Follow the leader?

OpenStack momentum will “derail” with Amazon Web Services, says Scoble

Chris Mayer

The quarrel just won’t disappear – should OpenStack continue as a AWS alternative or buddy up with the market leader?

As the candles were blown out on
OpenStack’s 3rd birthday cake
, many naysayers appeared to crash
the party. The collaborative cloud project has long positioned
itself as an alternative to the established order of Amazon Web
Services and VMware, maintaining a differentiated set of
multi-tenant APIs.

It is a well-trodden argument that has been
around since the project’s creation
, but
in recent weeks
, the cry for Amazon
compatibility in OpenStack has risen, with many believing OpenStack
doesn’t stand a chance if it doesn’t buddy up to the kingpin of
cloud computing. The most prominent crier thus far is CloudScaling
CTO Randy Bias, whose

open letter to the OpenStack community
reignited the debate.

Bias states that OpenStack must “immediately and
deliberately embrace the APIs and features of established public
clouds,” in order to “position the project for dominance in the
private and hybrid cloud markets”.

Embracing Amazon serves the interests of all community
members by positioning OpenStack as the best choice for enterprises
and SaaS providers that want an ecosystem approach to public cloud,
one in which their applications can move to the infrastructure best
suited to the job at that time.

In short, the community controls the direction of the
project, and it’s time we advocate a public cloud compatibility
strategy that is in all our best interests, not just those of a
single, albeit substantial, contributor. Failing to make this
change in strategy could ultimately lead to the project’s
irrelevance and death.

In the post, Bias takes aim at Rackspace for
attempting to make their API the standard for OpenStack right from
the beginning. The letter appears to have irked renowned Internet
loudmouth and Rackspace’s Startup Liaison Officer, Robert Scoble,
who has
come out in support
of OpenStack’s current
direction, and that “copying Amazon” would “derail

Scoble is pretty blunt in his riposte to

If you think Cloud innovation is finished, or that only Amazon
can innovate (IE, do new things for new markets) then by all means
you should drop everything and make OpenStack 100% compatible with
Amazon’s APIs.

But, if you believe, like I do, that we’re entering into a new
age that demands new technologies (thanks to wearable computing,
sensors, and new business demands to personalize service and build
new collaborative enterprises…then you must dismiss Randy Bias’
advice and get back to work on building the future.

He then adds that “not a single startup” has
told him “they won’t go with OpenStack because of API compatibility
problems”, but they do want to see “an innovation alternative to

There is clearly a split in the OpenStack camp
in which way the project manoeuvres next. Some believe the best
step is to
offer an AWS public cloud compatible
to entice some of the more wary companies to
the project. However, others fear, like Scoble that by offering
this, OpenStack will lose sight of its initial intentions and
innovation will stagnate. Curiously though, as Bias points out, the
initial Nova compute fabric controller in OpenStack was
EC2-compatible from the beginning (contributed by NASA). Rackspace
then brough their ‘native’ OpenStack API into the mix.

Uniting these fronts is arguably the biggest challenge
facing the OpenStack Foundation. Recent success stories from the
likes ComCast and CERN, who are both using the technology in
production, suggest that the rapid rise of OpenStack is set to
continue, with or without AWS. At the same time, whether the open
cloud project challenge the might of Amazon this late in the game
is up for contention.

Should OpenStack offer AWS-functionality moving forward, or
stick to the mantra which got them here? Do you agree with Bias or
Scoble? Let us know below

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