Why the OpenStack vs CloudStack debate is irrelevant

There has been a lot of hoopla around the announcement that Citrix will place CloudStack under the Apache umbrella, creating an effective competition to OpenStack. A lot of virtual ink was wasted on which one is more compatible with Amazon and other such issues (though, I must admit I enjoyed reading Randy Bias’ view). My point is quite simple: the debate is irrelevant, because what really will matter is what services the different stacks will enable, not how good IaaS managers they are (both are quite OK, by the way). The bulk of value will not be in public IaaS clouds – but rather in customized SaaS (and sometimes PaaS clouds) geared towards the needs of specific customer groups.

Why?

Using public IaaS is great when you want to quickly prototype something. Beyond that, if you want to run your production enterprise system on it, your operational cost savings will be close to none, as you will have to maintain your full IT department and your own life-cycle management processes. Guess what? Operational costs are actually higher than capital costs – so the real saving would come from offloading your complete IT department, not just converting your CAPEX on HW into OPEX. This is why public IaaS will have a limited utilization – its real use-case will be to enable software as a service offerings, that can generate real benefits for cloud users.

Raising the game to that level, the debate on which is better is essentially transformed into another question: which one will be able to gather the critical mass of vendor and user support to make it successful in the most unforeseen settings? The company I work for made a choice based on this principle, not based on compatibility with whichever other interface – and I strongly believe it’s the primary metric that will matter for most companies: this is why Linux is successful, while e.g. BSD is just a tiny niche player.

Beyond that, a bit of competition is always good 😉

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