The 10 Biggest Cloud Stories Of 2013

Cloud Feeding Frenzy Continues Apace

You can't shake a stick these days without hitting some startup or established vendor that is talking about changing the world with their cloud computing offerings. It's still early days in the space, but we're already seeing some big name cloud vendors trying to extend their influence to segments of the market they haven't previously played in.

Then there are all these scrappy cloud startups, brimming with VC money and touting their game-changing storage, management, automation and analysis tools. Typically, these guys are filling the gaps that the big cloud vendors haven't yet seen fit to cover. It's a tenuous position, but also potentially lucrative.

CRN scoured the year's technology headlines and here presents our picks for the top 10 cloud stories of 2013.

10. Cloud IaaS Space Gets Crowded

Amazon got an early start in public cloud IaaS and that's one big reason why it's dominating the market. But this year, some big name players entered the cloud IaaS space hell-bent on taking some of the steam out of Amazon's sails.

Microsoft launched IaaS on Windows Azure and immediately vowed to match Amazon's frequent price cuts. Google unveiled Google Compute Engine and introduced per-minute billing in a bid to improve upon the per-hour pricing that Amazon uses. VMware, whose server virtualization software has long been the stuff on which private clouds have been built, launched vCloud Hybrid Service.

Microsoft and VMware are pitching the value of having a compatible infrastructure from a single vendor for both public and private clouds. Google's enterprise story isn't clear yet, but given the roster of tech talent it's got in-house building all sorts of insanely scaling services, its cloud IaaS will certainly be a force to be reckoned with.

9. Oracle Enters Cloud IaaS Space, Kind Of

It wasn't that long ago that Oracle CEO Larry Ellison (pictured) would poke fun at cloud computing, deriding it as the latest meaningless industry buzzword. Ellison has also poked fun at rivals like for not really living up to the convenience of the cloud model as defined by Amazon.

But in January, Oracle launched its own cloud IaaS service after unveiling it at OpenWorld a few months earlier. Almost immediately, critics tore into Oracle for having an overly elastic definition of cloud itself. Oracle's cloud IaaS lets customers rent Oracle hardware and run it in their data centers, and pay for it as a monthly subscription. However, customers also have to buy the licenses separately.

This is about as different from Amazon's model as is possible to get, as was vociferously pointed out by many industry watchers. Even though Oracle isn't pitching its cloud IaaS as an Amazon competitor, Ellison's frequent anti-cloud rhetoric provided critics with plenty of fodder for presenting it in such a light.

8. VMware Execs Freak Out Over Amazon At Partner Event

2013 was the year that we got to see just how much Amazon has been keeping VMware executives up at night. At VMware's Partner Exchange conference in February, VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger (pictured) told partners that if "a workload goes to Amazon, you lose, and we have lost forever."

VMware COO Carl Eschenbach put it even more bluntly. "I look at this audience, and I look at VMware and the brand reputation we have in the enterprise, and I find it really hard to believe that we cannot collectively beat a company that sells books," Eschenbach told partners at the event.

Turns out this bluster was foreshadowing VMware's entry into the public cloud market with vCloud Hybrid Service. After watching Amazon gaining enterprises customers because its services are cheap and easy to use, VMware decided that it had to depart from its old model of leaving public cloud to its service provider partners. Now we'll see if enterprises really do put a premium on an all-VMware cloud.

7. OpenStack Gets More Traction

OpenStack, the open source cloud operating system that was created as a counterbalance to Amazon and VMware, gained a steady stream of adherents over the course of 2014. Seems like everyone's getting on board, as HP, IBM, Cisco, Intel, Dell Oracle and reportedly even have pledged their support.

At this stage, though, OpenStack isn't yet a huge driver of business in the enterprise channel. Some of its component parts are still raw, and in any event, OpenStack requires a level of technical proficiency that is keeping it out of the hands of the masses, at least for the time being. But several partners told CRN they're keeping an eye on OpenStack and expect it to eventually be a major factor.

6. IBM Launches Amazon-Bashing Cloud Marketing Campaign

IBM responded to losing a $600 million Central Intelligence Agency cloud contract to Amazon Web Services by launching a marketing campaign. IBM acquired cloud provider SoftLayer for $2 billion in June and is using it as the centerpiece of its efforts to show that its public cloud is just straight up better than AWS.

