The Cloud's Proliferating Open Source APIs - InformationWeek
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7/29/2010
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Charles Babcock
Charles Babcock
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The Cloud's Proliferating Open Source APIs

In June, Red Hat moved its Deltacloud open source project into the Apache Software Foundation's incubator. In July, Rackspace made its Cloud Files code open source and will collaborate with partners in the OpenStack project. The Open Cloud Standards Incubator at the DMTF is producing another set. Isn't this just too much open source?

In June, Red Hat moved its Deltacloud open source project into the Apache Software Foundation's incubator. In July, Rackspace made its Cloud Files code open source and will collaborate with partners in the OpenStack project. The Open Cloud Standards Incubator at the DMTF is producing another set. Isn't this just too much open source?Both OpenStack and Apache Deltacloud are projects with similar goals. They seek to build out a set of Representational State Transfer or lightweight REST APIs that allow outsiders to tap into the services of a cloud provider over an HTTP network. Red Hat CTO Brian Stevens, not wishing to sound unrealistic, said, yes, two sets of open source APIs coming into existence at roughly the same time will compete with each other. In fact, they will be a little different and used for different purposes.

The DMTF has a set of already suggested APIs in hand from Oracle, Fujitsu, VMware and Telefonica, and its goal is to produce a set of cloud APIs that will work for those vendors and the customers they seek to supply.

The Rackspace/NASA Nebula-based OpenStack backers are looking to provide systems that could be used by a cloud services suppliers who want to manage up to a million servers. Its software will be aimed at the service provider and allow many service providers to look the same and be dealt with the same way by their customers. RightScale CTO Thorsten von Eicken went somewhat out of his way to say that this is a "true open source project," meaning it will include a variety of vendor participants and form a community around the resulting code.

But he could have just said an open source project. The use of "true open source project" tells me that this group is a little nervous about its open source standing. It is after all a group of vendors who each have a direct commercial interest in the outcome. Looked at from that perspective, the Deltacloud project in the Apache incubator looks like an "even more true open source project," open to developers from around the world, each of whom will have a minimal direct commercial interest in the outcome.

I don't really care about the hair-splitting. The OpenStack project reminds me of XenSource, the company formed behind the open source hypervisor that was backed by IBM, Sun, Oracle, HP and others. But I view XenSource as less successful in attracting multitudes of developers to its cause than some other projects because of that vendor domination. If the agenda is being set by Oracle and IBM, how many independent developers, working for nothing, are going to spend time on the project or choose its output for their next project? That worry doesn't affect Oracle, et al too much because they have thousands of existing customers ready to work with the alternative they provide.

The Apache Deltacloud project is more of a grassroots project, possibly more likely to be picked up and used by a variety of grassroots developers and enterprise developers seeking to build an internal cloud. If enough of these implementations come into being, then the cloud suppliers will take notice. Perhaps they've already implemented OpenStack as the means to get to a rapidly scalable infrastructure quickly. There's no reason why they couldn't dedicate part of that infrastructure to being activated by a set of APIs already in use inside the enterprise.

In effect we need all three of these open source APIs efforts to accomplish different goals and allow the cloud to become a form computing that connects to many different customers and implement varied styles of computing. We are well on our way.



Emerging technology always comes with a learning curve. Here are some real-world lessons about cloud computing from early adopters. Download the latest all-digital issue of InformationWeek for that story and more. (Free registration required.)

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