Last week, Clouderati Twitter stream was full of back and forth arguments on possible dumping of Amazon API by Openstack. It all started with a recent Silicon Valley Cloud Computing Group meetup on Openstack. One of the takeaways from the meeting is that Openstack is dumping the API compatibility mode. Nebula, the cloud computing project out of NASA, had support for Amazon API, much like Eucalyptus. Once Nebula became part of Openstack, it appears they have taken a decision to drop Amazon API compatibility. This started the twibate among the Clouderati and I thought I will offer my take through a blog post.
- If anyone thinks that the Openstack move by Rackspace is not a hailmary pass, he/she is just being nice naive. Rackspace is a business organization and their move towards Openstack is not altruistic to begin with. This being a hailmary pass by Rackspace is only a very small part of the whole story. By focussing only on this part, some people are missing the big picture
- It is important for us to realize that Rackspace has put their compute and storage platform under open source license. This, by itself, is big because anyone in this world can set up a Rackspace like infrastructure easily and without spending their resources developing the same thing again. Imagine a hosting company or data center in Europe or Asia being able to set up a cloud infrastructure service to serve the needs of customers in those countries who are required by their governments to keep the data inside their borders. Imagine a small provider setting up a cloud like infrastructure serving a local community where the users want to actually interact with the folks who run the infrastructure. This is the kind of federated ecosystem we are talking about while discussing the potential of Openstack. There are some who claim that such a federated ecosystem cannot scale like the Amazon cloud. They are plain wrong. A federated ecosystem with an open platform can seamlessly scale if the providers figure out a working relationship with other providers using the same platform. I have already written about German provider Scaleup Technologies partnering with Japan’s XSeed Co. Ltd. to allow their customers to their customers to tap into XSeed’s infrastructure and vice versa. They could do it easily from Scaleup’s UI because both the providers run the same Applogic platform. Even though it is not absolutely necessary to use the same platform to burst up in another cloud, I am just arguing that being a smaller player is not a handicap as long as we have an open federated ecosystem. In this sense, Openstack opens up lots of possibilities in the cloud infrastructure world
- The Openstack design is intentionally componentized. Combine this design decision with a liberal open source licensing. Anyone (including Amazon themselves) can build a component that makes Openstack compatible with AWS API again. The problem here is not Rackspace’s intentions or any misguided direction of Openstack but the actual problem is Amazon’s unwillingness to either open up their API or give a commitment to not sue anyone who offers interoperability with their API. With their margins high, Amazon may not have any motivation to open up their API or play nice with other players in the space. But, if Openstack gains steam like many (including me) expect, Amazon may be forced to “open up”.
- The other big concern is about Rackspace’s influence on the project. Let us be frank folks. If anyone expect Rackspace to not exert their influence after putting so much money and resources, they are just being naive. Being a for profit business, it is natural for Rackspace to exert their influence on the project. In this age where we want to have our name for buildings in academic institutions after our big donation, expecting Rackspace to just give money and let everyone else (including their competitors) control the project is just short of madness. Being the largest supporter, they will influence the project. What matters is the governance model. When I spoke to Rackspace Openstack folks during OSCON, they assured me that the governance model will be set in such a way that no single company can exert influence over the direction of the project. They also pointed towards 25+ companies, some of them are competitors to Rackspace, joining the ecosystem. Plus folks, Openstack is an open source project with a liberal license. If someone or some organization doesn’t like the governance model, they can easily fork it out and have the right governance model. We all know this about any open source project but we choose to conveniently ignore this in any debate
- Openstack’s decision is also strategic. If Openstack supports multiple APIs, there is no way they can influence any standardization of APIs. When there are legal risks involved in using Amazon API and a better API is available from Rackspace without the legal risks, it is only natural to support Rackspace API and be an influencer in any API standardization process.