A foundation to call home

Talking jclouds with Adrian Cole

Chris Mayer
jclouds

Just as he was helping push the project to Apache Software Foundation, JAX Magazine managed to catch up with the founder of portable cloud library jclouds, Adrian Cole.

Just as he was helping push the project to Apache Software
Foundation, JAX
Magazine
managed to catch up with the founder of portable cloud
library jclouds, Adrian Cole.

JAX Magazine: Can you explain the idea behind
jclouds and how the project came about in the first place and the
problems it sets out to solve?

Adrian Cole: In early 2009, I worked on what is now known as
Infinispan. After completing support for sleepycat persistence, I
moved to S3. The existing java libraries for Amazon S3 didn’t hold
up well for this use case, and after spending a couple weeks with
their codebases, I realized that we needed a specialized cloud
storage driver. This would need to survive highly concurrent small
requests needed to support write behind ops from the grid. This
plugin spun out as jclouds, under mentorship of Manik
Surtani (Red Hat).

Have the goals of the project changed since
2009?

Yes. jclouds was originally an S3 driver, and quickly became a
portable interface for cloud storage. By the end of 2009, it
started supporting provisioning. Over the years it became a place
to specialize in cloud APIs, some of which are portable.

What kinds of situations does jclouds thive
in?

ISVs thrive in jclouds as it focuses on clear goals and has use
cases similar to their needs. It’s a similar situation for other
foundational libraries such as pallet, whirr, or camel. The flip
side of relying on the ecosystem is that we have few tools for end
users, only a cli and an examples repo.

jclouds has recently been proposed to
ASF
– why was this decision taken? Has the project grown beyond
what is manageable?

The vote is in fact currently underway and hopefully we will be
accepted on Monday (23rd April). It is less about being
unmanageable and more about whether it is right to be managed by a
single person. While we have a lot of activity, peer reviews, joint
decision making, jclouds as an entity relies on me. If I’m hit by a
bus, the assets of jclouds such as its trademark, fall into grey
areas. Moreover, jclouds has probably too often been conflated with
me, which does a disservice to our increasingly engaged committer
team. jclouds is bigger than me and needs a foundation to call
home.

Why did you choose Apache over other open source
foundations?

ASF is more of a full service than the only other option we
considered, which was SPI. Eclipse could have been a decent choice,
too. Probably most convenient about ASF is that we already have a
similar community and contribution process as ASF projects, and the
fact that several Apache projects use jclouds makes the idea a
clear shared goal. Beyond that, I think we can collaborate better
inside ASF with projects like Libcloud, Deltacloud, and Cloudstack.
This collaboration should lead to a stronger Apache Cloud
brand.

What do you hope to achieve with the ASF move? How
will jclouds the project and the community benefit from
this?

Selfishly, I’m looking forward to paying less fees and doing
less paperwork on behalf of the jclouds brand and entity. I’m also
hopeful I can spend more time on code because of it, without
deducting from sleep or my other interests. jclouds has a lot to
gain from this. We can reset ourselves and trim any unintentional
bad habits. We can raise the profile of the many other stars in the
space. We can recruit more help and be adopted at even more large
companies due to the Apache Foundation being less scary. It is all
very exciting.

I’m intrigued by your decision to go backpacking
across Europe in the early days – why did you do this and how
beneficial was it to spreading the word of
jclouds?

We have California tax law to thank for this. I was on a work
permit, living in Shoreditch London for the first month or so of
jclouds. As I planned to come back to the States, I found that
California has a certain period that designates whether you pay
back taxes or not. It was cheaper to roam about in Europe for 4
months than pay these taxes. I would find out that the idea of
cloud portability was very interesting, particularly to Europeans.
Thanks to Manik, I had plenty of introductions to discuss this and
get feedback via many JUG events. Through this, we picked up
use-cases and a couple committers, including Andrew Phillips, who
remains with us 4 years later. Raising the profile of jclouds in
the first 6 months was crucial, as it led to me being able to get
paid when I ran out of money!

Since the proposal, have new contributors come
forward to offer guidance?

Yes, we have 10 apache mentors officially and a few unofficial.
 There’s overwhelming support.

There seems to be a range of use-cases of jclouds
across a number of companies. Adobe, CloudBees, Red Hat are such
examples, why do you think this is?

Jclouds focuses on doing simple things portably and proves it
with live tests. This leads to higher credibility and less danger
of overlap. Before jclouds, Java middleware and platforms were
underserved in the area of elasticity, but folks knew they needed
it. It wasn’t easy to grow the ecosystem, but focus and profile
helped. Probably more notable in raising profile was my first gig
for VMware vCloud. I met many ISVs and Java vendors through
this.

What are the plans for jclouds in the next few
months?

We will simultaneously release a major improvement called
jclouds 1.6 at the time we enter the [Apache] incubator. jclouds
1.6 is a hardening release, where we have cleaned up or deprecated
hairy things. We will move forward on what will likely be Apache
jclouds 2.0, which will prove we can thrive in the process, and
simultaneously help fix up our semantic versioning gaps. Once our
first Apache release is out, we will have a good idea of what our
reshaped community desires and head in that direction.

This interview appeared in JAX Magazine: On Cloud Nine

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