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Gartner has its head in the clouds - and its numbers are WRONG

Less is more

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Open ... and Shut Gartner analyst Frank Ridder recently opined that "the number of cloud offering[s] is not at all at a satisfactory level today."

He made this assertion after canvassing a number of IT users at two Gartner summits. Unfortunately, he may have missed the message these users were sending him. It's not that we need more cloud offerings. Arguably, we already have more than any buyer can reasonably evaluate. Instead of more cloud vendors, we need better cloud vendors.

Not that every cloud vendor is selling shoddy solutions. In fact, I'd argue that very few are given the state of cloud computing today. In other words, given the somewhat nebulous market today, it's not surprising that many cloud offerings are similarly nebulous in their feature sets and quality. If we don't know exactly what we want the technology to do, how do we reasonably evaluate whether it's doing a good job or not?

Indeed, in a recent survey of Zenoss users, the company found that 38.4 per cent of respondents are held back from using an open-source cloud because of a lack of maturity in existing offerings.

Adding another 100 (similarly immature) offerings isn't going to solve that. Instead, we need existing offerings to mature and better define what it is that they do. Slapping labels on technology willy-nilly as we have - PaaS, IaaS, DaaS, BSaaS (I made that one up) - it's no wonder that customers suspect they need something other than what's already out there, as they have no idea what current solutions actually do.

And yet... the sad-to-indifferent expressions on Gartner's clients, suggest the need for more:

As mentioned above, I doubt this is truly a matter of dissatisfaction with the number of cloud offerings. It's almost certainly reflective of a problem with the positioning and maturity of existing offerings and, indeed, of cloud computing itself.

Throwing more options at people doesn't really solve the problem, as cartoonist Tom Fishburne illustrates.

Take OpenStack, for example. It has been criticised for marketing beyond its abilities. As Gartner analyst Lydia Leong posits: "Vendor marketing is leading IT managers to believe that OpenStack is a stable, mature platform ready for widespread adoption, when it is an early-stage project with code stability challenges and a minimalistic feature set." True? Perhaps.

It's certainly true that OpenStack has generated outsized expectations, many of which at a technology level it is still ill-equipped to handle. But it's also true that it has amassed an impressive community that, I believe, will help it to iron out technical deficiencies. I'm particularly bullish on OpenStack ever since Red Hat got involved in earnest. If Red Hat can replicate its success with the Linux kernel at OpenStack, then OpenStack will become a true, mission-critical cloud platform that gives Amazon Web Services a serious run for its money.

Do buyers need 10 more OpenStacks? No. IT buyers instead need OpenStack to become a robust cloud platform. Instead of wishing for more offerings, they should consider doing what early adopters of Linux did: get involved and contribute code and expertise to the community.

Perhaps that's the lesson for IT buyers: with the cloud being built on open source, the best way to direct one's future is to help create it by participating in open-source communities, rather than sitting around dreaming about thousands more. We don't have a problem with the number of cloud offerings on display. We have a problem making the existing offerings as robust and full-featured as IT buyers need. But there's a cure for this: it's called open source participation. ®

Matt Asay is senior vice president of business development at Nodeable, offering systems management for managing and analysing cloud-based data. He was formerly SVP of biz dev at HTML5 start-up Strobe and chief operating officer of Ubuntu commercial operation Canonical. With more than a decade spent in open source, Asay served as Alfresco's general manager for the Americas and vice president of business development, and he helped put Novell on its open source track. Asay is an emeritus board member of the Open Source Initiative (OSI). His column, Open...and Shut, appears three times a week on The Register.

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