One certainty in all this cloud confusion: the fight is on

We’re at an interesting juncture in the cloud computing era. Amazon(s amzn) Web Services, which has had public cloud pretty much to itself since it launched the category in 2006, now faces an array of contenders. Yes they’re late to the party so yes they’re (much) smaller. But yes many have credible offerings, especially for companies that are bigger and older than startups and have at least a grasp of their workload size and variability.

And that means we’ll see more of this kind of thing — VMware’s response to the Amazon TCO calculator. (TCO stands for total cost of ownership.) One of VMware’s points is that Amazon’s basis for comparison is skewed against companies with on-premises deployment. Then it trots out its own TCO comparison showing (spoiler alert) that it costs less to run 100 virtual machines for 4 years in a VMware shop than with AWS.

This spat comes a few weeks after Amazon launched a console to help VMware admins manage workloads in Amazon’s cloud; VMware responded with a blog post warning customers not to lock themselves into  Amazon’s cloud. For the record, VMware is backing its vCloud Hybrid Services as an enterprise-friendly “hybrid” alternative to Amazon’s public cloud.

To state the obvious, anyone who takes a vendor’s word on a price or performance comparison with a competitor should have her head examined. As a software analyst at one of the big research firms told me years ago, you can cut numbers to show anything you want. So if cost comparisons are critical, find yourself someone who at least can profess neutrality and then take even those findings with a grain of salt. But we’ll have Amazon CTO Werner Vogels and VMware’s SVP Bill Fathers at Structure this week to make their respective cloud cases.

And there will also be cloud consumers there who will address the question of what deployment model is cheaper for a given workload — public cloud, private cloud, bare metal running at a colocation site. That query often devolves into a religious issue with all the passion that can entail. Asked why tempers are flaring, a top exec of a networking company said it’s because the stakes are so very high. “This is the largest transfer of absolute value that’s ever occurred,” he said. And the expectation is that some very big legacy IT players won’t negotiate the shift successfully.

Deployment choice will also be front and center at the show where David Mytton, CEO of Server Density; Stephen Felisan, VP of engineering and operations at; and Anthony Skinner, CTO of Moz will discuss their preference.

What else to expect at Structure 2014

For more on what to expect at the show, check out last week’s Structure Show podcast.


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