More than just hot air

Round the CAMPfire: talking PaaS standards with Oracle, Cloudsoft and CloudBees

Elliot Bentley
camp-spec1

“This is not some cabal,” say key players in the PaaS industry, in an exclusive discussion on the origins and future of the Cloud Application Management for Platforms.

Last
month, we

reported on CAMP
(Cloud Application
Management for Platforms), an API spec for cloud management
proposed by several industry members. Intrigued, we managed to grab
some time
with three big names involved with the spec:
Jeff Mischkinsky, Oracle’s Senior Director of
Fusion Middleware and Web Services Standards; Duncan
Johnston-Watt
, CEO of Cloudsoft Corporation; and
Steven Harris, Senior Vice President of
CloudBees.

“This is an effort that started a year and a half ago, and we
believe this is the first attempt to standardise application
management, basically the cloud platforms,” Mischkinsky tells
JAXenter in a roundtable discussion. “It’s to provide a common
basis for managing your applications. We’ve defined what we believe
to be the basic operations, that there shouldn’t be a whole lot of
disagreement on, for deploying and managing your applications like
start, stop, sleep, and deploy, and things like that.”

All three emphasise that the spec covers just enough “basic
operations” to be practical without limiting innovation within the
fledgling industry. “I think the main challenge here was that we
kept it simple, so that we design what I like to call a ‘framework
for innovation’,” says Mischkinsky.

“A number of us have been in this movie before,” adds
Johnston-Watt. “[We’ve] been involved in standards, and sometimes
they can be perceived as somehow inhibiting innovation. The phrase
I love, that Steve [Harris] uses, is about ‘not wanting to put the
standards cart before the innovation horse’.

“But I think in this case we are trying to keep it very much to the
core, common server operations that it’s really very hard to argue
against. I think the most interesting response that we had was from
another group called the Open Data Center
Alliance
[…] we got a very quick thumbs-up from them.”

One of the most significant repercussions of a universal API is
that customers will be able to switch providers with greater ease.
If this is the case, then doesn’t that put companies implementing
CAMP at a competitive disadvantage when compared to other PaaS
vendors?

Johnston-Watt disagrees: “I think, from my standpoint, it actually
means we’re more, rather than less, likely to work with PaaS
providers if they conform. So if you look at it the other way, it
will drive customers towards those that are supporting it. Rather
than being in some shape or form a competitive
disadvantage, I think it is actually a competitive
advantage.”

Instead of each PaaS vendor providing a “slightly different” API
for cloud management, says Mischkinsky, it makes far more sense to
standardise. “[The lack of a universal standard] causes more
friction, and it limits the growth of the market. So one of the
reasons Oracle as a company is usually behind standardisation, is
that we view it as a way to grow markets, and growing markets is
usually better for all the players in the markets. And then of
course, people just compete on the implementation and so
forth.”

It remains to be seen if the big fish of the PaaS pond – AWS,
Google, Windows Azure, et al – share the same philosophy. Still, if
the spec gains OASIS’ approval, it’ll be more than just the whim of
a few PaaS players.

“If you look at the charter, one of the things you’ll notice is
that we’ve left lots of room for, as additional companies come on
board to participate and finalise the spec, that we’ll be able to
make modifications to it,” says Mischkinsky.

“It’s also important to empathise that this is not some cabal,”
says Harris. “This is not seven guys who got together – this is
actually putting forward a proposal. And we’re all aggressively
seeking participation from other folks within the industry that we
know.

“We can’t say who at this stage,” he adds cryptically, “because
it’s all sort of being figured out, but there is definitely a lot
of interest beyond the original announcement.

“Think of this as the start, not the end.”

For a longer version of this interview, check out next month’s
edition of Java Tech Journal.

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