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If AWS is the Walmart of cloud, is OpenStack the Soviet Union?

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Marten Mickos Eucalyptus Systems Chris Kemp OpenStack Sameer Dholakia Citrix Structure 2012
(L to R) Jo Maitland, GigaOM; Chris Kemp, CEO Nebula and co-founder, OpenStack; Sameer Dholakia, Group VP and GM, Citrix; Marten Mickos, CEO, Eucalyptus Systems
(c)2012 Pinar Ozger [email protected]

The stage was set for a lively debate between public cloud rivals at GigaOM Structure in San Francisco Thursday – representatives from Citrix(s ctxs), Eucalyptus and the OpenStack project certainly delivered. Nebula CEO and OpenStack co-founder Chris Kemp didn’t even get past the introductions before he challenged his fellow panelists on their “closed” cloud implementations and embrace of Amazon Web Services’(s amzn) API, which he compared to the Walmart(s wmt) of infrastructure.

“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.

Kemp took Citrix (s ctxs) and Eucalyptus to task for reinforcing Amazon’s dominance rather than embracing the OpenStack project. As you can imagine, Eucalyptus Systems CEO Marten Mickos and Citrix Systems Cloud Platforms Group GM Sameer Dholakia took exception to Kemp’s claims, particularly his characterization of their cloud platforms as closed.

Both pointed out that their platforms are open-source, just like OpenStack, but Kemp refused to accept that definition, saying the companies developed the core of platform internally and then released their software to the open-source community. Kemp contrasted that with the OpenStack, which is developed top-to-bottom by its broad membership with no large company having any outsized influence.

Dholakia countered that having a tight-knit group of engineers develop the core code and then releasing it is actually an ideal approach, since it provides a “rock solid” base from which the open-source community can build. Citrix recently abandoned OpenStack to pursue its own open-source rival CloudStack, which it has released to the Apache Software Foundation – so the wound to OpenStack may still be a bit raw.

Mickos went on the offensive, comparing OpenStack to the Soviet Union – a collective farm ostensibly run for the good of its members, but where nothing is actually accomplished. Eucalyptus is moving in the same direction its customers are heading – and that direction is overwhelming toward AWS, he said. When another public cloud API emerges as a legitimate challenger, Eucalyptus will support it, Mickos said. If that challenger is OpenStack, Mickos said he would welcome its API, but he’s not holding his breath.

“We’re very happy to support the next [API], but I have no idea what it will be,” Mickos said.

Check out the rest of our Structure 2012 coverage, as well as the live stream, here.

Watch live streaming video from gigaomstructure at

7 Responses to “If AWS is the Walmart of cloud, is OpenStack the Soviet Union?”

  1. You know what’s really nuts is that hardly anyone speaks about the possibility of AWS Master Landlord Jeff Bezos waking up on the wrong side of the bed one day and deciding he’s gonna raise the rent (heck, maybe he’ll do it with virtual inflation in the spirit of what Ben Bernanke’s trying to do with the macro economy). What are all the tenants (and the subletters such as those on Heroku) going to do when Master Blaster decides to inflate the rent?

  2. For clarity, OpenStack has broad support of the AWS APIs championed by Canonical (Ubuntu), my employer Piston Cloud, and many other members of the community. Our OpenStack powered products meet the needs of today’s on-premise and hybrid clouds, while collaborating on tomorrow’s standards.

    • Nick Carroway

      But Kemp, and others within OpenStack (Rackspace, HP, etc) are clearly pushing away from the AWS APIs. How can OpenStack become a standard if it cannot even agree on what the OpenStack APIs are? How can a true ecosystem develop if there is not agreement on the fundamental APIs?

      • A single vendors APIs are not a standard no matter how broadly used. They reflect too much the implementation.

        We can support the Amazon APIs and still work on evolving and standardizing cloud APIs.

        Unfortunately, for our customers until the market compels Amazon to collaborate, the market is dependent on a single vendor’s concepts, implementation, and business model on how we interact with cloud computing. To share this burden is one of the reasons Netflix, Etsy and many others are so motivated and successful with open-source their own grafting, adding, and abstracting the Amazon cloud implementation.

        Some of the concepts of the AWS APIs do not support many broad bases of customers. For example, the concepts related to some ephemeral computer and storage models. Here we provide bridges.

      • seanrob

        I would add that there is an OpenStack API. It is there as a fundamental part of OpenStack. The parts work together through the API and partners use the API to extend and integrate. That is unique and to many, better.

  3. Nick Carroway

    Having sat through the panel the most startling thing for me was the differing worldviews.

    Openstack thinks that vendors should decide on a standard and then expect the world to come to it.

    Eucalyptus and Citrix are both saying the world has already decided on a standard (AWS) and as vendors it’s their job to implement that standard and make it as open as possible.

  4. Jeff Putz

    The opened/closed debate is just as silly now as it has always been. Whenever you get into issues of “lock-in” or “proprietary” anything, it ignores the fact that software projects linger and have a shelf life of too long. It’s not like businesses up and move their stuff at a moment’s notice without significant cost.