Can a New IaaS Cloud Really Compete?

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New cloud provider NephoScale announced its presence among IaaS providers earlier this week, touting itself as “an advanced cloud service for serious programmers.” However, as I explain in my weekly update at GigaOM Pro (subscription required), I’m afraid its message might fall upon deaf ears, as there’s little evidence the world is clamoring for another IaaS cloud.

For new entrants into the IaaS space, the biggest obstacle to getting attention is the sheer number of players operating within the United States. A nowhere near exhaustive list includes Amazon Web Services, Rackspace, Microsoft, GoGrid, Skytap, Linode, Slicehost, OpSource, Terremark, Bluelock, Savvis and AT&T. And many of these companies are already well respected, having developed strong reputations as cloud providers, MSPs or both. Several of these vendors — AWS, Rackspace and GoGrid, especially — have broad feature sets (whether developed internally or achieved through partnerships) enabling everything from hybrid dedicated-virtual clouds to running Hadoop applications.

APIs are an interesting point of comparison, too. In an interview with HPC in the Cloud, NephoScale Founder and CTO Telemachus Luu explained its CloudScript product in this way: “Leveraging NephoScale’s CloudScript, a user can deploy an entire datacenter configuration through a single API submission (JSON post).” Although this might be a technically unique API, part of luring developers is having the best community and the broadest support. Some already consider Amazon’s API a de facto standard, and the Rackspace-led OpenStack project is bringing in developers by the thousands. It will take a very impressive API and overall service to overtake this type of momentum.

Finally, there’s the question of whether IaaS clouds will even be the primary stomping grounds of skilled developers going forward. Conventional wisdom in the cloud community is that PaaS, which lets developers write applications without worrying about infrastructure-level concerns like servers and storage, is the future of cloud development. From newcomers like PHP Fog to established vendors like Red Hat, PaaS is attracting much attention and much investment, and the reason is its promises of disrupting application development.

I’m not arguing that Nephoscale — or any new IaaS provider trying to compete on a large scale — can’t succeed, just that it will be very difficult to do so. With on-demand VMs being all but a commodity at this point (see Enomaly’s SpotCloud, for an example of this proposition), features are what set cloud providers apart — and the existing pool has had years to build them and have plenty of money to build or buy more. New IaaS providers need to grow up fast or go PaaS.

Read the entire post here.

Image courtesy of Flickr user shawnzrossi.

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