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Gartner VP predicts thousands of clouds

Gartner’s Vice President and distinguished analyst Tom Bittman spoke with us about the IT industry evolution led by virtualization and cloud computing, and why big players like VMware won’t be the virtualization software of choice.

Since virtualization is the foundation of cloud computing, clouds are the next logical step for virtualization vendors like VMware and Citrix Systems, but Bittman said if these vendors don’t make pricing changes, cloud platform providers like Google and Amazon won’t use them.

“Cloud computing is a wide open market, dominated by open source Xen. It is a market that is there for the taking, and for VMware that would require a significantly different pricing model,” said Bittman, who also blogs about virtualization and cloud computing. “Sun and Citrix could get a major foothold in the cloud market as well, if they get their act together.”

VMware has taken steps towards becoming cloud friendly with its Vcloud initiative, but Vcloud is limiting because the provider has to use VMware, Bittman said. Microsoft also has its own cloud service, Azure, supported by Hyper-V.

Microsoft will probably try to turn Azure into a platform for ISV’s to build software as a service, so “in a lot of ways, they are trying to build a platform for a cloud,” Bittman said. But, “there is no reason Windows will be a prominent player in the cloud…[because providers] like Amazon EC2 don’t care what the OS is; all they care about is what is being provided.”

The future of clouds; more providers, fewer OSes

Today, cloud computing is dominated by a small number of large providers, but in the years ahead there will probably be ecosystems built around those islands; Software as a Service (SAAS) built upon the existing clouds, and the sharing of resources between cloud providers, Bittman said. He also expects fragmentation from the few general cloud platforms of today into many specialty cloud providers with applications and infrastructures that cater to specific industries, like healthcare, which have specific compliance requirements, Bittman said.

“We will see a growth to thousands of cloud providers and they won’t want to write their own software using Xen; they will want to buy software and that is where companies like Sun could make a play,” Bittman said.

Cloud computing is also changing the game when it comes to operating systems; the concept of the Meta-OS (like VMware’s Virtual Data Center OS) is changing the paradigm of using one OS per physical server, Bittman said.”The old idea is you build one platform to manage one box, but if I have 10,000 boxes, I don’t want 10,000 OSEs managing everything independently,” Bittman said. “If I turn an OS into a dumb container, it can work in a much more distributed way, like Microsoft’s Azure, which is essentially Windows 2008 sprinkled all throughout the data center. This is changing the way we look at OSes going forward.”

Cloud computing has the power to change things in the IT industry because of what it offers companies; flexibility and agility, Bittman said.

“Most infrastructures today focus on cost, but we are beginning to see a focus shift towards agility. People are using [cloud environments] not because of the cost savings, but because it is flexible. The ability to make changes according to demand qickly is becoming a more important factor for data centers,” Bittman said.

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Bittman was definitely making that point about "It's all about flexibility, not cost savings" pretty strongly. The other point he made aggressively was that the future of IT ops looks a lot like an "internal cloud." Here are my notes from his keynote: