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Cloud Computing, Open* and the Integrator’s Dilemma

My esteemed co-tormentor of Twitter, Christian Reilly (@reillyusa,) did a fantastic job of describing the impact — or more specifically the potential lack thereof — of Facebook’s OpenCompute initiative on the typical enterprise as compared to the real target audience, the service provider and manufacturers of equipment for service providers:

…I genuinely believe that for traditional service providers who are making investments in new areas and offerings, XaaS providers, OEM hardware vendors and those with plans to become giants in the next generation(s) of Systems Integrators that the OpenCompute project is a huge step forward and will be a fantastic success story over the next few years as the community and its innovations grow and tangible benefits emerge.

I think Christian has it dead on; the trickle-down effect with large service providers leveraging innovation in facilities and compute construction looking to squeeze maximum cost efficiencies (based on power, density, cooling, and space efficiency) from their services will be good for everyone, but that it’s quite important to recognize why and how:

…consider that today’s public cloud services and co-location providers are today’s equivalent of commercial airlines, providing their own multi-tenant services, price structures and user experiences on top of just a handful of airframe and engine manufacturers. OpenCompute has the potential to influence the efficiency and effectiveness of those manufacturers by helping to contribute towards ideas and potentially standards that can be adopted across the industry.

Specific to the adoption of OpenCompute as an enterprise blueprint, he widened the bifurcation between “private clouds operated by service providers as public clouds” (my words) and “private clouds operated by enterprises for their own use” with a telling analog:

Bottom line ? To today’s large corporate IT shops; those who either have, or will continue to operate on-premise or co-located “private cloud” environments, the excitement levels around the OpenCompute project (if anyone actually hears of it at all) will be all-to-familiarly low as sadly, to wake some of these sleeping giants, it will take more than a poke from the very same company who’s website their IT teams are trying to prevent employees from accessing.

This is the point of departure for OpenCompute — it’s not framed for or designed for enterprise consumption.  In an altogether fascinating description of why Facebook open-sourced its data center design, the Huffington Post summarized it thus:

“[The Open Compute Project] really is a big deal because it constitutes a general shift in terms of what how we look at technology as a competitive advantage,” O’Grady said. “For Facebook, the evidence is piling up that they don’t consider technology to be a competitive advantage. They view their competitive advantage in the marketplace to be their users.”

Here we see the general abstraction of technology in line with Nick Carr’s premise that “IT Doesn’t Matter:”

“Sharing its blueprints may gain Facebook not only free manpower, but cheaper equipment. The company’s bet, analysts say, is that giving away intellectual property will help it foster an ecosystem of competing vendors that will drive down the cost of parts.”

With that in mind, I am just as worried about the fate of OpenStack and its enterprise versus service provider audience and how it’s being perceived as they watch the mad scramble by tech companies to add value and get a seat at the table.

Each of these well-intentioned projects are curated by public cloud operators and technology vendors and are indirectly positioned for the benefit of enterprises, but not really meant for their consumption — at least not if they don’t end up putting enterprises right back where they were trying to escape from in the first place with cloud computing: the integrator’s dilemma.

If you look at the underlying premise of OpenStack — it’s modularity, flexibility and open design — what you get is the ability to craft a solution finely tuned to an operating environment of your design. Integrate solutions into the stack as you see fit.  Contribute code.  Develop an ecosystem. Integrate, manage, maintain…

This is as much a problem as it is a solution for an enterprise.  This is why, in many cases, enterprises choose to use a single vendor with a single neck to choke in order to avoid having to act as an integrator in the first place or simply look to outsource to one or more public cloud providers and avoid this in the first place.

Chances are, most are realistically caught up somewhere in the nether-regions in between the two.

I wish to make it clear that I am very much a proponent of Open* but I realize that the lack of direct enterprise involvement in standards bodies, “open” initiatives and a lack of information sharing and experience for fear of losing competitive advantage is what drives enterprises to Closed* in the first place; they want to lessen their developmental and integration burdens and the Lego erector-set approach in many ways scares conservative, risk-averse CxO’s away from projects like this.

I think this is where we’ll see more of these “clouds in a box” being paired with managed services to keep it all humming, regardless of where it lives. [See infrastructure solutions from: Dell, VCE, HP, Oracle, etc. paired with "Cloud" distributions layered atop]

Let’s hope we see enterprise success stories built on leveraging OpenCompute and OpenStack…it will be good for all of us.

/Hoff

Update: I just saw that my colleague, James Urquhart, wrote a blog titled “Cloud disrupts, creates channel opportunities” in which he details the channel’s role in this integration challenge. Spot on.

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  1. April 11th, 2011 at 11:50 | #1

    Great post. I agree that service providers and massive SaaS are the proving grounds for next technologies (hardware, software, and ops).

    I think that your using Enterprise to mean "Late Adoper." If that case, those users need to extra support that a single vendor provides. Early adopers are more willing to take open ("unproven?") technology because they are trying to solve problems or capture markets.

    That's a healthy dynamic. My hope is that we're getting better at processes that reduce the risk for being an early adopter.

  2. April 12th, 2011 at 03:24 | #2

    Great post. At the end of the post you are outline EXACTLY the reasons why I founded stackops around Openstack. You are describing what we call the basic problem of almost every single IaaS software solution out there: An IaaS fabric is a solution which is a composite of other solutions. And believe me this is expensive in terms of time, resources, money…

    Our goal (I will better say "vision" due to the very early stage of my company) is to provide a solution ready to deploy to customers around Openstack Nova. We have already made the design decisions, and we have also automated the different adoption phases of this kind of infraestructure products (quick overview, proof of concept and pilot) before deploying in production.

    One of the reasons Openstack can be a winner is because the lifecycle of infrastructure software products is longer than traditional software, so openness is key not because it's cool, but for pure practical reasons (what if this crazy spaniards go to hell, or even worse, purchased by an evil company). There are more reasons (development pace, Rackspace role, momentum, brand image…) but I think an IaaS fabric is something you cannot rely on propietary software in the long term.

  3. April 20th, 2011 at 10:20 | #3

    Great post. I completely agree with the author and the comments of Rob.

    That's a healthy dynamic.

    Gotta leave my praise for the site, with articles and quality content. Congratulations.

  4. May 5th, 2011 at 11:09 | #4

    Hoff:

    OCP and Facebook will no doubt also impact the way that data center facilities are built and why. They're introducing a series of electrical and mechanical innovations that save energy, and energy is a rising portion of It costs as Lew Tucker predicted to us in the infamous Infrastructure 2.0 Working Group. If you're at Interop drop me a line. Woudl love to catch up.

    G

  1. April 12th, 2011 at 06:46 | #1
  2. May 17th, 2011 at 09:20 | #2
  3. June 7th, 2011 at 10:57 | #3