Linux Distributors Battle it Out in Cloud OS Market
Linux operating system distributor Suse says it is gaining ground among cloud service providers as their choice platform for delivering the open source OS to customers, but at least one analyst says the market is still split between the Suse, Red Hat and Canonical's Ubuntu.
Suse issued updated figures this week saying that it works with 20 cloud service providers (CSPs) to offer Linux OS to 15,000 enterprises. It lists major CSP customers as Amazon Web Services, Dell, Intel, Verizon and, most recently, Microsoft Azure.
"The latest addition of Microsoft Windows Azure to the Suse Cloud Program demonstrates Suse's growing momentum as the de facto standard enterprise Linux operating system offered by cloud providers," the company said in a press release issued this week.
But Forrester cloud researcher James Staten says Suse has some challenges moving forward and tough competition with Red Hat and Canonical also making strong plays in cloud computing. Suse has not traditionally been viewed as a CSP solution and while that may be growing, it's an emerging area for Suse. "Suse's reputation is built on reliability, security and stability which matters far more to enterprises and for traditional production apps than it does for native cloud apps that tend to incorporate reliability and stability into the application design, rather than relying on the OS or the underlying infrastructure to provide this," States notes. "So Suse has to tout other capabilities to lure cloud-centric developers."
There are opportunities though. Staten says Linux is the leading operating system in cloud computing, followed by Windows, so there is enough market share for all three to compete. Suse was developed in Germany in the mid-1990s and Staten says that European heritage has made it dominant in the non-U.S. markets, while Red Hat has control of the domestic market, including in its offering to CSPs.
Suse is looking to make another play to compete with Red Hat and Canonical though. The company has a private cloud infrastructure deployment tool in beta mode right now based on OpenStack code. That would further create competition between the three open source OS distributors as Red Hat and Canonical have already signed on as partners in the OpenStack project. Red Hat has its OpenShift platform as a service, but has shied away from an IaaS.
As the open source OS companies like Red Hat, Canonical and Suse stretch further into the cloud computing market though, Staten says it will be important for them to offer a broader set of capabilities to customers. Traditionally the offerings have focused on setting up individual servers with Linux. In a cloud computing environment, they need to help customers set up entire cloud architectures using Linux OS. "What all three of these players need to do is recognize that their existing distribution method isn't right here and build cloud deployment engines that can spray OpenStack across a pool of systems, auto-integrate them into the pool and instantiate the greater IaaS service, not just try to help customers build a cloud one server at a time," Staten says.