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Server Heavyweights Splashing the Cash in Scooping Up Smaller Cloud Players

Rounds of consolidation happen with bewildering speed in many industries: one major player makes an acquisition, and the other large players then rush to splash the cash to avoid being left empty handed.

Even so, what's been going on in the world of server virtualization and public and private clouds over the last month or two has left many observers' heads reeling. Virtually Speaking (If we're going to be quite honest, the server virtualization technology sector itself is pretty mature, and it's in the public and private cloud arena that the big guns are now making purchases and jockeying for position.)

What started the current round of (panic?) buying was HP making a grab for Eucalyptus Systems. If you've not come across Eucalyptus before then suffice it to say that it's a five-year-old open-source company that pushes software for building Amazon Web Services-compatible private and hybrid cloud computing environments.

What's the rationale for the purchase? It seems that HP wants to get involved with AWS in some way — perhaps by using Eucalyptus to provide a bridge between AWS and its own OpenStack-based Helion cloud platform launched in May of this year.

So that's one man down.

The next to go was California-based Metacloud, which was snapped up days later by networking giant Cisco Systems. Metacloud offers OpenStack private clouds as a service. According to Hilton Romanski, senior vice president for Cisco corporate development, the rationale for the deal was helping customers on a "seamless journey to a new world of many clouds, providing choice, flexibility, and data governance."

So that's two men down — both with a link to OpenStack and cloud mobility.

VMware Joins the Acquisition Fray

Then last month EMC, sever virtualization giant VMware's parent company (for now), put its hand in its pocket and forked out what's thought to be a sub-$50 million sum for Cloudscaling, a California-based company that sells Open Cloud System software. The product manages OpenStack clouds, and also allows OpenStack clouds to connect to AWS and Google Cloud platform.

Why the acquisition? "To further extend our breadth of cloud platform support, including VMware and others," is how EMC spokesman Dave Farmer explained the deal.

What all these deals have in common is that they allow the industry big boys to acquire smaller fry that have experience linking OpenStack to other clouds.

But what's not so obvious is what EMC – or its VMware subsidiary – wants with a company that connects OpenStack to other clouds, but not to VMware's clouds.

It may be that that is the key: EMC wants to ensure that VMWare clouds can link to other clouds, or that its software can better manage OpenStack clouds as well as its own (VMware-based) clouds.

That would make sense as some customers — PayPal is a notable example — use VMware infrastructure but also run their own private clouds using OpenStack software. VMware has made efforts to ensure its NSX software-defined networking works with OpenStack, so we shouldn't be surprised if it is willing to splash out a (fairly small) amount of cash to help it cope with the competition it is seeing from OpenStack.

So what this may ultimately be is more evidence that OpenStack is a force to be reckoned with. Just as Microsoft has accepted open source software and is beginning to factor it in to its product strategy, VMware recognizes that the existence of OpenStack is a fact of life, and is taking steps to shape its product strategy accordingly.

Paul Rubens is a technology journalist and contributor to ServerWatch, EnterpriseNetworkingPlanet and EnterpriseMobileToday. He has also covered technology for international newspapers and magazines including The Economist and The Financial Times since 1991.

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This article was originally published on December 23, 2014
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