Kemp, with no official role at VMworld, has been among the 22,000 VMware customers, partners and onlookers at the Moscone Center in San Francisco. As events unfolded, Kemp saw VMware saying it was offering a different kind of cloud than the one he is trying to deliver.
Kemp's company, Nebula, makes turn-key private cloud systems based on open-source OpenStack, and the former NASA CTO and CIO thinks there's an era dawning in which many mission-critical applications will be run on cloud architecture. He doesn't care whether the cloud is inside the enterprise or outside. Nebula will power the private clouds, and OpenStack will be tailored into public cloud offerings.
That sounds something like VMware when it describes vCloud Hybrid Service. VMware wants customers to have the option of linking their on-premises, virtualized environment to a similarly configured service outside it. It will be happy to supply both. The service provided might be through a third party, such as Peak Colo or Bluelock, or it might be from one of VMware's public cloud data centers.
[ Want more on the public vs. private cloud debate? See Why IT Is Struggling To Build Private Clouds. ]
But Kemp insists VMware and Nebula are approaching a similar problem from two radically different points of view. VMware has solved the problem of how to get more than one data center application to run on a data center host. In the process it's lifted the application up off a particular piece of hardware and made it available to move around or move out to a public cloud.
Nebula started out as cloud software at NASA, trying to solve the problem of displaying, moving and storing data that was being captured in huge quantities by NASA telescopes and space vehicles. It was a problem more akin to mounting Google Search, running Amazon.com online retailing or Microsoft Office 365, then hosting a set of discrete legacy applications.
"VMware tools put a lot of small apps on one server. Nebula takes 100 servers and turns them back into one machine to run one really big application," Kemp said in an interview Wednesday, at the peak of VMworld. Next-generation applications will need to absorb huge amounts of data off of websites and e-commerce systems and apply analytics to it. They'll need to be able to command more horsepower, in the form of modularly added servers, as they need them.
In Kemp's view, VMware is better automating the enterprise's extensive library of existing applications. VMware has grown rapidly because it is meeting the needs of today's business, Kemp conceded. But does that mean VMware vCloud Hybrid Service is going to be the best option to meet the needs of next-generation applications?
Nebula and other OpenStack vendors, or for that matter, Amazon Web Services, Microsoft and Google, will be in a much better position to run scale-out applications than VMware public clouds will. The next-generation application won't be a server-consolidation play; it will be a server scale-out play, with the cloud software managing many commodity servers as a single system, Kemp claims.
Kemp said Nebula is finding traction with companies that understand the difference between legacy and future needs. One such customer is Xerox Parc, which needs scalable systems to run its research applications, and the Translational Genomics Institute, which needs to scale analysis of data required in gene sequencing.
Kemp said Nebula is using Workday, Salesforce.com and NetSuite software-as-a-service (SaaS) as much as possible, rather than hosting a bunch of enterprise applications in-house. Other companies likewise will shrink their need for VMware's virtualized, on-premises applications as their use of SaaS increases. There's no competitive value in maintaining them in the data center if they are merely applications used in a similar manner by many businesses.