Dan's Take

All Aboard the OpenStack Train

Everyone, including suppliers, wants a part of OpenStack. But are their motives pure?

Much of the time, when I hear a major supplier of hardware, software or professional services announce that they're now a member of a group behind a major trend like cloud computing, I'll go back and search for other times that supplier has committed its heart and soul to another similar project. It's soon apparent that suppliers are quick to make what Mary Poppins calls "piecrust promises" -- easily made, easily broken.

The suppliers make a grand entrance to the group with much fanfare and their executives standing on the same stage with the founders of that group. But if things don't go as those suppliers hoped, they may quietly walk away from that promise in the future.

Beyond the 'Common Good'
Suppliers don't invest their time, resources and money into every passing trend unless they see some benefit in that investment. So, while they can get some good public attention by getting behind some technology or an open source movement, they typically aren't doing it based upon altruism.

Their actions are self-serving and designed to increase their market share, their penetration in some market, or to influence partners and customers to base their IT solutions on their products and services.

For example, one supplier might join a group only to make sure that their systems or software works with the technology offered by that group. They may do nothing to improve the overall capabilities or quality of the group's technology.

The OpenStack Example
If we examine one major trend, the growing use of the OpenStack cloud framework, we see that 19,382 people have become members of the foundation and that covers over 140 countries. A long list of suppliers including companies such as AT&T, Cisco, Dell, Hitachi, HP, IBM, Intel, Nebula, NetApp, RackSpace, Red Hat, SUSE, Ubuntu, VMware and quite a few more have stepped up and publically joined the OpenStack foundation.

If we look closely at the members, we will also find that many of them are also aligned with CloudStack, Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Eucalyptus. A few have their own cloud stack. Will those suppliers lead with OpenStack? I have some doubts.

Dan's Take
Suppliers want to be, in the words of Robert Heinlein, the bride at every wedding and the corpse at every funeral. They want to always be in the hearts and minds of their customer base and be seen as a good solution to just about every IT problem. One way to do this is to be seen as an important member of just about every movement or trend.

Joining a popular group brings them a great deal of good press without the supplier being forced to make a huge investment. This move alone could be the final straw that convinces some IT decision makers that the supplier's products and services, which might be in direct competition with the technology promulgated by these groups, should be considered.

Joining the popular group has a couple of other advantages as well. It brings them in contact with potential partners that can be of help introducing the company's products and services to a new market. It brings them into contact with talented engineers, marketing people and top management that might be persuaded to join their staff. It also brings them into contact with acquisition targets.

Suppliers often have to balance cost, time to market and time to profit with their available expertise and resources. Purchasing a company to get its products, its engineering or sales talent, or just its customer base might be a much better use of the supplier's limited resources than building a solution from the ground up.

In the case of OpenStack, some suppliers will actually propose their own technology first and when a potential customer asks for OpenStack, the response will be "Oh, I didn't realize you wanted OpenStack." Other times, the potential customer will simply go along and deploy the supplier's proprietary approach and go away happy.

About the Author

Daniel Kusnetzky, a reformed software engineer and product manager, founded Kusnetzky Group LLC in 2006. He's literally written the book on virtualization and often comments on cloud computing, mobility and systems software. He has been a business unit manager at a hardware company and head of corporate marketing and strategy at a software company.

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