Well into the cloud computing era, the definitions of what constitutes an “open cloud,” and how to select the right technology are still a mystery to potential users. And, consumers are still in the dark when it comes to the concept of cloud.

Coming off VMworld 2012 and the CloudOpen Conference this week, one thing is clear: People from consumers to tech pros are still confused about cloud computing.

As SUSE announced its OpenStack private cloud iteration, and VMware unveiled its vCloud Suite, even pundits scratched their heads about such mega issues as cloud interoperability; what defines an “open” cloud; and which cloud technology a company should pick to run its workloads. And, the constant fighting of vendor factions pushing their own cloud agendas isn’t helping matters.

The OpenStack Foundation seeks to build “the Linux of cloud,” a single infrastructure stack that many vendors can build upon without losing basic interoperability. But in April, Citrix, an OpenStack member, started pushing CloudStack as a more mature open-source rival to OpenStack. The nightmare scenario, as vocalized by Marten Mickos, CEO of Eucalyptus, still another open-source cloud, is that OpenStack is really the “Unix of the cloud,” a menagerie of not-quite-compatible clouds by different vendors.

That fear of fracturing remains a problem. “I understand the Linux Foundation and how the kernel is controlled [but] OpenStack doesn’t have that model and has very influential and powerful companies [with] very different interests. So, I … fear that OpenStack may not achieve its goal because of the divergent agenda’s of it members,” said Keith Townsend, chief architect for Lockheed Martin Information Systems and Global Solutions, a large systems integrator.

What makes a cloud open?

TechCrunch’s Alex Williams made a valiant attempt to define what an “open cloud” means – his list of attributes includes open APIs; a collaborative development community; an absence of cloud washing (from his keyboard to God’s ear.) He also contrasted the two West Coast shows characterizing VMworld as evidence of VMware moving beyond its tried-and-true virtualization pitch to a broader, vision that includes participation in OpenStack and data centers, while CloudOpen is all about software.

Over at Infoworld, David Linthicum, CTO and founder of Blue Mountain Labs, wrote that the ‘open cloud’ is getting awfully confusing. With the emergence of the OpenStack camp — Rackspace, HP, Internap, Piston Cloud (see disclosure) and others have OpenStack clouds running — and rival CloudStack and Eucalyptus, there are too many flavors of open-source clouds.

Wrote Linthicum:

If you’re looking at adopting an ‘open cloud’ technology, you have complex work ahead. Assessing their value is complicated by the fact that many of the vendors are less than a two years old and have a minimal install base that can provide insight into fit, issues, and value.

Hazy understanding of cloud

If corporate IT gurus are confused about the cloud, think about the poor consumer. Despite the success of Apple’s iCloud and various Google services, new research sponsored by Citrix shows that many consumers still don’t really “get” the cloud. The most quoted factoid from the Wakefield Research report was that 51 percent of the 1,006 American adults surveyed, believe that stormy weather interferes with cloud computing.

Once the concept was explained to the respondents however, 40 percent thought the ability to access work information from home would be a good thing if only so they can work in their “birthday suits.”

That’s progress I guess.

Disclosure: Piston is backed by True Ventures, a venture capital firm that is an investor in the parent company of this blog, Giga Omni Media. Om Malik, founder of Giga Omni Media, is also a venture partner at True.

Source: GigaOM