Eucalyptus CEO, acknowledging some tough going, claims cloud turnaround

Structure 2011: Marten Mickos – CEO, Eucalyptus Systems

It’s not unusual for the CEO of a company to crow about its performance. It is sort of striking when, in the process of doing so, that CEO admits to big problems in the past. More typically this sort of thing runs along the lines of “we were fabulous before, but now we are even more fabulous — and faster and cheaper too. Also better looking!” You get the gist.

So that’s why this blog post from Eucalyptus CEO Mårten Mickos piqued my interest. To be sure, the post is optimistic — “Eucalyptus is doing great; it has big customers; its AWS-compatible private cloud story resonates” etc., etc. But he also admits to some big miscues, albeit they’re in the rearview mirror. He wrote:

Though things were incredibly sunny back in 2009 when Eucalyptus was the only viable private cloud platform in the market, it quickly turned cloudy. In 2010 a tsunami of OpenStack, CloudStack and vCloud Director hit us. We were entirely unprepared, and we hadn’t brought our own product to a level that could meet the growing needs of the market.

Many reporters like Mickos because when asked a question he often actually says something interesting, not always politic, and takes the consequences. So I followed up to try to gain more details of the claimed turnaround. He would not provide revenue numbers — private company and all — nor big reference account names other than the “company-wide F-secure deal” announced earlier in the week. Nokia’s use of Eucalyptus has also been widely reported.

The company also closed a “sizeable deal” with a big, unnamed OpenStack member, he said, adding that there are many big, active opportunities and current customers “are expanding again.”

Eucalyptus has seen some major shifts at the top. In early 2013, Co-Founder Rich Wolski stepped down as CTO to return to teaching at UCSB and top sales guy Said Ziouani also left, moving on to head AnsibleWorks as CEO.

But at the time Mickos shrugged off those exits, noting that Wolski remains on the board.

His story remains that Eucalyptus may be small but it’s focused and that focus is starting to pay off.

“We are not the biggest vendor but we are the most efficient one,” Mickos said via email. That’s a sentiment he’s expressed before, notably at Structure 2014 when he said: “If you have too much money, you buy VMware. If you have too much time, you buy OpenStack.”

OpenStack rapprochement

But even then Mickos’ stance towards OpenStack had softened — he talked about peaceful coexistence with OpenStack and CloudStack. And in a month or so, he will even keynote at an OpenStack event. Maybe this is a realization that there is plenty of cloud work to go around and the need for interoperable clouds overrides any vendor-specific concerns.

And while Eucalyptus pledges API-compatibility with Amazon Web Services, he has been open about supporting other public cloud APIs as soon as they hit critical mass — which he defines as 30 percent market share.

He also admitted in response to a question that Amazon API compatibility didn’t buy Eucalyptus much early on. “Clearly in the past years, it didn’t produce great business for us. But now the tune has changed. More and more customers come to us *exactly* for the AWS compatibility. Finally that bet is starting to pay off.” (Emphasis is his.)

The devil’s in the details, so we’ll be watching for more evidence of this progress. I’m still not convinced the world needs a dozen or more flavors of OpenStack  — some of which offer some degree of AWS compatibility — plus CloudStack plus Eucalyptus. But it’s always a good discussion.

Plus writing about Mickos gives me a chance to use the best Structure screen grab ever:

Rival open-source cloud players Marten Mickos, Chris Kemp, Sameer Dholakia hug it out at Structure 2012.

Rival open-source cloud players Marten Mickos, Chris Kemp, Sameer Dholakia hug it out after a contentious panel at Structure 2012.

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