November 3, 2010

Of Hype and Hypervisors: Abiquo CEO Talks Enterprise Cloud Management

Nicole Hemsoth

As I strolled through the vendor rows at Cloud Expo yesterday I noticed a little basket of buttons being given away by a particular vendor that had the words “Vendor Lock-In” with a red line crossing through it. Yes, vendor lock-in is bad but I knew I couldn’t wear such a pin outside of a cloud computing conference without getting some questions…

Although I passed on the free accessories, I did stop for a moment to talk with the button purveyors, a company called Abiquo, an enterprise cloud management software provider. The company’s vision statement involves envisioning “a future where private and public clouds are fully interoperable and vendor neutral” and they claim to “embrace an open source model where both community users and commercial organizations can fully benefit from the cloud revolution.”

According to Gartner’s Hype Cycle for Cloud Computing that was released this summer, cloud management platforms are very beneficial for users but are still considered an emerging market with a penetration of “less than 1% of the target audience.” As Abiquo recently stated, “The widely acknowledged potential of this sector is leading to a raft of vendors attempting to rapidly adapt existing products or launching unsophisticated new ones, and then making overstated claims of their apparent success in order to lure customers.

Below is a snippet of my conversation with Abiquo’s CEO, Pete Malcolm about cloud hype, what it means to be hypervisor agnostic, and a few other items of interest.

Pete Malcolm, CEO of Abiquo stated, “the cloud management market continues to suffer from over-hyped claims. Potential customers need to understand that claiming large numbers of downloads, proof of concept engagements or installations of free software does not equate to proven technology or demonstrate real traction in the market.”

Then Pete Malcom went on to talk to me at length (off camera) about all of their successful proof of concept projects, stating that they are outside of the hype and are delivering real solutions. As you can imagine, however, at a cloud conference that is targeting smaller enterprises and is crowded with viciously competing products and solutions, this type of “we are different because we’re not swept up in the hype” approach is not new.

What I need are case studies. And actually, what potential users of the cloud are case studies as well, if for no other reason than the put what they’re providing in context. After all, for a company tenuously investigating cloud computing what would a marketing pitch that went like, “transform the management of virtualized environments with a complete, easy to implement solution. Hypervisor agnostic, and standards-based, Abiquo eliminates vendor lock-in while empowering users” mean?

In other words, part of the reason why cloud management companies might be having a difficult time doing big business, at least according to Garter’s view of the low market penetration, is because the value of cloud management tools is not being communicated clear enough; the problems it solves are not being addressed for those in the cloud investigation stage—and this is because nothing can put cloud management services in context quite like a few good old fashioned case studies.

In releasing some case studies, such as the BlueFire and Dimension Data example, Abiquo is making it clear how customers use and find value in cloud management tools. But this is a nebulous space for new users, including a few I talked to off the record who were sent by their small company to come “figure out what the cloud thing was about and if it could save them money somehow.” Once I started into a conversation with these guys, I quickly noticed that they were asking me what cloud management services are—what they do.

That should be a wake-up call to smaller cloud management vendors; how can you communicate your value in a way that is clear and doesn’t go over the heads of your potential users?

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