EMC, VMware and Atos' open cloud raises eyebrows

After EMC, VMware and Atos formed an alliance for open cloud computing, experts question the use of the term “open” when there’s nothing open about their services.

EMC Corp., VMware Inc. and Atos S.A joined forces to form an open cloud computing alliance earlier this week, but experts question the alliance’s “open” cloud promises.

According to the three vendors, the alliance’s cloud services will include “an open cloud platform that enables customers to easily and flexibly choose, access and deploy cloud-based services for their enterprise IT needs.” 

But experts aren’t convinced.

“One thing I'm irked by is the ‘open cloud’ nonsense here,” said Carl Brooks, analyst from The 451 Group. “There's nothing open about what they're selling except for the fact that customers [can] run their choice of application software on it,” he said.

“That's exactly as open as Amazon or Google is, that is to say, not at all,” Brooks added.

“There are definitely ways to go about constructing clouds that encourage and inform openness; limiting the platform to EMC/VMware ain't it.”

Constructing a cloud infrastructure such that users are more able to utilise open source software, open APIs and generally with an eye towards not limiting themselves on choice of hardware or hypervisor (ie, build the same thing on Dell or HP and with VMware or XEN, or both) then it can be called open, said Brooks.

Atos, the IT services company, will also create a new company Canopy that will provide cloud services based on EMC and VMware’s technologies. The cloud services “will be based on open [cloud] standards so clients can choose their preferred technology, whether to run the solution off- or on-premise and how to mix private, public and hybrid cloud solutions to meet their needs,” according to Atos’ press release.

“It is ‘open’ as long as you’re running VMware,” said Tony Lock, programme director at Freeform Dynamics Ltd., a research and analysis firm. “This is a classic case of being a little economical with truth.”

Meanwhile, more and more enterprises are looking to buy systems that will not lock them down, according to Freeform Dynamics’ research. “In the last two years, end users are looking for even more flexibility,” said Lock. “They want the ability to move systems around when they want to and where they want to. They want a broad range of multi-hypervisors so that they can adapt should the price ratio of some vendors change or should their own needs change.”

Which isn’t to say that there’s no room for the Atos offering, said Brooks. Large enterprises are in the process of transitioning their IT environments from the top down, and much of the transformation associated with cloud computing techniques includes offloading operations where possible. “…And that means IT services firms like Atos,” he said.

“EMC and other old-world tech giants have been laughing all the way to bank on vendor lock-in for decades now, but hardware commoditisation has broken that down. So [these vendors] are being forced to compete in gritty margins wars when they've gotten fat on premium pricing,” he explained.

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Cloud analyst Randy Bias, co-founder and chief executive officer at CloudScaling, said that open cloud requires a variety of things including open source systems. “EMC or VMware does not have this,” he said. “VMware and EMC are clearly trying to attract customers by associating themselves with this marketing terminology.”

“That’s not to say that VMware isn’t trying,” he continued. “It is definitely making inroads with Cloud Foundry. But, like we have had cloud washing, this [the alliance’s open cloud promises] now signals open cloud washing.”

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