Cloud Stack Wars Bring Out The Agnostics In Us
Only a few short years ago, the media spent a lot of ink on stack wars. The thinking was that whoever locks down the cloud stack will conquer the elastic data center. The battles culminated in VMware’s billion-dollar Nicira acquisition in the summer of 2012, countered by Cisco through vCider and Cloupia acquisitions only a few months later.
Although the media never declared an end to the war, it stopped providing coverage sometime in 2013. There were probably not enough concrete developments to write about, so they simply lost interest. I suppose this is what Bill Gates meant when he said that people always overestimate the change that will occur in the next two years and underestimate the change that will happen in the next 10.
Having worked with cloud and managed service providers for the last couple of years, I think Mr. Gates hit the nail on the head. Although most service providers have been keen on cloud initiatives, there are not that many that would have thrown their whole weight at transitioning into a new paradigm. While I continue to be confident that the magnitude of this shift will go beyond most expectations, due to inertia it will take a tad longer than originally expected.
In my own experience, one of the key issues holding service providers back, is the (in)compatibility between their existing data center infrastructure and the various next generation solutions that would have to be implemented. Bearing in mind the expensive single-vendor experiences many service providers still remember from the 2000s, they would be damned to repeat that mistake again.
This is why waging a war on proprietary cloud stacks was never that clever. Given the painful customer experiences of the past, it was always a near certainty that there would ultimately be no winner. By the early 2010s, best-of-breed multivendor solutions were already something the customers had come to expect. With this, there was no way they would just hand over the keys of their data center to either Cisco or VMware and foot the bill.
To unleash the power of cloud and next generation data centers in earnest, I believe that the information technology industry must come to terms with this fundamental requirement. By being more vendor agnostic, we as an industry will open the gates to unforeseen technology advances and the ensuing prosperity allowing everyone in the ecosystem to thrive. What we need are both horizontal and vertical ties.
Lucky for us, there are already signs that this view is gaining general acceptance as select like-minded industry juggernauts such as IBM have made being vendor agnostic one of their core principles. While it remains to be seen how the cloud technology ecosystem turns out in the end, I am confident that those who master the ancient art of openness and collaboration will succeed.
Juha is the managing director of Nixu Software, the cloud application deployment company, an affiliate of Nixu. He joined Nixu in early 2000 and has since held various business and sales management positions. Before Nixu, Juha worked for Nokia Networks and financial services company Danske Bank in marketing and treasury positions.