"This campaign is a reality check on what it means to be a leader in cloud computing. It's a way to make people aware of IBM's leadership in the space," Ric Telford, vice president of IBM Cloud Services, told CRN in November.

IBM isn't saying how much it's spending on the campaign, but its targeted ads on Las Vegas buses during an Amazon conference last month caught the attention of AWS chief Andy Jassy. "Some of the old guard tech companies are getting a little panicky" at the rapid growth of the AWS cloud, Jassy said in a keynote. "They seem to be pretty worked up about AWS."

5. Oracle, Salesforce Bury Hatchet, Form Partnership

Oracle and unveiled a nine-year agreement in June that surprised many industry watchers, mainly because Oracle CEO Larry Ellison and Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff (pictured) have been butting heads in a low-intensity but noticeable fashion in recent years.

Under the agreement, Salesforce is standardizing on Oracle's database software, Linux operating system, Java middleware and Exadata Database Machine servers. Oracle, for its part, is integrating's CRM and other cloud applications with Oracle Fusion HCM (human capital management) and Financial Cloud Software-as-a-Service applications.

Later, Ellison and Benioff held a press conference to talk about the deal, in which each tried to outdo the other with praise and politeness. Then at Dreamforce in November, Benioff told a room of reporters that this "détente" with Ellison was "going pretty well."

4. Oracle, Microsoft Team Up For Better Cloud Software

Oracle and Microsoft, longtime rivals in database, CRM and other types of enterprise software, found common ground in a partnership unveiled in June.

Under the agreement, Oracle is certifying its software products running on Microsoft's Windows Azure public cloud and Hyper-V virtualization technology. Oracle is also letting customers use their existing software licenses to run products on Azure.

Microsoft is providing a fully licensed and supported version of Java in Windows Azure, a move that will help make Java "a first-class language and design" environment in Azure, Satya Nadella, then president of Microsoft's server and tools business, said on a call held to discuss the partnership.

3. Pivotal Enters Cloud Fray With PaaS-Big Data Mashup

Pivotal, the big data/platform-as-a-service spin-off started by EMC and VMware, is pitching itself as a way for enterprises to avoid getting locked into the Amazon Web Services cloud. In November, Pivotal took the wraps off Pivotal CF, its commercial distribution of Cloud Foundry, the open source PaaS that was CEO Paul Maritz's (pictured) big project when he was CEO of VMware.

The idea behind Pivotal is to provide a platform that lets developers build powerful next-generation apps that make use of big data to perform all kinds of interesting and financially beneficial tasks. It's a lofty goal, and one that might take a while to materialize, but if Microsoft doesn't manage to lure Maritz to be its next CEO, betting against Pivotal would be pretty foolish.

2. VMware Enters Public Cloud Market

This was the year VMware departed from its traditional model of staying out of the public cloud market and instead letting its service provider partners handle this business. In May, VMware launched vCloud Hybrid Service, touting it as a public cloud that is seamlessly compatible with private clouds built on VMware.

VMware wants to keep customers away from Amazon, and apparently its vCloud partners weren't taking the world by storm in public cloud, so it decided to take matters into its own hands. This was the biggest change of strategic direction in the company's brief history, but one that partners saw as inevitable and necessary given the momentum of Amazon and other cloud players.

1. AWS Beats IBM On $600M CIA Deal

Earlier this year when reports surfaced that the CIA had picked Amazon Web Services over IBM for a huge cloud computing contract, more than a few people probably thought it was a story from an enterprise tech version of The Onion. But this was the real deal, and though IBM fought for months to get the CIA to re-open bidding, ultimately AWS won the deal.

It's hardly an exaggeration to call this Amazon's biggest cloud win to date. And there were many side stories, too, like the CIA saying it picked AWS even through IBM's bid was more than $50 million less. The CIA also felt the AWS cloud would scale better over time. But the biggest bit of intrigue here is that the CIA is getting AWS to build a replica of its cloud that runs inside the CIA's own data center.

AWS executives initially went to great lengths not to portray this as a private cloud, but in an interview with 60 Minutes in November, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said that's what the project entails. Now the question becomes: Will AWS go after additional private cloud opportunities?