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Novell joins crowded cloud platform market

Novell Cloud Manager will help IT transition to the cloud, but can it make itself heard in the overstuffed platform market?

Venerable software firm Novell has launched Cloud Manager, what it calls a "credible" cloud platform software package. It can be installed in a traditional data center (on its own server, preferably) and take control of virtualized environments running Xen, Hyper-V and VMware (KVM support is coming), turning them into Amazon Web Services-style, self-service cloud environments, the company claims.

But wait, you might say, that sounds familiar. It sure does. There is a seemingly endless array of such products these days, in varying degrees of maturity and adoption. Eucalyptus, headed by Marten Mickos, has a regular stable of enterprise customers; Spanish firm Abiquo is into version 2.0; there are startups, Nimbula (just funded to the tune of $20 million), Enomaly, Cloupia, 3Tera (acquired by CA), Flexiant and, to name a few.

John Treadway, director of cloud computing for Unisys, calls it a "red ocean". And that is without even mentioning IBM rapidly turning Tivoli into something approximating a cloud platform, along with BMC and CA having stacks upon stacks of products to make your data center a cloud. So what is Novell thinking?

"[Customers] weren't knocking our doors down to ship their workloads to Amazon," said Ben Grubin, director of product management at Novell. Instead, Novell customers were asking it for ways to make sense of virtualization as it gradually entered their IT environments. Novell's response was Cloud Manager, an open source-friendly, standalone product designed to capture selected groups of virtualized environments and rope them into one cloud.

It's built on Open Web Foundation standards and uses an open source relational database; Grubin says customers will come because Novel has enterprise-class credibility as a $1 billion firm, and data center software vendors like CA and BMC cost too much money. He said that gradual, controlled shifts with an inexpensive product would help it beat off competition.

"It's relatively straightforward for our engineers to plug into your workloads without spending hundreds of thousands of dollars," he said.

But is Cloud Manager enough to set Novell apart?
Novell Cloud Manager is straightforward about licensing; the base product allows users' 25 "workloads," which Grubin stressed includes entire virtualized applications, not just individual servers. But as rosy as that sounds, Cloud Manager's major installation right now is with AkurIT, a system integrator who counts Novell as a flagship customer.

"It was a very close development effort," Grubin said.

Meanwhile, smaller companies like Adaptive Computing, which has a decade of experience in grid computing and data center automation, has just landed $14 million dollars in funding from Intel.

[Customers] weren't knocking our doors down to ship their workloads to Amazon.

Ben Grubin, director of product management at Novell,

President and COO Michael A. Jackson said Adaptive had seen an exponential growth in demand from companies that were ready to begin large-scale cloud computing efforts.

Jackson said the customers for private clouds were large-scale business-to-consumer (B2C) companies -- telecoms and financial institutions -- and they were buying Adaptive Computing's Moab software for environments with thousands of servers.

Moab does some interesting things, courtesy of its technological maturity, like proactively selecting workloads and servers for the best efficiency and anticipated performance; things other cloud platforms, including Novell's Cloud Manager, can't come close to. He also said buyers weren't shying away from spending on cloud infrastructure.

"They want the agility. Second to that is the savings," he said.

So will Novell's product strike the right note with cheap and incremental? Adaptive Computing seems to being enjoying great success doing just the opposite, and Intel just bet $14 million on it.

Novell's Grubin thinks it will. "You need a company that can tell a credible story," he said.

Carl Brooks is the Technology Writer at Contact him at

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