Earlier this week one of the companies we compete with in the small hosting market launched an updated version of its product. One particular article on the new version mentioned Flexiant which of course, I think is great as we had a spike in website and download traffic. David Meyer at GigaOm wrote:

Flexiant 3 Reasons Cloud Management, image provided by Slipshod Photog

Speaking of those other platforms, it sounds like OnApp might soon follow local rival Flexiant into embracing the OpenStack cloud (and others). Bredahl hinted that the next release would “bring in third-party providers” under the unified UI’s management capabilities, so service providers can “deploy on all platforms and move workloads around … like RightScale should have been.” Them’s fighting words.

It got me thinking about competition in the cloud management market. Competition exists in every field and is a healthy component of any valid market. It drives us to be better and accelerates innovation. But is there enough competition in the cloud management market? Is it helping drive innovation for service providers?

Consider OpenStack. Is it truly helping to drive innovation or is it holding back the broader market adoption? If you consider what happens in a proprietary world, the IBM’s, HP’s, Dell’s would all be pushing their own products, spending marketing dollars educating the market and encouraging sales teams to fiercely compete against each other. While this may have well articulated drawbacks, it had the full commercial might of these companies behind the product, sales and marketing to rapidly build competitive differentiators. But, with OpenStack, are they all being too cosy? Are there too many group hugs, too much focus on the technology and not enough good old fashioned commercial competition trying to push the boundaries? Are they all trying to land grab for space within the community forgetting that commercial traction will ultimately decide any technologies long term future, not the features and functions included.

As software suppliers, we are all in a battle to serve the market. But with the OpenStack and few cloud management organizations truly battling it out, I wonder if the service provider is really getting the benefits it needs?

There are three main reasons why competition is good for the service provider market:

  • Innovation – service providers must stay ahead of enterprise organizations to demonstrate value. If for example an enterprise already has the ability to deploy applications, why would they turn to a service provider for that value? As cloud management vendors compete, the drive to innovate and provide this to service providers is a win-win.  Just look at Amazon AWS.
  • Understand the Market – To create cloud management products that can truly make an impact on the business, vendors must have deep understanding of the industry. What are the needs of service providers? How do they sell? What is the model? How can they generate new revenue? Competition creates this drive to fully understand the market. Trying to shoe horn enterprise products and pricing into this market will ultimately end in failure.
  • Complacency or Slow Progress – As we might be seeing with OpenStack, without vigorous competition, the move forward doesn’t happen as fast as we need it to. The more competition we have then the faster the innovation will occur. Service providers are traditionally much more entrepreneurial organizations and need pace of change to enable their business to be more agile and nimble. So if the products and services do not keep pace, the service provider will be left in the dust.

At Flexiant, I think our innovative product heritage, competitive DNA and focus purely on the service provider to arm them with the products to compete is offering this market what they need to be more profitable. For the Openstack community, we will bring some real expertise, product differentiation and be very comfortable in competing commercially in the battlefield of cloud management and orchestration.

What do you think?


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