’s unlikely they’ll ever indemnify non-paying open source users.

    The only solution is for Amazon to offer a clear, irrevocable patent license. Or use another, community developed API.

  • Pearl Zhu says:

    No matter cloud in or cloud out, hopefully those vendors’ competition benefit customers, with freedom of choices, not about destructive creation on the cloud. Though Sky is no limit, cloud need build standardization to ensure smooth orchestration for the long term.

  • Jim Plamondon says:

    Lydia, I respectfully beg to differ.

    I agree that Amazon seeks to establish its proprietary AWS API as the de facto standard for cloud computing, and that
    • Enterprise customers desire to set up private clouds;
    • Other companies desire to set up public clouds that rival Amazon’s; and
    • Developers desire to deploy their apps on any cloud (public or private) without re-writing their code.

    However, what you apparently do not realize is that Amazon is executing the Microsoft-proven Zombie Apocalypse Monopolization Strategy to (a) satisfy the above-listed desires in the short run, and to (b) trap the industry on Amazon’s public cloud in the long run.

    Perhaps you are unfamiliar with this strategy. That would not be surprising, because it is not documented outside of Microsoft, and even Microsoft may have destroyed all record of it.

    It’s a three-step strategy.
    1. Create Zombies
    • Eucalyptus has already performed the Ritual of Zombification, by signing a license contract with Amazon. Unsurprisingly, its terms are secret.
    • Citrix – the vendor of CloudStack – has stated that it is actively seeking to perform the Ritual of Zombification, too.

    Why are they so eager to zombify themselves? Because the explosive growth of OpenStack has dried up their customer pipelines, forcing them to stare death in the face. Better undead than unemployed. (If you’re undead, you can still go to parties.)

    You can expect other AWS zombifications to follow soon.

    2. Spread the Zombie Plague
    You’re helping Amazon do this, yourself, Lydia. But mostly, its up to the zombie “plague carriers,” like Eucalyptus and CloudStack, to infect unsuspecting firms. Anyone who sets up an AWS-API-based cloud (public or private), or writes code to the AWS API, is infecting themselves with the AWS zombie plague — and setting themselves on the path to zombification.

    3. Slaughter the Zombies
    Once the zombie plague is sufficiently widespread, Amazon will slaughter its zombies (the Zombie Apocalypse) by terminating the licenses signed by its zombies during the Ritual of Zombification. If a zombie objects, it will simply be sued out of existence. (That’s why the license terms tend to be secret. If the few people who understood the Zombie Apocalypse Monopolization Strategy could see these deals’ terms, they could point out the clauses that enable the future Zombie Apocalypse. All clauses are shallow.)

    Once the AWS zombies are slaughtered, Amazon’s public cloud will be revealed as the sole remaining vendor of cloud services that offer AWS’ API. Everyone who has set up an AWS-based cloud and/or written code to the AWS API — thereby becoming infected and zombified — will have NO CHOICE but to deploy on the sole remaining service that exposes the AWS API…

    Amazon’s One Cloud to Rule Them All (and in the Fine Print, bind them).

    Although there is no cure for AWS zombies, there is a vaccine that can prevent infection: OpenStack. Its native APIs are *not* AWS-API-compatible, so they will never expose you to the AWS zombie plague. Furthermore, OpenStack’s native APIs are openly designed, through an open process that’s openly governed, and implemented using open source – so they are 100% zombie-free.

    And that, in a nutshell, is why OpenStack refuses to adopt AWS’s APIs as its native APIs. It refuses to become a zombie plague carrier, like Eucalyptus and CloudStack. This refusal is exactly why OpenStack’s growth has been so explosive.

    OpenStack’s mission is to save the IT world from the zombie plague. OpenStack recognizes that many people have — unwittingly! — become already infected, by writing code to AWS’ APIs. These poor souls can still avoid zombification if they act quickly. OpenStack offers *non-native* “AWS API Compatibility Modules” for EC2 and S3, to help people get their apps up and running quickly on OpenStack, while they start re-writing them to use OpenStack’s native APIs instead. The faster they switch, the lower their risk of zombification.

