Monday, July 19, 2010


There have been many attempts to create open source ecosystems around cloud computing over the last couple of years. Most of them have not fully adopted the largest public ecosystem (being EC2) or been truly open source (instead using an open core model) or they have lacked the experience of large scale cloud operations.

The recent announcement of Open Stack changes this. Entirely open sourced technology for building and running a cloud, supported by an ecosystem of large companies and agencies (including NASA and Rackspace), provision of the EC2 & S3 APIs and the experience of running a large cloud installation. 

This is fantastic news. If you want my view on how this will turn out, well it's rather simple.

OpenStack's move further consolidates the ecosystem around EC2 / S3 which is not only good news for Amazon but also helps propel Rackspace's position as a real thought leader in this space. It's worth noting that the EC2 / S3 API might be supplanted over time, especially as OpenStack builds a marketplace of providers, unless Amazon becomes more open with it. The icing on the cake will be if Rackspace itself (which will use the OpenStack technology) provides the EC2 / S3 APIs, in which case the growth and consolidation around Rackspace's efforts and any providers of OpenStack will become immense.

This is also surprisingly good news for Eucalyptus if they move towards an entirely (or at least more) open approach. In such circumstance, the probability is we're going to end up with a straight forward "clash of the titans" between Eucalyptus and OpenStack to become the Apache of Cloud Computing.

Don't be surprised if Eucalyptus even go so far as to adopt some of OpenStack's work. Marten Mickos is an astute businessman and there are many ways they can turn this to their advantage. However, in general it's not a good time to be any other infrastructure cloud technology vendor, as Simon Crosby makes clear with his "VMWare Redwood = DeadWood" post.

VMWare's position in the infrastructure space is looking unsurprisingly shaky for the future but then they already know of the oncoming disruption, as they made clear with this interview. Why else do you think that VMWare has been busily acquiring into the platform space? RabbitMQ is also increasingly looking like a great purchase for them.

As for RedHat's cloud strategy - they must be feeling increasingly lonely as if no-one wants to invite them to the party. On the other hand, this is good news for Ubuntu, because of both UEC (powered by Eucalyptus) and OpenStacks involvement with the Ubuntu community. Don't be surprised if Ubuntu launches a "powered by openstack" version.

Best of all, it's great for the end users as they will see real choice and further standardisation of a messy industry in the infrastructure space. Of course, the real beauty is that once this happens we can finally start consolidating and standardising the platform space.

Overall, I'm very bullish about OpenStack and its focus on the Amazon APIs. There is a long road ahead but this has potential.


StuartFox said...

Good news indeed!

Anonymous said...

This should supplant Eucalyptus, which will benefit everyone who wants a good platform.

Still a question mark on why AWS is still seen to be the only actual cloud API. So scaling and balancing is left out, not folded in.

John said...

OpenStack storage (aka swift aka Rackspace Cloud Files) is not API compatible with S3. Although that may happen later (patches welcome!), it is not seen as a priority and it not being actively worked on by the core developers.

NASA's nova, I believe, is API compatible with EC2, but I don't know if that will stay or not. (I'm a swift dev, not a nova dev.)

The goal of the OpenStack project is not to ossify standards around Amazon's closed system, but to offer something that can offer a portable cloud infrastructure. Essentially, the goal is to do for the cloud what the LAMP stack did for single machine hosting. When people have the choice to move data to and from different cloud vendors, they can choose based on service, price, or any number of other factors. Rackspace is doing this because it believes it can win on service. Other companies will use OpenStack and compete directly with Rackspace, and customers will ultimately win.

swardley said...

Hi John,

Thanks for that. My understanding was that OpenStack was also going to provide an S3 compatible interface.

The purpose of providing the EC2 / S3 APIs should be to allow the current largest ecosystem to easily adopt and use OpenStack. It would then be the ecosystem which ultimately decides which API becomes the eventual defacto standard.

Not supporting the S3 API sounds a fairly daft way of cutting out a large chunk of ecosystem for no merit whatsoever.

Regarding creation of a competitive ecosystem using an opensource reference model with multiple providers, I'm fully aware of these ideas having discussed them extensively at OSCON in 2007 based upon the work I had done several years previously.

Glad to see you're fighting the battle on service rather than bits.

John said...

There may indeed be an AWS API layer put on top of swift and nova, but the danger is trying to match and keep up with a system that is under the sole control of Amazon. What happens when amazon adds or changes features?

Anonymous said...

While Simon is right, its good that maintaining AWS compatibility is not the only game in town.