Eucalyptus CEO Sudden OpenStack Conversion Makes More Sense In Light of HP Purchase

Last month Eucalyptus CEO Mårten Mickos, a long-time critic of OpenStack, had a sudden change of heart. Yesterday his company was purchased by HP, a company that itself embraced OpenStack this year in a big way.

Hard to imagine the timing of Mickos’ OpenStack epiphany was a coincidence.

He wrote a blog post on his company website last month, explaining his change in thinking. He joked he had been an OpenStack contributor all along by be pushing it as a competitor (although he was actually an early code contributor before moving on). That could be true, but Mickos announced he will be a keynoter at an OpenStack Silicon Valley event next week before dropping the real bombshell. He was going to do more than compete, he was going to start contributing the project in earnest.

“OpenStack, in my view, is the all-embracing cloud project that various large and small vendors package for complex and highly customized deployments. These are deployments where AWS compatibility is not a vital requirement,” Mickos wrote in his blog post.

As Steven J Vaughan-Nichols wrote in a blog post of his own at the time, it appeared to be a case of cats and dogs, and as a long-time open source observer, Vaughan-Nichols described himself as “gobsmacked” by the announcement. Mickos’ company was actually sleeping with OpenStack’s main enemy, AWS. How could these two unlikely parties live together. Mickos wanted to find a way to make it work.

For those of you not familiar with OpenStack, it’s an open source alternative to Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud and Microsoft Azure, the big public cloud providers with lots of market clout. These companies tend not to be terribly transparent about how they do things and that’s been a problem for some customers. Four years ago, Rackspace and NASA led the start of the OpenStack project to act as a check against the growing power of the major public cloud providers, particularly AWS. By being open source, it gave IT and developers direct access to the code base to customize it and build it as they see fit, something that you can’t do with a proprietary platform.

Mickos’ company offered an alternative vision and built bridges from public and private clouds to the AWS cloud, but in spite of Mickos’ own financial clout, he had trouble denting a market, caught between a variety of competitive forces including OpenStack.

Meanwhile, throughout this year, HP has begun embracing OpenStack, pivoting from its Cloud OS initiative to HP Helion and OpenStack. And interestingly enough, when they moved to Helion, the company dropped support for its AWS API.

Unbeknownst to us, these two companies were about to come together in spite of originally coming at the cloud from opposite directions.

These deals tend to take some time, so it’s not hard to imagine that right about the time, Mickos was suddenly finding his OpenStack religion, he very well could have been having a conversation with HP about being acquired.

Regardless, HP decided to do it and in the process, they named Mikos as their new senior vice president in charge of the cloud division, basically handing him the keys to their cloud strategy. That means he will have a big influence on the future direction of the company’s cloud business.

One of the complaints around OpenStack in spite of its growing popularity in the enterprise is that it requires a high level of technical expertise to deploy. To answer this, just last week HP announced some services designed to help ease the pain of OpenStack implementation, but it’s conceivable says Sravish Sridhar, CEO of Kinvey, a mobile development platform, that HP will leverage this purchase to create an appliance to simplify OpenStack implementations.

“With the Eucalyptus acquisition, HP has a product-focused team that knows how to develop a cloud appliance that is really easy to deploy and manage — something that OpenStack software is known to be very weak in.”

HP isn’t alone in this market though as rivals VMware, IBM, Red Hat and others are also trying similar strategies. Red Hat recently announced a software appliance to give customers an easier way to test OpenStack, and this could be the first step toward other appliances to ease implementation issues around OpenStack.

While this might seem a strange matchup on its face, it could also be a simple case of HP covering its market bases, or it could be using its pocketbook to make its cloud offerings more attractive in an increasingly competitive marketplace.