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Agile Computing: Blog Post

VPS in the Cloud: a Battle or a Love Affair?

I’m going to be so bold as to say that both solutions may just be one and the same

Across the Internet a rumbling chant can be heard: “virtual private servers are dead. Long live cloud servers.” Being a technologist of over 20 years this chant sounds very familiar. As a matter of fact, this chant occurs whenever software or service vendors engage in the all out land grab on a perceived new market segment. Enter cloud computing, our latest technology gold rush. The cloud is the new battlefield and once again the techno-shift chant is growing louder and louder fueled by boardroom expectations and Wall Street demands.

Over the past 18 months cloud computing has become a marketing darling around the world. Software and service vendors fear becoming irrelevant if their marketing materials don’t splatter the word "cloud" everywhere. Even worse, senior management of companies without cloud “solutions” wake up during the middle of the night thinking that they may be considered extinct. In case you aren’t familiar with this concept, extinction is definitely not good. Extinction means investors don’t consider you for $30 million dollar handouts. It means buyers are less likely to commit to long term deals. It means an eventual decline in business. None of these results are good. The immediate “self preservation” response for software vendors is to slap the word cloud on everything they do. This quick fix seems to enable executives to breathe a sigh of relief while patting themselves on the back for surviving yet another techno-market-babble death match. The downside to this reaction is the compounding confusion around cloud services.

Take this confusion a step further and think about the difference between virtual private servers and cloud servers. Beyond the marketing battle there is actually a deep connection between these technology solutions. I’m going to be so bold as to say that both solutions may just be one in the same. Shocking I know. But the truth is that there is no industry accepted definition of a cloud server nor is there a specific definition of a virtual private server.

You may say a virtual private server is a hosted computer that is self managed while a cloud server is managed for you. But what about VPS offerings that manage the OS and application stacks at service providers like vpsland.com or HostGator? On the other hand you can easily find a varity of providers with cloud servers that are nothing more than a hypervisor subscription where you must manage everything starting with the OS. It's confusing for sure and if you ask five different vendors and three different analyst firms you’ll get 8 different answers. Each answer will be slanted towards the strategic advantage of the person you ask. This is the market reality when the company who can create their own Blue Ocean Strategy is the company that may just win a good majority of the dollars.

As this marketing battle continues to play out, keep your eyes peeled for the victors and when you spot them please let me know! In the meantime the service providers who live in the realm of reality will continue to offer VPS services with increasing capabilities and ease of use. Many others will just slap the word cloud on their existing offerings while yet others will truly innovate and lead the way for the future. None of these are bad approaches and all will provide the technology needed for small and medium sized businesses to grow and thrive by taking advantage of cloud services.

A piece of advice for those looking to use hosted compute services is to avoiding proprietary offers for anything mission critical. In a shifting market that is as undefined as cloud servers and cloud computing, lock-in to a particular technology or solution could spell disaster. Ensure that your applications and needs can be moved between providers. As we have seen in all technology evolutions the sands of time will change the landscape. Innovative companies will enter, giant companies will falter and everyone else are targets for acquisition.

More Stories By David Abramowski

David Abramowski is a technologist turned product leader. David was a co-founder of Morph Labs, one of the first Platform as a Service plays on AWS. He was the GM for Parallels Virtuozzo containers, enterprise business, and most recently he is the leader of the product marketing team for the IT Operations Management solutions at the hyper growth SaaS company, ServiceNow.

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