    (Does OpenStack’s exposure of AWS’ APIs in non-native API Compatibility Modules spread the AWS zombie plague? Not at all. They are more like a nicotine patch — a way to taper off gradually. The best industry analogy is to DOS’ inclusion of CP/M’s APIs in the first version of DOS, which gave app developers a little breathing room in their switch away from CP/M to DOS.)

    Clearly, OpenStack will never zombify itself by licensing from Amazon the “right” to use AWS’ APIs. Therefore, OpenStack’s AWS API Compatibility Modules will disappear whenever Amazon chooses to sue. That’s why investing more effort in these modules is a very low priority for OpenStack.

    Within OpenStack, there’s very little controversy about this. The few people in the OpenStack community who have pushed OpenStack to adopt AWS’ APIs natively are, almost without exception, those who have also invested big bucks in AWS zombies. (Such investments apparently accelerate self-zombification and its symptomatic loss of free will.)

    And that, Lydia, is why OpenStack is aggressively establishing its own native API, implemented with open source, through an open process, openly governed, which anyone can use to set up any cloud service, public or private: to avoid the zombification of the entire IT industry.

    Lydia, I think that I can safely assume that you weren’t aware of the Zombie Apocalypse Monopolization Strategy when you wrote the above article (and others like it). So you can be forgiven for actively promoting the zombification of the entire IT industry — until now.

    From now, on, though, I hope that you’ll join us in exposing and resisting Amazon’s Zombie Apocalypse Monopolization Strategy.

    Welcome to the fight against IT zombification! Beware the Zombie Apocalypse!

    Thanks! 🙂

    Jim Plamondon
    Director, Developer Relations
    Rackspace Cloud

  • Scott Hill says:

    Jim – shouldn’t Rackspace follow their own advice and release their interests in OpenStack? Seems you’re just as guilty as the others just in a different vein…practice what you preach.

  • Tal Klein says:

    Oooooor VMware needs to stop pretending someone is building the next AWS with vCloud and buy Equinix or Rackspace any get a serious public cloud compete play against Amazon with the vCloud API’s

  • Dave McCrory says:

    I find it funny that VMworld has the “w” omitted. What I find even funnier is the myopic view that IaaS is the only thing that matters in Cloud.

    There are many different battles taking place & solely focusing on the largest (but most commiditized & least differentiatable) portion of “Cloud” while ignoring both PaaS & SaaS seems incredibly short sighted.

  • Shawn C says:

    The statements from Jim Plamondon on a “plan” are good for nightime reading, but far from the truth. What happened in the past was dumb luck.

  • Lydia Leong says:

    @Dave McCrory,

    There will be battles fought at every layer of the cloud, so I don’t think that players who are fighting it out in IaaS are ignoring the rest of the ecosystem or otherwise short-sighted. PaaS today generates next to no revenue, so it’s generally eyed as a future opportunity more than an immediate opportunity, especially by the bigger players. SaaS is really just the next generation delivery model of software in general, so the play for most of the infrastructure vendors/providers is SaaS enablement and not SaaS delivery themselves.

    IaaS is an immediate revenue opportunity for a lot of players, and it also disintermediates many players who used to be in the data center value chain, which forces everyone to react, making it a hotly contested space.

  • Boris Renski says:

    I agree completely with the cloud-in vs. cloud-out categorization and the fact that CloudStack is more of a cloud-in platform aimed at VMWare… at least as far as where it has a chance to gain further market traction.

    In fact, I wrote a piece about the very same cloud-in vs. cloud-out concept a few weeks ago –

  • DTW says:

    Bring Back Ted Chamberlain please !!!
    OMGosh, what a blog and these are the thought leaders of today for one of today’s (& possibly tomorrow’s) most influential technology shifts we have seen … this is suppose to be a third party perspective, I wonder how much MSFT and AMZN pay Gartner for services?!

  • Lydia Leong says:

    So I’d be fascinated to know in what way this promotes Microsoft in any way shape or form.

    I suppose I’m doing something right when people have varyingly accused me of being bought by entirely different vendors in this thread.

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