The League of Clouds
There has been a large deal of discussions about Cloud Federation in the past year(s), led by a lot of prominent bloggers (amongst which @krishnan who has been pretty relentless, in a good way, about it). I truly believe it’s the only way Cloud is going to be able to grow up from teenhood.
Only a few weeks ago, some pretty vivid and colorful conversations about Federation, Open Source, Standards and API Cloning happened at Gigaom’s Structure in San Francisco between Rackspace’s Openstack, Eucalyptus, Citrix’ CloudStack, AWS… The usual suspects.
This has been said many times (and denied as many times for that matter), but one more voice is never too many, I think. For The Cloud to truly fulfill all its aspirations and become the ubiquitous resource for the world to use, all the actors have to mature, grow up and stop the petty fights of “who’s the better cloud?” or “is it better because it’s open source?” and start working together to fight the good fight.
The core point that was put out, kind of aggressively I might add, during the Structure conference was that a truly open-source code built by the community and “with no large company having any outsized influence [over it]” is the only way to get a truly standard Cloud, and that cloning the de facto standard API is a bad idea. I believe the former to be totally wrong.
Open-Source doesn’t mean standard, especially for an industry and a product as “young” as the Cloud. This discussion is the kind of petty fights I’m talking about that, in my opinion, need to disappear for the Cloud to grow up.
And, as for the latter point, even though I agree that cloning a de facto standard API will not necessarily make clouds Open and Standard, people making this very argument are quite often Cloud Infrastructure vendors (or developers) who, in my opinion, are (sometimes) implying that their APIs should be the standard. So again, back to petty fights.
The best solution would be to have the Cloud community at large – public, private vendors and OSS developers – work on a real standard. There have been some attempts from SNIA for Storage, OCI (Open Cloud Initiative) and probably other lesser known attempts. But they are not being massively embraced by the Industry. And that’s what we need in the long term.
But, using AWS as a de facto standard might accelerate the Cloud Federation movement, which is what we need right now. We should just keep in mind that a 2.0 set of APIs, Best Practices, reference architecture needs to be actively worked on, for the future. And again, all of this should be managed by an external entity, comprised of the actors of the Cloud and IT.
Because, after all, with all the amazing people working at it and their combined experience of 4-5 years strong building clouds, we should be able to create what should be the best possible standards there could be for The Cloud.
Collaborating towards such a goal doesn’t mean losing business for each of those cloud providers and vendors. Cloud Adoption, although dramatically increasing in the last 2 years, has done so in some markets and verticals (Startups, Developpers, Genomics, Big Data..), but not so much in others (Enterprise, Government), and a great deal of that stems from the immaturity of the industry. Cloudwashing, petty fights about who’s got a bigger, better, faster Cloud, uncalled for bashing of Clouds crashes and downtime, bring confusion and doubt to the end-users (be they IT managers, CIOs or Consumers).
I know this is all unfortunately a bit utopian, but I’m going to stick with my hope that it will happen, and to end this post on a light, humorous note, let me give you a fun analogy to this whole thing, that came up to me while listening to the API Cloning discussion.
I’m a big comic books fan. Actually, I’m a HUGE comic books fan. And as I was reading about all these cloud considerations, my geeky mind started wandering into the comics world. And I realized that what we need is a League of Clouds. Our own Cloud Avengers, if you wish. We need Amazon, Rackspace, Azure, SalesForce and other future major Clouds to rally together as a team to fight “Evil”.
In this case, Evil would be Dr Lock-In, although there are many others of course. Amazon could be our Captain America or The Hulk (depending on whether your point of comparison is their leadership or their massive size). Considering their APIs seem to be considered the de facto standard, leading the market, I’d say they’re Captain America in my book. Then you have the Builders like OpenStack, Citrix’s CloudStack, Eucalyptus and Scality. They’re the Stark Industries, building iron-clad infrastructure suits for all clouds (public or private). And the analogies go on…
One mission for the group: defeat Dr. Lock-in, the archenemy. To do so, The League is organized and able to work together, communicate and exchange proper information in a timely manner. Those tools are designed by an entity that vets, maintains and upholds the rules. That would be our “S.H.I.E.L.D.”, and to be just as “creative” as the original acronym’s inventor, let’s call it Strategic International Cloud Logistics, Operations and Ubiquitous Directorate (S.I.C.L.O.U.D).
Just like in the Comics, The Cloud Avengers needs S.I.C.L.O.U.D to oversee the operations & communications of the team, and enforce the rules it has vetted.
We need the Cloud(s) to get together and work on a higher vision than merely growing their business in a selfish, isolated way. There’s even more money to be made from The Cloud once this happens and we go into the second era of a standardized, unified, hybrid, ubiquitous Cloud. So, please ..