In the IaaS gold rush, even Oracle faces tough odds

As cloud workloads look set to explode, traditional enterprise vendors are piling into the market -- without much real differentiation

Oracle is the latest enterprise vendor seeking to displace Amazon Web Services (and, to a lesser extent, Google and Microsoft) with its own IaaS offering.

The success of AWS caught a lot of enterprises -- and enterprise technology providers -- off guard. It's a long tradition for enterprise technology providers to run after the next shiny object: object database, distributed objects, web tools, and now IaaS. When a newcomer confirms the market, these providers believe they can swoop in and take a large share in the exploding field.

The opportunity is certainly there. Between 6 and 10 percent of enterprise workloads have moved to the IaaS cloud, and I figure the saturation point is between 50 and 65 percent. There are billions of cloud dollars up for grabs.

However, enterprises are unlikely to go with new providers, even if they are familiar names. The familiar brand may get IT to take a meeting, but at the end of the day, IT shops are conservative and usually stick with the established providers for a given space. That's AWS in the case of IaaS, followed by Google and Microsoft.

To move IT beyond the current cloud establishment, new providers -- even the big names -- must offer new and innovative approaches to IaaS that will appear "disruptive" and "game-changing." I don't see anything like that out there.

In fact, the enterprises I talk to are confused by what already seems like a set of interchangeable, generic offerings. Competitors are proposing to knock off AWS using AWS's strategies of five years ago. Enterprises are not responding well to this. In some cases, the catchup mentality of wannabe cloud vendors reinforces the choice of AWS or other established cloud providers.

In other cases, it's slowing down overall cloud adoption. That may be part of the traditional enterprise providers' strategy: Slowing the bleeding of their hardware and software sales by creating doubt as to whether to wait for the Oracles and so forth to catch up. 

At the end of the day, enterprises are looking for innovation, not a bunch of generic IaaS providers. To actually displace AWS, not simply create a temporary slowdown as enterprises assess the new entrants, new IaaS options must provide a better security or management solution, or they must offer another benefit that adds game-changing value to enterprises.   

Enterprises are not going to replace their cloud infrastructure with a one-provider-takes-all product set. Yes, there is room for other providers to join the IaaS mix, but only if they take an innovative path.

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