The past week has seen vigorous debate about the path of the OpenStack cloud initiative. Eucalyptus CEO Marten Mickos thinks the current discussion around OpenStack and APIs has helped to draw the battlelines for private clouds.
The current discussion began when Cloudscaling's Randy Bias called on the OpenStack community to focus on compatibility with Amazon’s APIs. Tech blogger and Rackspace's Startup Liaison Officer Robert Scoble responded, writing that amid conflicting philosophies about the way forward, the key is to focus on innovation. Scoble argued that API compatibility issues don’t drive startup decisions.
How about a competitor’s point of view? Private cloud provider Eucalyptus Systems has always focused on compatibility with Amazon Web Services, and thinks the discussion is clearing up customer understanding of who does what.
“OpenStack has decided that they do not want to follow Amazon on APIs," said Mickos. "Randy Bias has forced the issue, and the reaction is a denial and dismissal.”
Fighting Too Many Battles?
Mickos disagrees with Scoble on his point that you can’t focus on API and innovation “I believe his thinking is flawed,” said Mickos. “You have to focus, but a way to focus is follow the dominant design on APIs and just do it, focus innovation.”
“OpenStack is fighting too many battles; trying to build a API, build a standard, fight in both the public and private cloud space.”
Eucalyptus - short for " Elastic Utility Computing Architecture for Linking Your Programs to Useful Systems" - is open source software for building Amazon-compatible private and hybrid clouds. Eucalyptus Systems is the commercial implementation of the software, which emerged from a research project at UC Santa Barbara.
Mickos previously served as CEO of MySQL AB, the open source database. He has a perspective on what works in open source software.
"With the most successful open source projects in the world, each one of them has been an open source implementation with a dominant design," said Mickos. "MySQL was an open source implementation of SQL, Apache was HTTP, and Wordpress is arguably an implementation of the blog. The blog is not a standard, it’s an agreed upon format, a dominant design."
How important are compatible APIs? “It depends on how the world will play out,” said Mickos. “Eucalyptus will say you have to have compatibility. OpenStack will say you can move workloads if the APIs aren’t the same. You can argue that the APIs aren’t important. We think the convenience of those compatible APIs is important.”
Mickos notes that 2012 wasn’t a great year for private cloud because of all the confusion around who was providing what. Discussions like what has been going on this past week are helping clear things up.
"Now that they (OpenStack) have chosen their path, it has a positive effect," said Mickos. "If you want Amazon compatibility, you go to Eucalyptus. It makes it easier for us to find our customers, and for OpenStack to find their customers. "
The customer confusion is dissipating, Mickos says. Where each stack provider’s strengths lie and how they’re positioned is becoming clearer to end users, thanks in part to these ongoing discussions. No one competitor is one size fits all; no one choice is right for every customer. It depends on their needs. In a way, it means that open source cloud computing projects are competing less against one another. The customer pie is more clearly split, with Eucalyptus specifically trying to carve out the portion of enterprises that want a private cloud that is AWS compatible.
“We used to talk to so many customers that came to us for the wrong reason, now they come for the right reason," said Mickos. "2012 was a bad year for the private cloud space. We had confusion. Now customers know where to go."
Mickos notes one of the bigger Eucalyptus customers has been growing over 25 percent a month. “This is a Eucalyptus user with over 10,000 developers," he said. "They can quickly test software and get it out. They’re doing it to make their R&D more efficient. We’re very happy.“
Eucalyptus shipped version 3.3. in June. Going forward, expect the company to open up its object store to support more and more object store options. “We’re showing how you can mix and match the best components of open source. You can choose something that has more bells and whistles,” said Mickos.