Cloud coincidence: Microsoft embraces Docker, HP downgrades Helion

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HP's IaaS/PaaS Helion Public venture turns private. Microsoft, with its burgeoning Azure Cloud, announces serious container substrate in the form of its Nano Server, Docker compatibility and additional equivalents.

Helion, Helioff. It's not as bad as that at all, but the effort made to compete with AWS is over, for now. HP is backing away from the pubic cloud and going for perhaps a safer, and more lucrative, future in the private cloud. It's my guess that inevitably, HP will make a better return on assets this way. The changes will be frustrating to planners, perhaps, but the cloud-on-the-hoof turf war is largely over.

Face it: It's brutal out there. Commodity infrastructure portends that margins will be slim. Amazon knows know to make microprofits. HP is a machine that needs more revenue per SKU. There's nothing like not making money and making up for it in volume. HP's Helion isn't dead by any means, rather, it's becoming focused infrastructure, in my opinion.

You could smell the scent in the breeze. HP buys Eucalyptus, an AWS-enabler. Serial entrepreneur Marten Mickos, of MySQL and Eucalyptus fame, goes on comparative waivers. Amazon chugs along. Rackspace was rumored to be for sale, something I find hard to believe (in fact, the company said in September that "it has ended its evaluation of alternatives that would result in Rackspace being acquired" and was planning to go forward independently). OpenStack languishes because it's too tough for many people to get their heads around. The market size seems smaller than everyone had dreamed.

But these are infrastructure ploys. Unless you're an expert at microprofits, you can be toasted, quickly, at high rates of speed. Microsoft dropped its traditional pre-announcement of an ought-to-be-available in a hoped-for future release, Docker on Windows, and their own competitor to skinny operating systems, the Windows 2016 Nano Server, a seemingly impossible sort of substrate for the new rage of containers.

Why impossible? Since when has Microsoft made a skinny operating system? Maybe long ago, as Xenix. Sure, you can get non-GUI flavors of Microsoft servers, seemingly surgically deployed as 2008/2012 Rsomething, with but a handful of the fatuous menu of pulled-from-retirement API sets, and given character to your favorite deployment by adding "roles" whose dependencies-from-hell-itself suddenly cause bloat and obesity.

But listen up: consider that the operating system of the future may indeed just become a collection of best-of-breed containers. Think about it. Baremetal hardware and a thin layer of hypervisory. Let's not argue whose, for now. Instead, let's argue: what.

The what becomes a Darwinian mixture of compute, storage, communications, security, apps like web or database, or some mixture in a container. This is evolving today, as I write this, as docker, rkt, lxc, and other container mixtures become commodified.

You're going to buy functionality in the form of containers. Then choose where to host these things. Your desktop? Notebook? Tablet? Cloud instance? Watch? Need one? Need a thousand? Click here, please.

Update 3:00 p.m. 4/9/2015: This article was updated to reflect Rackspace's announcement that it is no longer considering acquisition.

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