This is OSCON Week here at Portland, Oregon and it is time for some interesting news involving openness and cloud computing. Last year it was OpenStack and this year, even though the impact factor is not similar, it is Open Cloud Initiative (OCI). Open Cloud Initiative is a non-profit organization put together by a bunch of well known individuals who advocate openness as a strategy for any organization using IT, whether it is in the traditional form or in cloud. Some of the prominent ones involved with this initiative include: Simon Wardley, Rick Clark, Sam Johnston, Sam Ramji and others. The thinking around the initiative was started in 2009 when some of the vendors tried to misguide users about the term “open cloud”. Sam Johnston initially revolted against this attempt and, eventually, more and more people got together to offer a more coordinated response. These efforts finally resulted in today’s announcement.
What is Open Cloud Initiative’s plan, BTW?
Open Cloud Initiative is a legal entity behind Open Cloud Principles and they use these principles to determine if a particular offering qualifies to be called “Open Cloud” or not. In order to ensure interoperability and avoid vendor lock-in, OCI expects supported vendors to cooperate on standards, implementing those that exist (where applicable) and collaborating via an open process to develop those that don’t, with a view to competing fairly on quality. They have two requirements for any service to meet in order to be certified as open cloud:
- Open Formats: All user data and metadata must be represented in Open Standard formats
- Open Interfaces: All functionality must be exposed by way of Open Standard interfaces
Open Standards in the above requirements imply
- Copyrights: The standard must be documented in all its details, published and both accessible and [re]usable free of charge
- Patents: Any patents possibly present on [parts of] the standard must be irrevocably made available on a royalty-free basis
- Trademarks: Any trademarks possibly present on identifier(s) must be used for non-discriminatory enforcement of compliance only
- Implementations: There must be multiple full, faithful and interoperable implementations (for both client and server where applicable) and at least one such implementation must be licensed under an Open Source Initiative (OSI) approved license or placed into the public domain
I am both excited and neutral about this initiative. I am excited because finally we are getting an organization without a vendor backing (please don’t talk about Sam Ramji and his Apigee connection. He has established himself as someone who is beyond any single vendor) that will advocate openness in cloud computing. Establishing open cloud is critical for interoperability which, in turn, is critical for the existence of the federated cloud ecosystem I am advocating hard here and in other fora. From this view point, I am terribly excited about this initiative and I will be advocating it in every possible opportunity.
On the other hand, I am neutral because open source is included as an afterthought in the requirements. There are two schools of thoughts among those who advocate openness in the cloud world. One school, spearheaded by Tim O’Reilly, emphasizes on open protocols, open formats, open architecture, etc. as the necessary conditions for openness. They claim that licensing is irrelevant in the cloud services world. The other school, slightly old fashioned and in minority, claim that open source is equally important in ensuring the openness in the cloud based world. I belong to the second group and I have argued in favor of the importance of open source in the cloud world here and in other fora. For me, open source becomes a requirement because it is the only way we can have a more federated interoperable cloud ecosystem. In the absence of open source, the barriers for participation becomes very high and we may face the prospect of monopoly of cloud providers offering services.
This is definitely an exciting thing to happen in the cloud world. One of the biggest concerns against cloud adoption is the issue of vendor lock-in. Openness is critical to avoid this lock-in. OCI is well positioned to ensure that users are not locked into any single vendor. I am sure people will be skeptical about another organization touting openness. But I am confident because I personally know some of the individuals involved in this initiative and trust them to push this initiative harder.