Open Source Cloud Lifts Up Rackspace, but Weighs Down VMware

By | Aug 14, 2012

Open source cloud computing has quickly become a buzzword, even among the hype-laden world of virtual servers and the promises many providers are making about the cloud's agility and efficiency. Companies like Rackspace have embraced the notion of going open source, while others like VMware have struggled with the change. Now, Rackspace has gone so far as to rebrand itself with open source in mind, but VMware is facing yet another loss of a Cloud Foundry founder, Dave McCrory.

Rackspace, Rebranded

Cloud provider Rackspace has rebranded itself as "the open cloud company," according to an August 7, 2012, article at GigaOM. Its previous mantra, "fanatical support," remains unchanged, says CMO Suaad Sait, who views the rebranding as an extension of their current mandate rather than a replacement.

OpenStack has gained notoriety in recent months as the "Linux of the cloud" offering what many hope is a true open-cloud concept. NASA was Rackspace's first big OpenStack partner, and EBay has recently announced a move to OpenStack for some of their server needs. Sait feels that the IT market, or perception of the market, has changed significantly enough that a new logo and focus is necessary; Rackspace believes companies want choice when it comes to cloud computing, and will continue to offer on-premesis, private, hybrid, and public cloud options.

Despite the OpenStack's big strides, however, it isn't all smooth sailing. Citrix, once an OpenStack affiliate, has debuted its own competitor in the market, CloudStack, to compete with Rackspace. The company has also seen several programmers jump ship in recent months, and is now starting to compete head-on with Amazon and its AWS service.

Midsize IT admins shouldn't be surprised by the shift to open-source cloud computing; just as Linux is favored in most IT environments for its utility (in the right hands) so too are cloud providers finally getting on board with the idea that companies want to control their own clouds, rather than having them pre-packaged and delivered. The question for IT professionals isn't so much if the open cloud will impact the market, but who will come out on top.


Long considered a front-runner in the world of virtualization and then in cloud computing with the debut of its Cloud Foundry, VMware seemed untouchable; a company so far out in first others could only fight over second place. But despite heavy emphasis on its new cloud solution, a number of questions are being raised about the cloud-building platform's ability to compete with the big three—Google, Microsoft and Apple—and other open source developers like Rackspace.

As a recent Wired article reports, VMware is losing one of its Cloud Foundry evangelists, Dave McCrory, senior technical marketer for the platform and known for his coining of the term "data gravity," the idea that apps and services tend to gravitate toward massive data locations, and that too much data is difficult to move. This isn't the first loss for VMware; in April, lead developer Derek Collison left to launch a startup company and high-profile CEO Paul Martiz will soon be leaving for parent company EMC.

Part of the trouble for VMware is its uneasy relationship with cloud computing. Although it recently acquired open source network virtualization company Nicera for $1.26 billion last month, the company made its name on proprietary virtualization technology that didn't play well with others—the wholesale switch to open source seems somewhat out of character. Add to that the recent comments of VMware's director of cloud platforms, Matthew Lodge, who said in a recent TechWorld interview that the "openness" in a cloud is about "what you allow your customers to be able to do," not whether the code itself is open source. No surprise here; this doesn't jive with what most open source advocates view as the concept's core strength.

Right now, VMware is floundering while Rackspace seems poised to claim a significant chunk of the emerging open-source cloud market, but IT admins should be wary of throwing their hat entirely into the ring with any provider at this stage in the game. Even giants like Amazon have made serious missteps in recent months, and the uncharted nature of the cloud as open source means there's room for both fantastic success and dismal failure. Midsize IT professionals need to avoid lock-in, whether they go open source or not, and keep a close eye on big tech providers. What lifts one up may drag another down.

This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter.

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