If Open Stack is the Soviet Union, Is AWS the USA?

Arguing over who is more open is pointless. It's what works best that matters.

Seems like there was quite a little smackdown at the Structure conference around public cloud APIs. Representatives from OpenStack, Citrix and Eucalyptus were all on a panel to discuss the various "open" cloud APIs. Well, OpenStack co-founder Chris Kemp came out swinging by comparing Amazon Web Services (AWS) to Walmart.

According to GigaOm's Kevin Fitchard, Kemp said that AWS is like Walmart because:

“It’s reasonably fast, reasonably priced and reasonably secure,” Kemp said, which is why it has the lion’s share of the cloud business today. But AWS will never be incredibly fast or incredibly secure, Kemp said, and while AWS may be emerging as a de facto standard, it doesn’t change the fact its API is proprietary. “I don’t think a de facto standard is a standard,” he said.

Well Chris, tell us how you really feel. According to the article, this started a very lively discussion/exchange between the three panel members. Kemp implied that both Citrix with their CloudStack platform (which has been handed over to the Apache Foundation) and Mickos' Eucalyptus cloud platform are not as open as OpenStack and have "sold out" by supporting the proprietary API of AWS.

Responding to Kemp's Walmart charge, Mickos, who has a long history in open source as CEO of MySQL, compared OpenStack to the Soviet Union, "a collective farm ostensibly run for the good of its members, but where nothing is actually accomplished."  

Well, if OpenStack is like the Soviet Union, I would say perhaps AWS is more like the United States. Much like the denial of the metric system, have our own electrical system and so many other examples where we go our own way and either you can use our way or the highway, AWS has taken the same approach. They build what they build. In many ways they started the public cloud market and are going to do what they want. They have the market presence and deep pockets to exert their will and they do. So, if OpenStack is the Soviet Union, AWS is the USA and we have ourselves a good old cold war here over APIs.

The conversation then went into who is more open and what is the best open source model. The argument around whether one company developing open source software and then releasing it to the community versus the community developing the software is an interesting one, but I don't think one is superior to the other. Each model has advantages and disadvantages. 

What the Apache Foundation does with CloudStack and whether it will be a legitimate rival to OpenStack is still open for debate. On the other hand, Eucalyptus has hitched its wagon to AWS from just about the get go, so it should be no surprise that they are solidly in the AWS camp. 

A couple of comments at the event though should be focused on. One is a comment by Mickos that they develop and work with who their customers tell them they want. In all of the talk about open source pureness, we should not lose track of this. At the end of the day the scoreboard is measured by users, dollars and cents. Any and all of these companies and platforms need to satisfy the needs of their customers.

Secondly, for all of the talk around using the AWS API, we have not seen a real alternative from the OpenStack camp. When we do, then we could see who is part of NATO and who is in the Warsaw Pact, so to speak.

In the meantime, thanks to the GigaOm people and live stream, you can listen in on the panel discussion below:

Watch live streaming video from gigaomstructure at livestream.com

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