War of the Stacks: OpenStack vs. CloudStack vs. vCloud vs. Amazon EC2

Oct 14, 2013 2:25:19 PM

When it comes to cloud technologies, discussions often get passionate or even heated. It’s all about the “war of the stacks”, where much Cool Aid is dispensed to get customers to buy into the respective cult. This discussion reminds me of the old days of enterprise IT, where everything was about technology instead of business value. You either bought one thing or the other and then you were locked in for a half decade. Dark times.

Today, the game is a different one. “It’s all about the app” is the mantra repeated by all major and minor vendors. This means, that pushing the entire technology stack on the helpless customer is not the solution.  The successful vendor doesn’t simply understand this very basic truth, but incorporates it as an addition to the “it’s all about the app” mantra into its corporate strategy. Customers truly benefit when their software vendor offers solutions that are open, portable and interoperable, without –explicitly or implicitly– trying to convince them to rip & replace existing systems.

And this is the crux. The vendor with the most open and customer centric strategy will ultimately be successful. Vendors that are burdened with legacy baggage and therefore feel the need to keep aggressively ousting their competitors, instead of offering solutions that play nicely within the existing customer environment, will ultimately wither. Customers more and more understand that there cannot and should not be one winner in the “war of the stacks”. In fact, it shouldn’t even be a war. Each one of these stacks has vastly different characteristics in terms of cost, compliance, security, resiliency, performance and application support. This means that ideally enterprise IT will ultimately act as a service broker, offering business units the optimal cloud infrastructure for each individual workload.

Here’s a quick comparison chart that shows that there is a place for each of the current competitors. To illustrate my point that each platform has its unique target use cases, I have limited this chart to 3 advantages and 3 downsides each.

Advantages Downsides
VMware vCloud -Battle tested 

-Comprehensive feature set

-Widest support amongst app vendors


-Lacks interoperability

-Lacks integration

OpenStack -Free 

-Large community

-Wide integration with storage, network and compute technologies

-Lacks enterprise features 

-Difficult to deploy and configure

-Lacks interoperability

CloudStack -Free 

-Supported by Citrix and friends

-Battle tested and scalable

-Smaller community 

-Fewer server, network and storage devices supported

-Less flexibility

Amazon EC2 -Cheap for some workloads 

-Rapid deployment

-Infinite scalability

-Expensive for some workloads 

-Limited control

-Compliance concerns

None of these platforms will go anywhere anytime soon. One of them may ultimately take a larger market share than the others. However, this race is only just beginning. All the talk about current market share is very much a moot point, as customers are only now getting their bearings and as production deployments of each of these stacks are still rare. The fact that OpenStack is the topic du jour for us analysts and journalists, as well as many major vendors should not be taken as an indication for who will ultimately be successful. In the end, it is safe to say, there will be a world of many clouds.

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Torsten Volk

Written by Torsten Volk

With over 15 years of enterprise IT experience, including a two-and-a-half-year stint leading ASG Technologies' cloud business unit, Torsten returns to EMA to help end users and vendors leverage the opportunities presented by today's hybrid cloud and software-defined infrastructure environments in combination with advanced machine learning. Torsten specializes in topics that lead the way from hybrid cloud and the software-defined data center (SDDC) toward a business-defined concept of enterprise IT. Torsten spearheads research projects on hybrid cloud and machine learning combined with an application- and service-centric approach to hyperconverged infrastructure, capacity planning, intelligent workload placement, public cloud, open source frameworks, containers and hyperscale computing.

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