VMWare – A Cautionary Tale for Docker?

Of course VMWare has made a ton of money over the last ~12 years. They won every battle in ‘The Hypervisor Wars‘.  Now, at the turn of 2015 it looks to me like they’ve lost the wars themselves.

What? Am I crazy? VMWare has made stockholders a TON of money over the years. There’s certainly no denying that. They also have a stable, robust core product. So how did they lose? They lost because there’s not a war to fight anymore.

Virtualization has become a commodity. The workflows and business processes surrounding virtualization is where VMWare has spent the lion’s share of their R&D budgets on over the years. And now that is the least important part of virtualization. With kvm being the default hypervisor for OpenStack, those workflows have been abstracted higher up the Operations tool chain. Sure there will always be profit margins in commodities like virtualization. But the sizzle is gone. And in IT today, if your company doesn’t have sizzle, you’re a target for the wolves.

Of course docker and VMWare are very different companies. Docker, inc. has released its code as an open source project for ages. They also have an incredibly engaged (if not always listened to) community around it. They had a the genius idea, not of containers, but of making containers easily portable between systems. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime idea, and it is revolutionizing how we create and deliver software.

But as an idea, there isn’t a ton of money in it.  Sure Docker got a ton of VC to go out and build a business around this idea. But where are they building that business?

I’m not saying these aren’t good products. Most of them have value. But they are all business process improvements for their original idea (docker-style containers).

VMWare had a good (some would call great) run by wrapping business process improvements around their take on a hypervisor. Unfortunately they now find themselves trying to play catch-up as they shoehorn new ideas like IaaS and Containers into their suddenly antiquated business model.

I don’t have an answer here, because I’m no closer to internal Docker, Inc. strategy meetings than I am Mars. But I do wonder if they are working on their next great idea, or if they are focused on taking a great idea and making a decent business around it. It has proven to be pennywise for them. But will it be pound-foolish? VMWare may have some interesting insights on that.


I don’t hate the word cloud anymore, maybe

Since it hit the scene in earnest a few years ago, I’ve despised the word ‘cloud’ in the context of what I do for a living. I’ve warned people prior to using it in presentations, proclaimed my joy for having not used the word and bashed it most every time it was mentioned.  I’m here to say that my position on ‘the cloud’ has matured now. I don’t hate the word. But I do hate how most people in the world are defining it.

My own definition has taken a long time to develop. I’ve known it was a powerful concept for some time. I’ve also known most of the IT world has been talking about of the side of their neck when they made their salaries by talking about it. I particularly enjoy people proclaiming they know all about the ‘next generation of cloud’ when we were all still defining the first one. At any rate, to define ‘cloud’, I first have to define ‘PaaS’ to my own satisfaction.

PaaS (noun) – short for Platform As A Service. It provides a complete application platform for users or developers (or both) by sufficiently abstracting those services away from their underlying technology platforms. 

A little wordy, I know, but we need to be specific here. Not only must a PaaS provide a platform, but it must do it in a way that abstracts developers and users from administration of the platform.  It must also handle all of the tertiary services (DNS, port forwarding, scalability, inter-connectivity, etc.) that administers usually have to handle after the fact.

PaaS lets developers develop, and lets administers admin.

So what is cloud?

cloud (noun) – an implementation of a PaaS solution that is seamlessly and automatically scalable to handle load demands and they grow and shrink.

So you start with a PaaS and you build it out so it will grow and shrink automatically as needed for it work load.

What is NOT a cloud?

  • provisioning virtual machines really quickly
  • setting up a PaaS that is brittle and confining for developers and users
  • writing 3 or 4 scripts to help automate your virtualization infrastructure
  • almost everything being marketed as a cloud today

To define a cloud you have to define PaaS. PaaS is defined as that slick layer of magic that abstracts the application away from everything the application runs on or in. A cloud is a seamlessly scalable instance of a good PaaS.  Easy, isn’t it? Step 3, profit!

Uncle Verne will be here in a week.

Fedora 16 will be coming out in a week.  Sadly I’ve been pretty silly busy and haven’t been able to keep up with the Fedora team as they push out their latest take on what Linux ought to be.

