Just about everywhere you turn, vendors are trying to carve out a piece of the cloud for themselves. Unfortunately, while cloud computing capacity might be infinite, demand for these services may not be.
There are five classes of companies trying to gain a significant share of the cloud: traditional hardware vendors such as Hewlett-Packard, IBM and Dell; operating system and application software providers such as Microsoft and Salesforce.com; emerging technology providers such Google, Amazon and a host of other startup companies; traditional hosting companies; and a small army of value-added resellers (VARS) promising high-touch services to local customers.
It's pretty clear that not everyone will survive the rough and tumble economics of cloud computing. As such, many cloud computing providers are playing to their strengths. For example, HP and IBM are heavily focused on traditional enterprise customers trying to move legacy applications to the cloud. In contrast, Google, Amazon, hosting companies such as Rackspace, and a host of startup companies are fighting tool and nail for new applications designed specifically to run in the cloud. VARs, meanwhile, see the cloud as a vehicle for delivering managed services more cost-effectively to small to medium-size customers.
Fighting is most intens over new "green field" applications. Pat Matthews, vice president and general manager for Cloud at Rackspace, says these applications are mostly ready to deploy in the cloud and don't come with a lot of "legacy thinking" about IT infrastructure.
This, of course, makes developers and those who pay to develop these applications, the focus of a lot of marketing efforts. But over time, Matthews says, the distinguishing factor will be a provider's flexibility on terms and conditions. According to Matthews, the whole concept of fixed IT service contracts will fade away as customers become more comfortable with the elastic nature of cloud computing.
In the meantime, customers would do well to remember that not all cloud computing providers are created equal and that not all applications are equally ready to run in the cloud.