Eucalyptus, OpenStack dogfight in cloud war

Hits and misses in the fight for IaaS dominance

The dogfight for the cloud is getting more intense, as competitors Eucalyptus and OpenStack swoop and dodge as they try to take control of the private and hybrid cloud sky.

First, some good news for one of the competitors, OpenStack: the subsidiary division of RackSpace announced a partnership with Dell and Canonical to start offering Ubuntu-based OpenStack private clouds in the U.K., Germany, and China.

But this good news may be overshadowed by other news that could make potential customers think twice about deploying with the OpenStack Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) product.

First, and perhaps most significantly, there was the announcement today that Amazon Web Services has formalized their relationship with Eucalyptus Systems to offer AWS-compatible private cloud stacks. I say "formalize" because this is something that Eucalyptus has pretty much been doing anyway… but, as with most things related to Amazon and their APIs, there was always the concern that Amazon could take their marbles and go home, leaving Eucalyptus and other services that depended on those APIs high and dry.

The is something major vendors will do from time to time: instead of working with a partner company, they will just buy that company (or a competitor) and incorporate that company's products within its own offerings--instantly shifting a service like AWS from partner to potential competitor.

Most recently, this seems to have happened with AWS when they deployed the DynamoDC database and Simple Workflow Services. This is part of AWS' strategy to move to a more robust Platform as a Service model, some speculate, but it could also leave companies like MongoLab in a lurch should Amazon decide to position these new services directly against MongoLab.

This puts the partnership with Eucalyptus in a context that's more than just another grip-and-grin photo op for company CEOs to rhapsodize about synergy. It means that Eucalyptus is a "made" company. They are part of the AWS borgata now, and it is unlikely that AWS will suddenly change their APIs out from under Eucalyptus and damage the private-cloud stack provider.

As far as OpenStack is concerned, this is potentially a big problem, because one of the key differentiators they touted for their own IaaS offering was the notion that their APIs, unlike AWS APIs, were built on open standards and would keep customers from getting locked in to AWS and other less-than-open cloud providers. Note that the threat of lock in really hasn't changed, but the whole problem has become significantly more moot.

By making this deal with Eucalyptus, AWS is establishing itself as the de facto standard for cloud APIs. It is signaling to the world at large that it will be committed to keeping its APIs stable and relatively unchanged for the foreseeable future, because to make a radical shift at this point would be nuts. (My friend Joe Brockmeier has written up a great piece on this topic over at ReadWriteWeb.)

While both OpenStack and Eucalyptus each scored some positive news this week, OpenStack may have also taken a hit today. A new whitepaper from enterprise storage service provider Nasuni Corporation has portrayed parent company Rackspace as the worst data migrator between Rackspace Cloud Files, AWS's Simple Storage Service (S3), and Microsoft Window Azure storage.

The whitepaper measured how long it would take to move a large amount of data (12 TB) from one of these services to another, or within one of these services. For the five cases Nasuni measured, the estimated minimum hours to transfer the 12 TB dataset was:

  • Amazon S3 to Amazon S3: 4 hours
  • Amazon S3 to Azure: 40 hours
  • Amazon S3 to RackSpace: 115 hours
  • Azure to Amazon S3: 4 hours
  • Rackspace to Amazon S3: 5 hours

Now, to be clear, Rackspace Cloud Files is not the same as OpenStack's IaaS. But it's a storage service "built with OpenStack technology," so OpenStack gets hit by the Nasuni test anyway.

"As with Nasuni's Cloud Storage Report, Amazon once again ranks at the top of the list, a full 10 times better than the next best cloud storage provider. This speaks to Amazon's time in the market, architecture, operations, etc. Also not surprising from our previous report is that Azure is still in second place and Rackspace a more distant third place."

Like most bouts of unpleasant news, there may be a silver lining. Some in the open source and cloud communities are taking the news about the Amazon-Eucalyptus partnership as good news for the OpenStack project, seeing the positioning between AWS and Eucalyptus as a validation of what OpenStack is bringing to market: an open and disruptive cloud stack.

Whatever your take away, one thing is clear: the war for the cloud just climbed to a new flight level.

Read more of Brian Proffitt's Zettatag and Open for Discussion blogs and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Drop Brian a line or follow Brian on Twitter at @TheTechScribe. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

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