“We have Coke covered, we are looking for Pepsi”

OpenStack should “settle on AWS” and “innovate elsewhere” says Eucalyptus CEO Mickos

The embers from the heated OpenStack debate over the embrace of Amazon Web Services compatibility don’t appear to be dying down just yet.  

The community behind the collaborative cloud infrastructure project has had to endure lengthy debate in the past few weeks after CloudScaling CTO Randy Bias’ open letter to the OpenStack Foundation reignited the issue.

OpenStack was initially created as an open source infrastructure alternative in 2010 and offers a set of interlinked cloud components for compute (Nova), storage (Swift) and networking resources (Neutron), designed to be run on standard hardware. In OpenStack’s early days of 2010, co-founder NASA contributed Amazon EC2-compliant APIs in Nova, before Rackspace chose to place precedence on their own APIs in the cloud computing fabric controller just before the project’s launch that summer.

It is a decision which continues to cause dissension in the ranks today, with Bias reiterating this week that “the RackSpace API is NOT the right low-level API” and that “Amazon compatibility must happen in addition to all other OpenStack innovations.” This appears to be a swipe at RackSpace Startup Liaison Officer Robert Scoble, who in his own retort said that “copying Amazon” would “derail OpenStack’s momentum.”

One interesting bystander in this is Eucalyptus, a rival cloud infrastructure-as-a-service company which was “started out of curiosity” to explore whether it was possible to create an on-premise system that behaves like AWS, according to CEO Mårten Mickos.

The former MySQL CEO told JAXenter that despite facing “stiff dismissal” from fellow OpenStackers, Bias has done the industry “a huge favor” by bringing up the topic.

“OpenStack was founded in opposition of AWS, and they will probably never take API compatibility seriously. Instead, they are trying to establish their own standard,” Mickos explained.

Mickos believes that OpenStack’s narrow focus and the shunning of the AWS API could come back to haunt them.

“For workloads to be able to move between clouds, APIs must be compatible. For hybrid clouds to happen, APIs must be compatible. OpenStack is now heading for hybrid cloud only within the narrow set of OpenStack clouds and a number of them are not even internally and mutually compatible,” he added.

Eucalyptus also believe the future is hybrid, - that is, the ability to swiftly move workloads between public and private clouds.

“We are making sure that Eucalyptus is API compatible with the leading public clouds. So far, AWS is the only public IaaS vendor with a large market share. As time passes, and other vendors build significant market share, we expect to support other APIs as well,” he added.

Putting all your eggs in one basket could be an accusation thrown at Eucalyptus though. The company has long championed their mimicry with AWS, inking a deal in 2012 to use the company’s API. Amazon’s engineers and architects play a role in designing new AWS-like features for the on-premise solution, while Eucalyptus do the prospecting, seeking for customers who want a hybrid solution.

“We just follow market share,” Mickos said bluntly, before estimating that “AWS is probably 10 times larger than its next closest competitor.”

“Jokingly we have stated that we have Coke covered, and we are looking for Pepsi. It's just not clear who will be Pepsi. Perhaps it's Google, perhaps Microsoft.”

Mickos is in firm support of Randy Bias’ AWS-friendly views, and while he agrees with Scoble’s opinion that OpenStack must stay focused, he believes some of his statements are contentious.

“I disagree with his statement that following the AWS API would consume the innovative power of OpenStack. Quite on the contrary - I believe settling for a de facto leader in cloud APIs would free up OpenStackers to innovate elsewhere in the technology stack,” Mickos states, pointing to an example close to his heart, MySQL.

“The discipline of not trying to reinvent the database interfacing layer allowed MySQL to innovate elsewhere: the storage engine architecture, the replication technology, and in general the scale-out design. Today, 18 years old and passed from Sun to Oracle, MySQL continues to power Google and Facebook, just to mention two examples. There is lasting power in the scale-out innovations.”

The former MySQL CEO is keen to point out that there are exceptions to the rule, but is steadfast is his view that OpenStack is biting off more than it can chew by going against the grain.

“OpenStack, in its current constitution, is undertaking a whole set of enormous tasks: define and create a cloud API standard, define and build a cloud platform, compete against the leading public cloud, compete against the leading private clouds.”

Mickos is slightly more damning in his assessment of what is already on the table, telling JAXenter that  “the various components of OpenStack do not necessarily stand out as supreme examples of innovation” noting Swift's storage competitors Ceph and Basho’s RiakCS.

It might seem like Mickos is an OpenStack naysayer, but he is confident the project will be successful - just not in the way the Foundation perceives.

“Red Hat is betting their future on OpenStack, and OpenStack's future lies with Red Hat,” Mickos argued. “As a commercial product, it will be sold as a stack with RHEL and OpenShift to CIO-led IT organizations with large and slow-moving budgetary cycles, in competition against VMware and Microsoft. The other OpenStack product vendors will be marginalized.”

Mickos goes on to mention that Eucalyptus could even use OpenStack components further down the line, such as Swift, when they are mature. The two project have differing end goals, with Eucalyptus wanting to be a Amazon broker of sorts and OpenStack an enterprise stack on its own, but Mickos believes there is room for both in this world.

“Some people argue that the API is not so important. Some people argue that customers will start to abandon AWS. Some people argue that hybrid cloud is not so important - that on-premise environments will be established with little regard for what's happening in the public cloud,” Mickos concludes.

“We happen to disagree.”

Chris Mayer

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