IBM's OpenStack cloud push, announced today, sounds a lot like Big Blue's Linux initiative from more than a decade ago. You may recall that IBM bet $1 billion on Linux in 2001. But in reality the worlds of OpenStack in 2013 vs. Linux in 2001 are quite different. Here's why.

Back in 2001, key Linux distributions like Red Hat and SUSE were emerging as preferred business offerings. IBM could safely offer servers -- heck, even mainframes -- running either of those Linux distributions. Shift to the OpenStack conversation and its unclear which distribution will emerge as a preferred standard. In theory, channel partners will be able to move customer workloads easily from one OpenStack cloud to another. But in reality there are fears that some OpenStack clouds may not be compatible with others.

Early Moves

Dell and HP are building their respective clouds on OpenStack. Will IBM do the same? It sure sounds like it -- but IBM's first OpenStack step actually involves SmartCloud Orchestrator, which allows partners and customers to:

  • Build new cloud services;
  • Ease the way applications are managed across compute, storage and network infrastructure;
  • Simplify the end user consumption of cloud services, via a self service portal, including the ability to measure the cost of cloud services with metering and charge-back capabilities.
Monitoring Tools

Also, a new monitoring tool -- called IBM SmartCloud Monitoring Application Insight -- helps businesses monitor the real-time performance and availability of applications hosted on a cloud and being delivered via the Web, hosted on public cloud platforms and IBM SmartCloud.

The moves don't end there. IBM says it is creating a 400-member Cloud Standards Customer Council; sponsoring OpenStack Foundation; and dedicating more than 500 developers on the open cloud projects.

IBM claims to have more than 5,000 cloud customers as of 2012, up 100 percent from 2011.

IBM Orchestrator is expected to be available later this year. IBM SmartCloud Monitoring Application Insight is expected to be available in the second quarter of the year.

Is this truly Linux all over again? Sorry, but it's far too early to say which OpenStack distributions -- if any -- will gain critical mass on public and private clouds.