3 cloud industry groups announced this week. How do they affect each other?

This week has seen a deluge of new industry initiatives. Will they help advance the market or just serve as a new form of marketing?

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Yesterday Rackspace and Intel jointly announced the "OpenStack Innovation Center." OpenStack is, of course, the open source cloud operating system launched five or so years ago by Rackspace and NASA. Since then it has grown up and now has its own foundation, massive industry buy-in and robust, stable code. So what are these two vendors doing that will change anything? According to the companies, the innovation center will provide two 1,000-node clusters to test out new features geared for large, enterprise deployments.

Bear in mind that in the past week we have had a number of initiatives announced or expanded. We had the Cloud Native computing Forum, a Google-initiated program which itself has pretty broad industry buy-in. It is, at face value, focused on increasing the consistency of management platforms for cloud-native applications. It wants to make it easier for organizations to build, deploy, and manage cloud-scale apps. The subtext (and, yes, there generally is a subtext) is that Google knows full well that Amazon Web Services (AWS) is the king of the crowd in the public cloud and it sees the Kubernetes open source container management system as a sort of Trojan Horse that will help it gain some momentum in the field. It was noticeable that AWS wasn't a part of the CNCF announcement. If anyone needed proof of AWS' dominance, and Google's motivation for doing this, here's some: in Amazon's second quarter, AWS net sales were up 81.4% to $1.824 billion from $1.005 billion for the corresponding year-ago quarter.

And only a day after CNCF was unveiled, the Open Container Initiative, yet another program, announced some more industry buy-in. The OCI is focused further down the food chain and seeks to have consistency between the various container formats. It was seen, at launch, as a peace pact between one-time allies, then competitors and seemingly now buddies again, Docker and CoreOS. OCI announced that AT&T, Oracle, Twitter and Verizon, among others, were joining the initiative. Cynics among us would suggest that the OCI announcement was pushed by, among others, AWS who wanted to ensure that the Google-led CNCF group didn't steal their limelight.

And not to be outdone, Intel and Rackspace made their announcement. According to the companies, this new innovation center will:

accelerate the development of enterprise capabilities and significantly add to the number of developers contributing to upstream OpenStack code. The project will bring together OpenStack engineers from Rackspace and Intel to advance the scalability, manageability and reliability of OpenStack by adding new features, functionality and eliminating bugs through upstream code contributions.

Sigh. So hard to get even moderately excited about this. Let's be frank. Intel is struggling in the midst of less-than-stellar PC and laptop sales. And Rackspace, though I love the company and many of its people, is struggling to find its place in the world. It's no longer fighting for the No. 2 public cloud vendor slot. So it has gone on a "we support all clouds" mission. Which doesn't make much sense to me. 

At least the announcement of a new intiaitve, funded, no doubt, by Intel and its deep pockets, gets these two some air time again. You see, OpenStack doesn't really need another entity or initiative to ensure that it's ready. It's already being used in production, and there are major moves underway within the OpenStack foundation to ensure consistency among the different OpenStack distributions. If that wasn't enough, much of the vendor proliferation is being sorted as the multitude of players is being whittled away by closures and consolidation.

Maybe it's a case of too many acronyms and initiatives. Yes, OCI has a job to do to keep Docker and CoreOS honest. But surely that could be done without the time, expense, and complexity of an initiative. Yes, organizations need advice building their web-scale apps, but they can get that advice without something as grand as the CNCF. And as for the OpenStack Innovation Center, I don't even know where to start.

Last word goes to my colleague and respected cloud analyst, Paul Miller. Always one to be slightly more careful in pouring scorn on these things, I asked him for his view on this latest raft of initiatives. His response was a more measured, and less aggressive, form of mine:

All of them may result in good work. What’s completely unclear is whether that work gets done better or faster because these new bodies exist, or not. In most cases, I rather suspect the answer will be ‘not.’

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