I’m going to wait until day 0 this time, and give it a whirl. Partly because I don’t have much time this week to install it more than once, adn secondly because I somehow screwed up Re-Fit on my Mac by updating the default EFI software. There are a few changes that I’m REALLY looking forward to, too. The distribution that was the first to bring us Gnome3 (and tons of other great innovations), makes release 16 no less special.

  • BUH-BYE HAL – udisks, upower, and libudev will be the replacement for this concrete underwear.
  • Grub is gone, replaced by Grub2 –  EFI isn’t here yet, but it’s coming, to be sure. It should be noted that normally grub isn’t compatible with GUID partition tables, but Fedora has some patches in place.
  • No more MBR to corrupt – the MBR has been replaced by a GUID partition table (Mac techies will find this one familiar). This is also part of UEFI. W00t!
  • Cloud Cloud Cloud – Sorry, but it really is out there and it’s really not going away. F16 has several cloud connectors, cloud makers, cloud talkers, cloud walkers, cloud whatevers, ready and raring to go in the repos.
  • Gnone3 (3.2, to be precise) – I was a early and earnest fan of Gnome3 in F15. I didn’t think it was quite there yet, but I saw where it was going and it made me happy. F16 is a step closer.
There are a ton more upgrades and improvements, along with Fedora’s usual suite of spins and even a refined instation process.
All in all, I can’t wait to see the new Jules-Verne inspired artwork on my 17″ MBP’s screen.  Fedora is a great upstream distro, and more than capable as your everyday laptop. After having gotten to know a few of Fedora’s members a little bit over the past year or so, I can honestly say it is inline with that I expect from Linux as a product and a concept. Plus it’s not brown or orange.

insert cloud joke here

>For way too long now, the buzzword supreme in the IT world has been “cloud”. Building clouds inside, using clouds outside, leveraging clouds, making clouds cost-efficient, having pretty clouds, your music in the cloud, clouds that look like former presidents, we are the cloud. we are the walrus. All cloud. All the time.

Amazingly, only a precious few people that I’ve run across can truly define what a cloud actually IS with regards to Information Technology. Not amazingly, none of those people have been the people currently shoveling the cloud manure du jour into every nook and cranny of the interweb.

Soren Hansen (http://blog.warma.dk/), gave a talk back in February (I’m not 100% sure where, but at some conference and on youtube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XV8M_v1rf0s), that one of my favorite co-workers (@cowmix) really enjoyed and asked me to listen to over the weekend. Other than Soren needing to get some hydration issues addressed, it was a really good talk about the inner workings of OpenStack (http://www.openstack.org/). For the record I’m really excited about the vast majority of where OpenStack is going. I’m excited enough to set aside a lot of the disappointment and frustration I had when I was dealing with Rackspace (http://www.rackspace.com/) at a previous gig and look at this piece of technology without bias and even consider adopting it for my company’s infrastructure.

In this talk he defines a cloud, any cloud, quite clearly and perfectly as:

“an IaaS service with an API”.

Waiting for fireworks? Sorry. As it turns out it’s just like all other novel technologies; not exactly new, but a spin on an established technology that hadn’t been thought of before. Now don’t get me wrong. The push to distributed storage and computing is an amazing one that will eventually revolutionize not only our businesses but our lives in ways we can’t even think of yet. This excites me and I can’t wait for it to happen.

The source of my sarcasm is the marketing engine that is making the cloud sound like we just discovered a whole new layer of the internet, and it’s about to solve all of the problems of mankind in some magical soup of unlimited music storage, perfect data connections and Charlie Sheen video rants. It’s almost as if nobody ever learned anything from the first dot-com bubble, so here we are blowing up another one. Sticking a cloud logo on a bad idea doesn’t make it a good idea, just like making something a website in 2000 didn’t make it good, and putting something on a CD-ROM in 1995 didn’t make it good.

The cloud concept has incredible potential, and it’s going to be a game-changer. Look at the internet AFTER the bubble burst. Now it’s everywhere. I’m pretty sure my refrigerator just emailed somebody to tell me I was running low on mustard. But the same bad ideas that popped that first bubble are creeping in again. If you don’t believe me just google “making money in the cloud”.

*Note — this has been cross-posted to http://rvalug.org*