Follow the leader?

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

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 has 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 emphatically come out in support of OpenStack’s current direction, and that “copying Amazon” would “derail momentum.”

Scoble is pretty blunt in his riposte to Bias:

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 Amazon.”

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 features, 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

Chris Mayer

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