The Cloud OS – PR fluff or emerging trend?

An analogy of Oracle's Cloud OS
Is it a boat? Is it a submarine? Its not a Cloud OS.

The idea of a Cloud Operating System isn’t new, however we are starting to see more and more chatter from various companies about what it is in what appears to be an emerging new trend in the Cloud Computing universe.

As Cloud companies compete any differentiator has the ability to create a massive swing to a product. Cloud companies are slaughtering each other globally with many running at a significant loss while they try and capture a market share.

This is great for the consumer at the moment, where we have low pricing and a reasonably mature market to access, if we are careful where we deploy our workloads, we can get a good service for a very reasonable price.

The latest emerging differentiator is something called the Cloud OS. Yes, its been around for a while, however we are seeing a sudden rise in interest in the media about it and some larger players aligning their product sets to the idea.

The idea is relatively simple.

In order to get into Cloud you’re going to need to standardise your services (think Intel vs Sparc or RHE vs HPUX), virtualise it with a standard product (say VMWare vs HPVSE), consolidate it (put it into a virtual managed environment), and then automate it (a good standard tool set). Then, you’re going to pick up those various workloads and their associate layers and port it to a Cloud Service Provider.

Now, all of that takes work and makes a complex environment challenging to transition to Cloud.

The idea of a Cloud OS is to provide a single view or layer, that encapsulates all those levels at once. A single, standard, virtual container, including the OS, that is wrapped in a single automated toolset.

The first provider to win this race provides an easier method of transitioning workloads to the Cloud while providing an easier method of managing Cloud workloads. A true Cloud OS would also be open, that meant that if Amazon was having a special on processor for the month, you could seamlessly port your workloads to them from Azure, or, you could stretch workloads across both services.

We’re starting to see the inception of it with Openstack.

“OpenStack is a cloud computing project to provide an infrastructure as a service (IaaS). It is free open source software released under the terms of the Apache License. The project is managed by the OpenStack Foundation, a non-profit corporate entity established in September 2012 to promote, protect and empower OpenStack software and its community.

But, like any great idea, the mega-corps are getting in on it with Microsoft attempting to sell of their Cloud offerings from Server through Azure as a “Cloud OS”. They’re calling it Cloud OS but then trying to tell us that their Cloud OS is actually a “vision” and when you get down to looking at what that actually means, it looks nothing like any vision of a Cloud OS.

“It’s a new day in IT. There are more applications, more devices, and now, more data than ever — all driven by the rise of cloud computing and the use of cloud services. With these technologies playing an ever present role in businesses, how can IT drive more efficiency and deliver new forms of value? Microsoft’s answer is the Cloud OS.”

Que happy happy faces gazing skyward from a Windows 7 green pasture watching panels sliding around in an Azure sky…

When you dig down into what Cloud OS is for Microsoft, its a pure marketing term to encapsulate a slew of products that are “Cloud ready”, for want of a better term. It’s almost like the old “SAN in a box” sales gimmick. It is not Cloud OS in the pure sense.

It’s worse though, going back a couple of years;

Oracle President Mark Hurd calls Solaris 11 “the first cloud OS,” and said things like, “With this OS: Game over.”

That didn’t happen. Oracle may say that it too has a Cloud OS, but there are some very real differences with the product set.

If you match Oracle Cloud OS against the pure Cloud OS, its about as un-Cloud like as you can get. Oracle is a proprietary product set that is delivered Software as a Service and sharing, openness, and playing with others nicely is not in their DNA. Once you’ve bought Oracle, you’d need a miracle to get out.

At least the Microsoft layer’s that make up their Cloud OS are open. Hypervisor for example works with most Cloud Services. Oracle are just making fools of themselves:

“To have your data center virtualize you don’t need any extra software, Solaris 11.1 got your back.”

It seems then that the latest burst of media activity is nothing more than PR fluff. Trundling along in the background is the development of various layers of tools and software that will allow a true Cloud OS at some point. But it’s not anywhere in the near term. The first titan to crack that will possibly win this round of the Cloud war.

It does highlight a lesson for those transitioning to Cloud though. Standardise. Standardise. Standardise. Anything proprietary is going to die or end up in a very expensive walled garden. If you stay maintstream then you’ll have a better chance at open portability and a move to Cloud OS in later years.



One comment

  1. All this cloud hosting stuff if just fine, its been working for about seven years now. What is missing is a nice standard way to make your software scale in the sorts of directions you are suggesting. I would wager that the majority of software doesn’t scale that well. They use SQL type data stores and are not designed to even approach movement to a NoSQL type data store. So what are these people supposed to do? Start from scratch? They are not going to, they are going to continue using the software they have invested big dollars in for another twenty years.

    There are still plenty of large scale systems out there running on Pick. I call bullshit on cloud and the corporate until the price of software as a service things like email and word processing come down to a reasonable level..

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