Please bear in mind that this is based on my personal thoughts (not an official IBM position) and read the article as it is intended to be - thought provoking ... enjoy!
Having returned from the European Red Hat Partner summit and the VMware vForum where I presented on behalf of IBM, it took me a while to digest the “openness” of it all …so let me share my thoughts retrospectively.
The key messages conveyed in both events were (un?)surprisingly similar, considering that we have a major opens source software company on one side and a more traditional “business” model on the other.
Being proprietary rocks…! (?)
Let’s be straight – one could argue that in an ideal world (for selfish, money-making businesses without ethics) there would be no open source, being proprietary rocks!
After all making money by attracting and “retaining” clients (I’m deliberately not saying “locking them in”) is ultimately the goal of every business – and that (the attracting/retaining clients bit) actually applies to VMware in the same way as Redhat (if we don't mix up the ‘open source community’ with Redhat as a business) …
Now that would obviously completely ignore the power and dynamics of an open technical community but more importantly that’s not in the interest of the consumer…
Public cloud promises to empower the consumer – so they will increasingly be looking for choice … no capital dependency, outsourced, pay per use service operation models enable you (in theory!) to switch providers like I just switched my energy and gas supplier to XXX last week – go to a comparison site, find the best deal and “click” … done (obviously not reality today with cloud).
Public cloud can only exist on open source … ?
What both events made crystal clear is that increasingly many “traditional” businesses will be forced to have a foot in both camps in order to balance customer demand for open choice with a business model allowing them to make money and retain customer “affinity” (otherwise we probably wouldn't see URLs like this …http://www.microsoft.com/opensource/
There was a bold statement by a speaker at the Red Hat summit: “Public cloud can only live on open source!”
I was initially inclined to agree but then thought this through again and adjusted it mentally to what I believe to be more appropriate: “public clouds need to live on INTEROPERABLE source”…
Open source should of course help to facilitate this but if I just end up with a bunch of non-intuitive, non-integrated code, with undocumented APIs and outlandish image formats then the fact that its open source doesn’t help me at all.
So I am not saying that I don’t believe in open source, actually quite the opposite, all I’m saying is that the “open source” stamp on its own is not good enough and as a consumer of resources (not a developer) I would indeed consider a proprietary solution as long as it is intuitive, cheap, with well-documented APIs and – that is the key – inter-operable with other public providers. So it is important to understand the difference between open source and open standards.
The Public cloud is only as good as the “connectors” to it - Key Battle 1: Hybrid Connectors
VMware very much provides the majority of today’s x86 virtual enterprise footprint (a good chunk of that on IBM infrastructure and IBM very closely partnering with VMware). With that VMware has potentially a critical control point in the private cloud. The Public cloud is a completely different story with over 80% being OSS based and VMware yet hardly to be seen!
So especially for VMware it must be of utmost importance to provide a ‘best of breed’ connector between existing vSphere infrastructures and public vCloud Director resources before others provide this linkage to other (non-VMware) public platforms. So I expect a lot of focus on vCloud Connector functionality from VMware (in the same way as on ‘Concero’ from Microsoft).
VMware’s strategy therefore is to entice Service Providers to take advantage of the existing vSphere footprint “Hey look, many of your customers already have VMware, the only thing you need to do is to provide public vCloud Director resources for them to burst out to – we provide the connector, it’s as simple as this!”
Now, that might sound great but the main concern for me (the consumer) simply is how much of a dependency is being created for me by doing this, how easy can I go and "click" to switch to a Amazon, IBM or Rackspace cloud once I am in that environment ...?
So there clearly is a chance to develop a public VMware cloud ecosystem around vCD in this way – but how long before someone else offers seamless alternatives (more than just Amazon’s VM Import)? So will it be enough to only provide linkage to public VMware vCD resources? IMHO absolutely not. I am very curious to see how much VMware will enable connectivity to other public provider platforms going forward … Again, it will be a fine balancing act but I’m convinced that it won’t be successful otherwise.
