Infrastructure Q3: OpenStack and flash step into the spotlight

1Executive Summary

Last quarter we highlighted the fast maturation of the Platform-as-a-Service and big data spaces. Those two trends only picked up speed during the third quarter of 2011. Joining them on the cusp of IT greatness, though, are the OpenStack project and flash storage.

For PaaS, the third quarter was all about expanding horizontally to cover more programming languages and bring in more developers. However, the more- experienced providers, such as Heroku, also started building upward to deliver specific offerings for specific application types such as Facebook and mobile.

In the big data world, it was much more money for Hadoop startups and even larger presences for mega vendors EMC and Oracle. The use cases for all varieties of big data analysis in several industries cleared up, too, with social-media data driving the ship in terms what companies want to analyze. NoSQL databases also matured significantly, and several companies now have the additional VC money to prove it.

But those stories have been getting louder for some time now. What shone brightest this quarter might well be the OpenStack cloud-computing project, which garnered serious validation via HP, Dell and Citrix, who are building their cloud strategies around the platform to some degree. New products from NASA cloud veterans don’t hurt the hype either, and OpenStack got two in the form of Nebula and Piston Cloud Computing.

The flash storage market saw less funding this quarter than it did in the last, but that was offset by a number of significant product launches and at least one major end user. Violin Memory, Fusion-io, Nutanix, Nimbus Data Systems and more rolled out new products, and they’re all citing consistent performance at price points comparable to similar hard-disk-drive-based products. This suggests that flash will finally overcome the high prices that have hindered adoption thus far.

Of course, the third quarter wasn’t all lollipops and rose petals. We saw new computing technologies and delivery models such as tablets wreak havoc on both HP and Cisco, and there are concerns (aren’t there always?) about how the Internet will handle our increased use of streaming video and cloud computing. Unfortunately for HP and Cisco, the latter problem might be an easier fix than the strategic woes facing them.

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