OCI’s Relevance within an Amazon and OpenStack World

Last week, yet another Cloud initiative began as the Open Cloud Initiative (OCI) launched from OSCON 2011 in Portland, Oregon.  The OCI bills itself as a non-profit organization to advocate standards-based Open Cloud Computing.   The OCI hopes to provide a legal framework based on the Open Cloud Principles Document (OCP) and apply them to Cloud computing products and services.

While conspiracy theorists will call this the “One Cloud” movement, the reality is there is little to worry about.  An OCI without Amazon, Microsoft, Verizon, AT&T, and more isn’t really an assembly of “leaders of Cloud computing” but more of an ideology.  Academics and Open Source aside, there is very little motivation for Cloud providers to work together other than standard connectivity and a few APIs.

The biggest force in promoting the OCI’s self-proclaimed slogan of “A non-profit advocate of open cloud computing” is actually another truly powerful Open Source Movements called OpenStack.  As OpenStack adoption continues to increase, they may become the defacto standard for building Clouds.  OpenStack is the core platform that allows Enterprises and Service Providers to build value-added software and/or services to create new and unique offerings or businesses to their customers.

It is the difference between “talking” and “action”.  While some in this industry like to debate the merits of Cloud computing and interoperability, others are creating and innovating.  I have already mentioned the OpenStack movement and its importance to Cloud computing, and no conversation on this subject would be relevant without talking about Amazon.

Amazon is rapidly innovating within Cloud computing while continuing to disrupt the industry, drop their published prices, and make money.  Instead of getting caught up in all this debate, Amazon is setting their agenda and putting the entire industry on the defensive.  In fact, their rate of innovation is astounding while their rate of adoption is actually accelerating.  What is their motivation to interoperate with other Cloud providers?  As long as they have open and defined APIs into the private clouds (VMware, Microsoft, Xen, KVM) of their Enterprise customers, then they are all set.

Altruistic goals cannot be confused with the capitalistic reality of the world we live in.  The OCI may have great intentions, but they plenty of work to do to make themselves relevant within an Amazon and OpenStack world.

Amazon/ Cloud Customers: “Trust, but verify”

While Amazon continues to recover from their Cloud outage, it seems that some in the industry are throwing some FUD (fear, uncertainty, doubt) their way.  After all, Amazon has been on an amazing run within the Cloud business as they continue to build-out new datacenter regions while continuing to reduce prices to their customers.

Based on the many articles written on Amazon I have the following observations.

  • Confusion rains supreme within the world of Cloud computing
  • It’s time to stop pontificating and start solving problems
  • Cloud computing isn’t simple
  • Putting Cloud in front of every product’s name isn’t helpful
  • Availability zones are misunderstood
  • Cloud does not detract from personal responsibility
  • We need more information / facts
  • Those who think this outage proves Cloud computing isn’t ready for prime time are missing the boat

While Amazon has the ultimate responsibility for this outage, why didn’t their customers have a contingency play for this scenario?  Did everyone simply think Amazon could never go down?  Haven’t we learnt anything from past outages of Google, Microsoft, and others?

Earlier this year I wrote a blog post entitled “When the Cloud Goes Down” detailing an experience I had with a provider.  The black box mentality of the Cloud needs to be replaced with an openness and transparency that does not exist today.  A dashboard showing status and health of the Cloud is simply not enough.  We need the ability to monitor and manage our slice of the Cloud independently of the Cloud provider.

Ultimately, we may have seen the perfect argument for the Hybrid cloud; defined as the ability to provide some resources on a private cloud while accessing additional resources on a public cloud.  In a Hybrid cloud model, customers would have the ability to swing services from the public cloud to their private cloud or to other public cloud providers to avoid outages.  Where is the Amazon VM Export capability?

In the end, I’ll borrow a famous phrase from President Ronald Reagan, “Trust, but verify.”  Your business may depend on it!