Open standards face an uphill climb in the cloud

Despite initial enthusiasm for open technologies, enterprises are favoring proprietary big-name cloud providers

Something is missing in the ocean of press releases that comes out of the growing cloud computing market: a focus on open cloud standards.

When it comes to cloud standards, enterprises voted with their dollars. Most have focused more on Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, and Google offerings than on standards such as OpenStack and CloudStack. Of course, AWS, Microsoft, and Google are cloud services providers, whereas open standards are enabling technologies. 

There are certainly open aspects in public cloud service providers' offerings, such as Docker. Google has done the best job of making sure the better open standards are represented in its stack.

But vendors that have built their public and private cloud offerings around a standard (usually OpenStack) have not been on the short list of cloud technology providers for most enterprises. In fact, most vendors that pledged allegiance to open standards years ago — including IBM, Hewlett-Packard, and Rackspace — have been largely overlooked by enterprises, which are mostly instead choosing AWS, Azure, and Google.

This move to proprietary platforms by enterprises is a big change from three years ago, when there was a lot of excitement around cloud standards. I believe enterprises have shifted gears for three core reasons:

  • The biggest number of capabilities resides in the large cloud services like AWS. Enterprises simply go where the capabilities are ready to go.
  • The total cost of using name-brand cloud providers is typically much lower for most enterprise workloads, so many enterprises simply follow the savings.
  • There's concern that some open standards will fade, so any investments in products using them will be lost — along with your job, if you chose them. CloudStack is a great example of a standard whose longevity concerns enterprises.

This trend does not spell the end of open cloud standards. We’ll see many instances of database, container, language, and other standards used in the popular public clouds. But the "open" label does not drive as many decisions as we thought it would three years ago.

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