Should open source cloud platforms play nicely with Amazon?

Open source cloud platforms have been touted as alternatives to the proprietary AWS, but users want interoperability between open clouds and Amazon.

Building cloud services with such open source cloud platforms as OpenStack, CloudStack or Eucalyptus can be an attractive option for customers who are in the market for a flexible and customizable cloud environment.

Each open source project touts itself as an alternative to the proprietary Amazon Web Services (AWS), but two of them -- CloudStack and Eucalyptus -- have cloned Amazon application program interfaces (APIs) to make some of their products more compatible with certain Amazon platforms.

Some purists might balk at the notion of open source cloud projects making exceptions and working with a closed cloud environment like AWS, but the fact remains that many cloud customers like AWS. Open source cloud platforms that tout their interoperability with Amazon could attract new customers.

"Cloud platforms that are able to tie into the very popular Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) and AWS will be a huge ability that will help [open source cloud platforms] increase adoption," said Lauren Nelson, infrastructure and operations analyst for Forrester Research Inc.

Should open source cloud platforms include Amazon?

Eucalyptus has copied Amazon EC2 APIs since its inception. CloudStack also provides API compatibility with Amazon EC2, and recently announced it would begin cloning Amazon Simple Storage System (S3) APIs through Riak CS, Cambridge, Mass.-based cloud provider Basho Technologies Inc.'s open source distributed database product.

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OpenStack -- a project developed by NASA and Rackspace US Inc. -- has elected not to clone Amazon APIs, unlike CloudStack and Eucalyptus, citing that copying Amazon's APIs will not produce an exact copy of the provider's services and features, and will not be able to scale properly to meet the needs of users.

Rackspace also has promulgated that an "open" alternative to proprietary cloud platforms is needed for cloud customers moving forward, but OpenStack might be a little too fixated on differentiating itself from Amazon, noted Tom Nolle, president of CIMI Corp. "The biggest mistake that any [provider or open source cloud project] makes is framing Amazon as the standard they have to beat," he said. Including Amazon can be a huge opportunity for open source cloud platforms, he added.

While there are many cloud APIs currently in use, particularly for storage, it makes sense for open source cloud platforms like CloudStack to use Amazon S3 APIs because they have acquired an impressive level of adoption, noted Nicos Vekiarides, CEO at TwinStrata Inc., a Natick, Mass.-based cloud storage provider. "What customers don't necessarily want is new cloud APIs; they want more standardization across these APIs, and existing APIs with a lot of adoption are a good choice," he said.

Leaving Amazon out could 'close up' an open source cloud

Whether open source cloud projects like it or not, Amazon still holds a large share of the cloud market. And while the popular cloud provider has been known for its proprietary offerings, going out of the way to omit opportunities to interoperate with Amazon potentially could isolate open source cloud efforts.

"Almost every single cloud provider on the market today has to have some sort of compatibility with Amazon," Forrester's Nelson noted. Nearly 48% of cloud customers using a public cloud environment use Amazon for at least one part of their portfolio, according to Forrester's research.

Many open source initiatives today are based on existing products in the market because end users are asking for compatibility and interoperability with solutions they already are comfortable with using. "Sticking to that set of common APIs -- like Amazon APIs -- that customers already like and use is a great approach [for providers]," TwinStrata's Vekiarides said.

Open source cloud platforms should strive to create new information that will enhance existing cloud product features. "The cloud is really based on best-of-breed capabilities, and [open source projects] should want to create the best possible standard," Nelson said.

Let us know what you think about the story; email: Gina Narcisi, News Writer and follow @GeeNarcisi on Twitter.

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