Blog Post

Why It’s Too Early to Call the Private-Cloud Fight

Despite a lot of speculation lately about who’s winning the private-cloud race and what companies might be on the way out, it’s far too early to call the game in anyone’s favor. Private-cloud adoption is picking up, but it’s nowhere near ubiquitous yet, and there’s plenty of time for everyone still standing to make the moves they need to in order to keep competing.

Is Eucalyptus Dead in the Water?

There was a great debate last week on GigaOM Pro about the state of Eucalyptus Systems and whether its days as a purveyor of private-cloud software are numbered. Our Infrastructure curator, Paul Miller, suggested in his Weekly Update (sub req’d) that, after a few previous setbacks, Ubuntu’s decision to forgo further Eucalyptus support in favor of OpenStack in future versions of the Ubuntu Enterprise Cloud Linux operating system might be the death knell for Eucalyptus Systems’ private-cloud software.

Eucalyptus CEO Marten Mickos responded, stating that his company has had more than 25,000 downloads clouds based on its free version, and that, from his perspective, it’s stronger than ever. He also mentioned a number of big-name customers presently running production clouds based on Eucalyptus.

So did Cloudera CEO Mike Olson, who noted that his company is a very happy Eucalyptus customer. This is in part because of its Amazon Web Services API compatibility, and in part because of the qualities of the product and support for paid enterprise version of the Eucalyptus software. Olson’s most poignant comment might have been that “it’s way too early to nominate a single winner among the cloud abstraction layers. We need more years of experience before that happens.”

I’ve been critical of Eucalyptus chances, too — even suggesting at one point (sub req’d) that an acquisition might be all that could save it — but I’m starting to come around to Mickos’s point of view. His statements about Eucalyptus’s prospects are, of course, self-serving, but there’s no denying the numbers. Even if a majority of those 25,000 downloads clouds never amounted to anything substantial, some certainly did and will in the future. Yesterday, it announced European social-gaming company Plinga as a customer. And having large, publicly referenceable customers puts Eucalyptus ahead of many other private-cloud startups. Further, the company has continued to add personnel and expand globally, which probably aren’t signs of impending doom.

It’s a Broad — and Young — Market

But this isn’t just a discussion about Eucalyptus, it’s a discussion about the expectations for private clouds, in general. OpenStack has a lot of believers — and for good reason — but with the exceptions of Rackspace (s rax) and Internap (s intp), there are no service providers that are known to be using the software for customer-facing services, and most private-cloud use cases appear only experimental at this point. As Mickos pointed out in his response to Miller’s analysis, Eucalyptus most commonly runs into VMware (s vmw),, Abiquo and CA (s ca) (with its 3Tera product, I presume) during customer engagements.

What this tells us is that, as Olson suggested, it’s too early to tell who (aside from VMware) will win in the private-cloud contest, even if some projects or companies have greater name recognition than do others. VMware is a household name and OpenStack is approaching that status, but, Abiquo and 3Tera are not. Yet, 3Tera was an early innovator in provisioning private clouds before CA bought it, is killing it with several very large customers under NDA, and even the relatively unknown Abiquo has a growing list of customers. Still under the radar, but not to be ignored, are startups such as Cloupia and Nimbula (which just became generally available in April), and large vendors with new cloud strategies, such as Red Hat (s rht), HP (s hpq) and Microsoft (s msft).

In fact, Nimbula Co-Founder and CEO Chris Pinkham insightfully mentioned to me during a recent conversation that the whole discussion about public clouds versus private clouds is just a debate over who owns the hardware. What customers really care about — or what they ultimately will really care about — he explained, is which product can best deliver a company’s services, regardless where the servers reside.

What he’s describing is the oft-mentioned but as of yet rarely implemented hybrid cloud. And despite some noteworthy efforts by pretty much everyone pitching private-cloud software, no one has this mastered yet. However, if you’ve looked at any cloud-adoption surveys lately, such as this one from the Open Group, you’ll find that hybrid clouds are all the rage among CIOs.

Yes, OpenStack has all the momentum right now, but it doesn’t obviate the need for other products, nor is it even a completed project. It’s a worthwhile exercise to handicap the private-cloud field, but with adoption still relatively low and looking to remain that way until enterprise-ready hybrid clouds become a reality, all we really have right now are actual customer wins and product roadmaps to determine who has the best chances. At this very-early point, a lot of products look promising, but there’s plenty of time for private-cloud pushers to distinguish themselves.

Image courtesy of Flickr user superwebdeveloper.

6 Responses to “Why It’s Too Early to Call the Private-Cloud Fight”

  1. Thanks Jim for pointing out the Forrester report and the results. Platform has been quietly building its capabilities as a private cloud management vendor with enterprise-scale customers. Platform is focusing on providing robust orchestration on top of a deep VMware integration but also openness for other hypervisors, external clouds, and physical capabilities. Winning the Forrester report should help with some of the cloud ecosystem awareness issues and address only being a highly successful ‘grid’ company. Forrester report is available here as well. If you want to learn more about Platform and Cloud, the plug link is

  2. Jim Fisher

    Derrick, have you seen the report Forrester published this week on private cloud vendors? They did a pretty thorough review of all the main players. Abiquo (who did surprisingly well) has it available for download Eucalyptus, Enomaly and others are keeping really quiet – they came LAST. Platform Computing was the clear winner. Who even knew they had a solution – they are a grid company, right? This is the third strike for Eucalyptus, NASA said the product was no good – Forrester confirms nothing has changed. Roll on OpenStack!

  3. Derrick, I’m somewhat puzzled by the way you compare Eucalyptus or CloudStack ( with OpenStack. We’re very excited about all three, but the two former have paying customers that run production workloads on their clouds while OpenStack doesn’t yet. With respect to hybrid cloud we can point to existing large scale customers that use both EC2 and a private cloud managed by RightScale in a hybrid use-case. See the Zynga zCloud for one example.
    In short: yes, all new technology like cloud computing will take a good number of years to fully mature but it’s use is ramping up rapidly; yes, OpenStack is very exciting and promising, but so are Eucalyptus and CloudStack and you can ramp them up today; no, hybrid clouds are not vapor-ware.

    • Derrick Harris


      I think I took that exact stance regarding OpenStack vs., Eucalytptus, etc.; sorry if it wasn’t clear. As for hybrid clouds, I know there are some cool products and use cases, including Zynga, but I think it’s fair to say that hybrid clouds have a ways to go, overall, especially if the goal is to attract large enterprises.