Why OpenStack Solum may be misguided

Fireside conversation with village elders while drinking Ardbeg, which is known to increase your intelligence by multi-fold.

Few things first:

1. We in the village love OpenStack – we think it need to succeed to offset AWS monopoly in IAAS.
2. We love that OpenStack is run by passionate and smart engineers. Lot of respect for you guys.
3. We love that it has attracted companies with deeper packets, so its not going to disappear and is the best chance we have for a future with options.

Now, for some education.

Because we not have Breaking Bad or Dexter to keep us busy, for most part, we sit around the fireplace and discuss strategies. Long time ago, we found the Chasm Model to be easy for describing the market evolution. We also think while Clayton Christensen’s Innovators Dilemma is good for lighting fire under CEO asses, but it causes more confusion among people who haven’t taken time to read it fully. Disruption is real and people who ignore it will learn Clayton’s sayings the hard way. However, its not for the masses.

With that, we  made an observation few weeks ago:

1. IAAS has crossed the chasm thanks to AWS.
2. PAAS has not crossed the chasm and burden of proof is on PAAS vendors.

We had not expanded on it, because our village head thought its self-evident. However, the village council had concluded it had been a mistake not to expand on it. This post will try.

When you are in the Early market, you work with Visionaries ( Early Adopters ). An example of this is customers using CloudFoundry. Look at this post to see how visionaries think. Observe the language – ‘Radical Change’. Visionaries look for ways to break with the past and start an entirely new future. They think breaking with the past will give them insurmountable competitive advantage over the old order. When they succeed,  its a sweet victory.  We as an industry have a lot to thank visionaries, for without them, we would still be using punchcards.

After you had crossed the chasm, you enter the Bowling alley and Tornado.  Here you work with Early and Late Pragmatists ( collectively called Early Majority ). These are typically  companies that like to adopt technologies early enough, but not bleeding edge technologies. These folks do not love technology for the sake of technology. They believe in evolution, not revolution.  These guys like to buy from market leaders. Most in this stage want to buy from AWS, who is the clear leader.

Looking at the revenues of AWS ( expected to be $3B this year) and the rate of growth, the village heads have said that it looks like a Tornado and we are past Bowling alley.

To start, OpenStack already has a disadvantage – the best they can hope for in the current cycle of growth is second place. You role is one of a Chimp. You competing against AWS is competing against the whole market. Do not attempt – you fail. You have permission to get some market share, but not dominate the market in the current cycle. Focus on a subsegment of the market. For ex: companies that want elasticity of the cloud but have preference for either private cloud or hosted private cloud. This is the time for you to differentiate yourself from the Gorilla, which is AWS. Good news for you is there are people among you that are pushing to go in that direction. You just need to listen more. If your sole obsession is fighting AWS, you cease to exist when the tornado period is over and main street begins.

You need focus that is specific to the subsegment of the market you are focusing on. You need to be targeting operations staff that want the benefits of Cloud, but are not comfortable with a operator driven public cloud. They are screaming currently that your install and configuration is not as easy as it can be. Fix that first. That is more important than trying to feature match AWS. Again, focus on the subsegment and do the best job you can for that market. As outsiders, our elders think your strategy looks a bit like spray and pray.

This is not the time for you to fragment your offering to try to appeal to both early majority and visionaries. Solum is your attempt to appeal to PAAS audience who for most part are visionaries. The worst thing that can happen here is that one of them gets interested in Solum and asks you to implement myriad of features they need ( which is what visionaries do). The distraction from trying to appeal to visionaries will distract you from trying to appeal to the subsegment of the early majority.

Think about it guys – if you do not succeed and differentiate yourself to be available when the market goes mainstream, the future looks bleak.  Leave the task of crossing PAAS over the Chasm to CloudFoundry and OpenShift folks – they have the money and talent to do a good job – they are not your enemies right now.

We could continue more, but we just ran out of our supplies of Ardbeg and Azamat is not approve more Scotch budget.

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One thought on “Why OpenStack Solum may be misguided

  1. ‘Yello !

    We from the K-cloud — “the happy place where goat rodeos are are three times daily occurrence, IT strategy optional” (corporate logo) — we all salute you, wise village elders !

