To date, the four horsemen of the cloud appear to be Amazon.com (AMZN), Microsoft (MSFT), Google (GOOG), and VMware (VMW). The first three companies have built their own cloud computing services that consumers and businesses can tap into. Instead of doing its own service, VMware, the maker of virtualization software, is selling a new suite of cloud software so that service providers and businesses can build their own new-age, cloud computing systems.
The collective muscle and proprietary leanings of those four companies has triggered something of a cloud panic. At its core, cloud computing promises lower costs and greater flexibility than traditional data centers. It’s a way to avoid lock-in, that mainframe-era problem where a company buys its own big, expensive systems—and is stuck with them. But those advantages could be undermined if, say, Amazon decides to play the heavy and makes it difficult for companies to move their software and data onto a competing cloud service. That would be lock-in, cloud edition.