As the Clouds grow

This industry is full of companies vying for your business, to put your apps and infrastructure into the cloud and soon there will be hundreds of cloud infrastructures. So imagine that you are in place in the cloud (virtual infrastructure of course, apps, data, etc) and you want to be able to move a virtual machine by dragging and dropping it.

This industry is full of companies vying for your business, to put your apps and infrastructure into the cloud and soon there will be hundreds of cloud infrastructures.  So imagine that you are in place in the cloud (virtual infrastructure of course, apps, data, etc) and you want to be able to move a virtual machine by dragging and dropping it.  That's one of the great things about VMs right?  But now, think about the cloud provider.  They don't want you to be able to move that VM to another cloud, so they start writing proprietary APIs and other things, and before you know it your apps and data aren't portable.  The vendor has you locked in and will be free to charge for every service, whoops.  Sound familiar?

As I see this market evolving and maturing there will be three or more things needing to happen:

  1. Standards and portability.  This will mean the cloud vendors getting together and defining that standard set of APIs and coding requirements to guarantee portability. I'm not too concerned with the VMs as they are pretty standard as they sit today right?, but more around the storage and the control APIs to allow the cloud user to manage their applications.  Look at it this way, when you buy a new cell phone from a different vendor, you can port the number over to the new carrier along with the services like voicemail and whatever.
  2. With all of the potential clouds out there, big and small, it seems that there would be a lot of extra capacity right?  What do you do with all that extra compute capacity?  If you were a smaller player in this space, I'd be looking for a way to sell it.  But to whom would you sell it?  How about back to the big players, like a friend of mine does with the excess power he generates from his solar array on his roof.  He sells it (albeit very cheap) back to the power company.  Same concept here in cloud computing.
  3. the last thing that I can see here is that there will be clouds that specialize.  For instance, OS-specific clouds, or clouds that are tailord for specific industries or the services they offer.

Anyway, just wanted to share some of the additional challenges and opportunities I see coming.  I'm only at the tip of this huge iceberg, but as I traverse this industry, I'll be sharing more and more with you.  Give me your thoughts and feedback. 

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Interesting points.  The lack of standards across the virtualization stack definitely are an issue when moving into the cloud.  But say that the technology matures and standards are adopted.  Then what?  What will differentiate cloud vendors?  Following this logic, the cloud market will begin to resemble phone service or the ISPs from back in the day.  Sure, there are some differences in the quality of phone service depending on your location, but the primary differentiators are price and phone selection (for wireless).  Same thing with ISPs: as more and more emerged, the distinction between them was marginal.  One ISP offerred you 10 MB of file space instead of 5 MB...oooooh.  ;-) 

Anyway, if we're already talking about open standards and portability, the market will be reduced to the lowest common denominator among vendors.  One vendor might have some cool ideas that require custom APIs or proprietary solutions, but if these solutions aren't portable, people won't want them.  Subsequently, vendors in the space will be similar, distinguished primarily by price and the customer service experience.  When the focus is on price, you'll start to see consolidation as it will be tough for upstarts to compete.

If this is the case, I ask you, do you think this space will be attractive to start-ups or at the least, be a source of innovation?  Or will it look more like phone or internet service?  With players like Amazon and CSC already pioneering the space, do smaller vendors even have a shot?

--BXP

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