Look around and you will see a dozen or more cloud implementations with their own APIs for managing Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) clouds. Besides Amazon AWS, the incumbent, there is OpenStack, the open source initiative lead by NASA/Citrix/Rackspace, Microsoft’s Azure , vCloud from VMware and others from IBM, Oracle, HP, Fujitsu, to name a few. With all of these options, when a customer makes a choice they are locked in.
It is not supposed to be this way. To me, cloud is to computing as the power-grid is to electricity. As a consumer I see flexibility and choice as the biggest benefits of cloud. I ought to be able to move my workload at will from one cloud to another without embarking on a costly and time consuming re-implementation. If I need more compute capacity, I should be able to get it from a variety of sources. If one source can’t meet all my needs, I should be able to easily span my workload across multiple Cloud providers.
There are some who argue that standardizing cloud interfaces now is like putting the cart before the horse. Standardization is a trailing indicator of the industry maturity, they say. Cloud is too new and there is little implementation experience, they argue. While this may be true in some cases, IaaS cloud is fundamentally different. Its true value proposition, besides on demand usage, is easy portability across a wide set of provider choices. In that sense it is like electricity, telephones, or networking (TCP/IP). The more providers join the party the merrier it gets.
Given the state of the industry, all this sounds a little utopian at the moment. What is to move the industry to get to this nirvana? For starters there are the national governments. The US government, through its SAAJAC initiative, is doing just that. As a large buyer with substantial market power, governments can jumpstart this process like the US government did in other industries. Then there are the industry consortia like the DMTF. With many of the same players actively participating, the DMTF is busy crafting a cloud interface for IaaS cloud. A variety of other standards organizations such as OGF, SNIA, CSA etc. are busy hammering out interfaces and standards in areas such as storage and security, auditing, and licensing, to name a few.
So how will we get from here to there? The way I see it, the players will adopt a dual stack strategy with one proprietary stack and the other one based on some standard. Over time there will be a uniform compute grid with a common interface, much like the electric grid today. Balkanization is in no one’s interest.
Lead Architect – Technology Strategy