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6/1/2009
01:33 PM
David Linthicum
David Linthicum
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Why Open Source Amazon APIs Will Matter

Rumor has it that Amazon is going to open source its Web services APIs -- APIs used by thousands of customers... What rank-and-file cloud and SaaS users would gain is a de facto standard that gets us out of the API-to-API development shuffle...

Dave Rosenberg had an interesting post around a rumor that Amazon is going to open source its API:

"Amazon.com's legal team is 'investigating' open-sourcing their various Web services API's including those for EC2, and S3, Amazon's main cloud computing interfaces, according to Enomaly founder Reuven Cohen."

Amazon's APIs are widely leveraged by thousands of Amazon Web Services (AWS) customers. While Rosenberg considers them the "best" method of interaction for various cloud services, at this point I only agree that they are the most used.

So, what does Amazon stand to gain by this? As Rosenberg argues, by releasing the APIs as open source (creative commons, or no-sue covenant), Amazon could find that other cloud computing vendors adopt their way of doing APIs. There is no clear revenue stream from that approach, but the use of the IP will be clearly linked back to Amazon. It could become one of those little heard of "brilliant moves."What's to be gained here by the rank-and-file cloud and SaaS user is that they could have a de facto standard that gets us out of the API-to-API development shuffle as we attempt to use many different cloud computing and SaaS providers to form our enterprise solutions. In essence, once you know the Amazon API, and most other vendors use it to front-end their cloud computing services, moving to the cloud and/or SaaS won't be as complex.

Private clouds, and vendors that support private clouds, stand to gain the most from this move since they can leverage some of the successes already proven in the world of public cloud computing, without paying gobs of royalties. Indeed, count on the US government to drive much of this move, considering the amount of investment it plans to make in cloud computing, its need for private clouds and its desire for standards.

If this rumor is indeed true, which it probably is, here is some free unsolicited advice for Amazon.

First, make sure to get outside and independent assistance around the movement to open sourcing your APIs. This means getting comments from those in the industry, other vendors, and perhaps your competition. The idea is to understand their requirements, and thus adjust the open source offering to meet those requirements. This may seem counterintuitive, but it's very important.

Second, approach a standards body to drive this move; don't attempt to drive it yourself. This will increase adoption and provide a free product management and marketing process. However, you also need to make sure you put time and money into this process. Most standards die due to starvation, no matter their value.

Personally, I think this rumor is true. It's logical and in the best interests of Amazon. For others doing cloud computing and/or SaaS, this would be a good lead to follow.Rumor has it that Amazon is going to open source its Web services APIs -- APIs used by thousands of customers... What rank-and-file cloud and SaaS users would gain is a de facto standard that gets us out of the API-to-API development shuffle...

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