The same question was posed repeatedly at last month's HostingCon 2009. The cloud is the future. How is your hosting company going to adapt?
One possible answer was unveiled Tuesday at VMWorld 2009 in San Francisco, as VMware announced vCloud Express, which allows its service provider partners to create a cloud computing platform with pricing and functionality similar to Amazon Web Services. Five hosting companies rolled out vCloud Express yesterday, including Terremark, Hosting.com, Logica, Melbourne IT and Bluelock. WMware said it is working with additional partners on deploying vCloud Express.
The Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) offering is being positioned as a cheap and easy on-ramp to the cloud for customers who may later migrate to VMware-based enterprise cloud offerings. But VMware is also seeking to build a large ecosystem of cloud services and partners atop its technology, just as Microsoft, Google and Amazon are doing the same.
A key feature of vCloud is its portability, including an application programming interface (API) that allows "cloud brokers" like RightScale to migrate applications between vCloud Express partners or an in-house data center.
An API is a set of guidelines that provide developers with the information needed to write applications atop an operating system or service. A number of cloud computing providers have published APIs in hopes of advancing a standard for migrating data and appliations between different platforms. That group includes Amazon, as well as Rackspace, GoGrid and others.
Burton Group analyst Drue Reeves sees the API as where the battle for cloud supremacy may be won. "The real key is VMware's army of vCloud partners," Drue writes. "The more cloud vendors that adopt the API (say Terremark, Verizon, etc) the more pressure they place on non-compliant vendors to adopt the API. In this way, VMware could flip the tables on Amazon, making the EC2 API look proprietary."
The first batch of vCloud Express partners have experience with managed hosting. Will this be widley adopted by VMware partners in other areas of the hosting ecosystem? It remains to be seen, but the release of vCloud Express continues the wild scrum for mind share and market share in the emerging cloud computing industry.