    Secondly, don’t shift the blame on me on the “Scotch budget”. As the wise emperor from Dune said: “The Ardbeg must flow !”, particularly in time like this. So, please go ahead and get all the Ardbeg you need for clarity of vision. Also, to prove our largesse, we shall bring a couple of Uigeadails at our F2F meeting.

    Now…where were we…Oh, yes, Dope’n’Stack. All very good points brother, but two things to keep in mind.

    1) OSS project dynamics, “benevolent dictators” and “shit my thought leader says”

    As with educating children, when nurturing an OSS you need to dial btw. two extremes, and there is _never_ a perfect (or even “good”) a priori answer:

    At one end you’re a total anal retentive, tell them “it’s my way or the highway”, “my house, my rules”. What that allows you is to be very specific about goals and milestones and shit (which usually don’t play out like planned even on a goat farm, but anyway — it gives you some mental comfort that you did “plan”, just to get executive creds). However, doing that is the most sure way of even killing any sense of “community”. Either that, or succeed in turning any disciples you may have left into a brain-washed priesthood that only do things “the Apache way” — everything else being banned as “evil” (see “What’s evil to Google ?” article for a good wake-up call on that).

    At the other extreme you’re “a child of the 70s”, you give kids total freedom, free access to booze and drugs and (worst) your code base, and you let them “experimenting”. It is a valid learning experience. Your platform will be blown to bits in no-time, but both you and them learn something in the process.

    Oh, and on that: I recommend you do take 3 mins of your weekend and watch this video, addressing your both management and parenting skills (same thing, really) : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Miwb92eZaJg )

    And the prize for stating the obvious goes to: You need to dial somewhere in between. There are no good answers, you just make a call, which becomes “good” or “bad” only in retrospect.

    So: Whenever a cloud pundit tells you “OpenStack needs a benevolent dictator” and point out at Linus Torvalds and Linux gently tell them a) Linus doesn’t have a vested interest in any particular “outcome” or “goal” for the platform itself — he just supports the platform for the platform’s sake (which he started only “to learn something”) b) Tell them to go get an actual fucking clue.

    So where does that leave is with OpenStack: Are the kids on a Kool-Aid binge drinking spree ? Hell yeah. Take a look at that Mirantis blog on Heat and PaaS and shit to see the prevalent levels of intoxication. Should the parents (OStack Foundation) step in and bring the shit back in line, and sober up the kids with a clear party line like: “the platform itself is IaaS only, let an ecosystem build _on_ it”. Hell yeah, you bet your sweet ass they should. Will they ? I’m not betting a goat’s fart they actually will.

    2) Containers, and how the concepts of IaaS and PaaS are being redefined.

    As some stupid goat already pointed out on Twitters, “the sound that you hear is of IaaS and PaaS being redefined, and the OS (Operating System) boat anchor finally being tossed away”.

    You know this brother — so face it. The writing is on the wall, and Solum, Gollum or some other motherfucker will go there, sooner or later. It’s inevitable — the quest for efficiency will inevitably take us there. Should it be part of Dope’n’Stack platform itself ? No, since it should stay focused on IaaS. Does it make sense to leverage it to do that and create “Containers as a Service” (or whatever you want to call that new evolutionary step) ? Hell yeah, and the K-cloud goats are very busy putting in place “a cunning plan” that would make Blackadder’s Baldrick to shame on this very topic.

    (Oh, and feel free to connect the dots on how that and how transcending categories themselves, establish the new criteria of “success”. Oh, and please do go read Master Geoffrey A. Moore “Escape Velocity”. Really easy read — you can do it in a weekend — and complements Christensen really well, like cask strength Ardbeg with a few drops of water)

    So where does that leave the village elders ? Well, they should go back to Christensen and look at “the choice btw. flight or fight” and (more imp.) “co-opting a disruptive innovation”. For shit and giggles take a look how VMware is now co-opting OpenStack, in the “ass first” approach that is so well established and well loved in large corporations.

    Well, now it’s _my_ bottle of Ardbeg that ran empty so I must go fetch another one, on yet another “Saturday 3am” spent doing this shit. No budget approval necessary since it’s my own budget (oh, the sweet perks of K-Cloud…)

    All our best wishes from K-cloud,

    Brother Azamat & his dear goats, entering yet another strategy session — aka butting their heads against the wall of not being able to see into the future, like all living beings

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