Commoditizing the cloud

Doug Cutting on Cloud: commodity or proprietary?:

As we shift applications to the cloud, do we want our code to remain vendor-neutral? Or would we rather work in silos, where some folks build things to run in the Google cloud, some for the Amazon cloud, and others for the Microsoft cloud? Once an application becomes sufficiently complex, moving it from one cloud to another becomes difficult, placing folks at the mercy of their cloud provider.

I think most would prefer not to be locked-in, that cloud providers instead sold commodity services. But how can we ensure that?

If we develop standard, non-proprietary cloud APIs with open-source implementations, then cloud providers can deploy these and compete on price, availability, performance, etc., giving developers usable alternatives.

That’s exactly right. Cloud providers (selling virtualized cpu and storage) are analogous to hardware vendors. We’re in the pre-PC era, when a developer must write to a proprietary platform, and if one wants to switch vendors, one must port the application.

But such APIs won’t be developed by the cloud providers. They have every incentive to develop proprietary APIs in order to lock folks into their services. Good open-source implementations will only come about if the community makes them a priority and builds them.

I think this is a little too pessimistic. Early leaders may have plenty of incentive to create lockin, but commoditization is another viable business model, one that could even be driven by a heretofore leading proprietary vendor, e.g., the IBM PC, or Microsoft-Yahoo!

Of course the community should care and build the necessary infrastructure so that it is available to enable a potential large cloud provider to pursue the commoditization route and to provide an alternative so long as no such entity steps forward.

Cutting has been working on key parts of the necessary infrastructure; read the rest of his post for more.

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