In the meanwhile keep your eyes peeled and expect the industry to increase focus on enabling hybrid connectors - I obviously can't make any specific forward-looking statements from an IBM perspective. But just take Red Hat as an example, it made clear that CloudForms (their IaaS platform) can indeed manage VMware though their DeltaCloud driver and – while currently positioning CloudForms for private and hybrid – their vision (of course) is for DeltaCloud to be the top-level public layer linking into private (or public) VMware clouds.
Key Battle2: PaaS
Now – here’s another (the real?) battle for Cloud control (or better ‘ecosystem control’) … Who will provide the application platform for these future cloud-based applications? Who will control the ecosystem of future application suites? Who will be the next "Microsoft" you might ask? A lot will be control points and the pain of moving. If switching public cloud providers could really be as easy as switching utility providers, switching your application platform (e.g. as ISV) is rather like moving house! Using open standards is a great value proposition here and it’s not just the OSS providers who have realised this …
Red Hat recently announced their hosted “OpenShift” PaaS platform which essentially allows developing and running Java, Ruby, PHP and Python applications and comes in 3 different editions. From 1) “Express” (free) which provides a runtime environment for simple Ruby, PHP and Python apps over 2) “Flex” for multi-tiered Java and PHP apps with more options (like mySQL DBs and JBoss middleware) to full control with the “Power” edition supporting “any application or programming language that can compile on RHEL 4, 5, or 6″ and enables to deploy apps directly on EC2 and (in the near future) to IBM’s SmartCloud.
VMware had before announced their own open “Cloud Foundry” PaaS project, it has incarnations as fully hosted service (currently in beta), as open source project (CloudFoundry.org) or a free single PaaS instance for local development use.
An interesting move IMHO which could help the adoption of this layer for VMware (away from e.g. MS Azure, Google’s App Engine or Amazons’ Elastic Beanstalk).
So what's IBM doing in this space? IBM has recently announced the IBM Workload Deployer - an evolution of the WebSphere CloudBurst hardware appliance. It essentially stores and secures "WebSphere Application Server Hypervisor Edition images" and more importantly workload patterns which can be published into a cloud. These workload patterns (think of them as customizable templates that capture settings, dependencies and configuration required to deploy applications) enable you to focus on what essentially differentiates PaaS from IaaS ... the application rather than the infrastructure. Dustin Amrhein explains this much better than me in this little blog.
Importantly, all this comes with a REST APIs that allow for standards-based integration into existing environments, including Tivoli.
If you have only 10 minutes to spare I can only recommend to watch this great video from Cloud Jason (there are 3 more) ... I promise you will get a really good idea what IWD can do!
So, yes, I honestly believe that KVM has a good chance to become hypervisor of choice for public cloud. However … that is unlikely to be the control point… . So which management platform(s) will take that all important crown …? Will it be an OSS based one? I don’t want to hazard a guess, there are many …and that is part of the problem, many argue that the open source “communities” will have to overcome a challenge and become a COMMUNITY if they want to succeed. ESX could not be beaten with 7 or 8 different (but weak) flavours of Xen and that was just a single OSS project splintered by commercial offerings … in the same way the sea of OSS based cloud controllers with eucalyptus, openstack, cloudstack, deltacloud, opennebula faces focussed (more proprietary) heavy-weights like Microsoft, Google and Amazon.
The increasing number of OSS management solutions and “open bodies” will also make e.g. VMware less nervous than intended as long as they indirectly compete with each other …
It will be of the utmost importance to partner with solution providers who share this mind-set and have the capability and strategy to support such a long-term goal and yes, IBM is clearly uniquely positioned to fulfill this role.
And while I spoke to many completely different clients at both events, that was a common concern raised by most of them.
Industry endorsement like the recent OVA announcement - with IBM being a major driving force and supporter - will help to give KVM the needed credibility and weight … I am looking forward to seeing these visions translated into tangible solutions.
- Test Drive the IBM SmartCloud with this simulator...
- CloudForms (IaaS) is in beta with availability planned for fall 2011