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Standing out in the market: How startups can fit in

As virtualization and cloud vendors make more acquisitions (see: Citrix buying and dive deeper into IT infrastructure (see: vSphere 5), are the small guys getting squeezed out?

Smaller vendors are trying to make a name for themselves and increase competition, which can only be a good thing for customers. These vendors can differentiate themselves by offering capabilities and features that companies such as VMware do not.

“They have to support vSphere at a minimum and have to have a solid angle that is addressing a key pain point,” said Forrester analyst James Staten. He cited workload management, capacity management and workload placement as a few areas where small vendors could shine.

In Forrester’s latest cloud market overview, a number of smaller cloud vendors stood out. Abiquo, Hexagrid, Enomaly, Platform Computing and Tibco all landed in the top 15 vendors that infrastructure pros should consider when moving to the cloud. In fact, nearly all the small vendors in the top 15 beat VMware in hypervisor support, because VMware still doesn’t see demand for multi-hypervisor support.

“Another way literally everyone is differentiating against VMware is by supporting multiple hypervisors,” Staten said. “That is VMware’s key Achilles heel.”

Cloud management software vendor Abiquo is one of the companies that beat VMware on hypervisor support. Abiquo’s product, which competes with VMware vCloud Director, lets an organization create a private cloud — or extend an existing one — by building on their existing virtual infrastructure.

“We’re not saying, ‘Here’s a new environment that you need to build’,” Abiquo CEO Pete Malcolm said.

VCloud Director builds on the virtualization layer in a similar way, but Abiquo scored higher on Forrester’s report in the area of self-provisioning. Abiquo 1.8, the latest version, extends self-provisioning beyond just the compute side; it allows admins to provision storage and define virtualization networks as well.

The future of the cloud market

As more and more small vendors introduce private cloud offerings, it will mean more competition and better products for customers, which Malcolm says will boost cloud adoption over the next three to five years. VMware obviously has huge momentum in the market, but customers are starting to see who might become other cloud front-runners.

“The cloud phobia is lifting,” Malcolm said. “There used to be a lot of confusion and people lumped all the vendors into one bucket.”

Now that customers are beginning to understand different products, what their cloud needs, and what cloud assets they already have, they’re able to look objectively (hopefully) at the growing number of vendors.

In an increasingly competitive market, small vendors can stand out by differentiating themselves from VMware. As the “cloud phobia” continues to lift, the better products will start to show themselves, and we’ll see who the most competitive vendors will be. Will the real cloud vendors please stand up?

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