Randy Bias: OpenStack Needs Amazon APIs To Drive Hybrid Clouds

Randy Bias

With his outspoken views on the widespread disruption caused by cloud computing, Cloudscaling CEO Randy Bias has forged a reputation as one of the industry’s most influential voices. More than that, he’s also become one of the most vocal advocates of open-source systems, and was one of the early champions of the OpenStack project. So when such an important voice calls for a radical departure asking the OpenStack community to pull back from all-out war with Amazon Web Services (AWS) and instead turn around and embrace it, people need to take notice.

In an open letter posted onto the Cloudscaling blog today, Bias declares that the OpenStack community’s insistence on forging its own path, with its own APIs, is self-defeating and will only harm the project. Rather than go it alone, OpenStack contributors would be far better off embracing its rival’s APIs and the features of the public cloud, Bias believes. By doing so, OpenStack’s partners can position themselves to win the race for the hybrid cloud.

OpenStack Can’t Compete


Bias’ call is based on his belief that OpenStack doesn’t stand a chance as far as the public cloud is concerned. In his opinion, AWS, along with Google Compute Engine, has already won that race and will utterly dominate the space in the near future, but this doesn’t mean OpenStack has failed. Rather, all this presents is an opportunity for OpenStack to carve out its own niche elsewhere.

“It is clear that AWS (and quite likely GCE) will utterly dominate the public cloud race. But more importantly, who cares? Dominance by AWS and GCE does not mean that OpenStack fails. In fact, OpenStack is clearly on a trajectory to ‘win’ the private cloud race, and a rapid embracing of Amazon will put OpenStack in the pole position to dominate hybrid cloud.”

To this end, Bias says that the time has come for OpenStack to adopt a ‘public cloud compatibility strategy’ that’ll set the project on its way to dominate the hybrid cloud instead, and to do that it has only one choice – to do away with the idea of building and maintaing its own set of differentiated APIs and instead embrace those of AWS. More importantly, it’s something the OpenStack community needs to do now:

“Time is of the essence. AWS is already dabbling with providing private AWS regions for the government (AWS GovCloud) and even specific agencies (CIA/NSA). It is reasonable to conclude that they might expand this program, threatening to dull OpenStack’s present opportunity.”

Whilst AWS has been pulling ahead in the public cloud, rivals like EMC, HP and Dell have all been using using OpenStack as a vehicle to chase after it. HP recently unveiled laid out its plans to penetrate the hyperscale market its OpenStack-based Cloud OS, described as a private/hybrid cloud system, backed by its Moonshot server. This provides a common architecture for what HP is calling its “Converged Cloud”, which has its own services built-in but is otherwise free from vendor lock-in.

HP’s strategy is in contrast to that of Dell, which raised a few eyebrows not long ago when it announced it was dumping its own OpenStack cloud initiative in favor of a Cloud Partner Program with US firms such as ScaleMatrix, ZeroLag and Joyent. At the time, Wikibon co-founder and CTO David Floyer said that this was a case of Dell hedging its bets amidst the uncertainty surrounding OpenStack.

Meanwhile, EMC has been trying to capitalize on the confluence of traditional enterprise data, cloud computing and big data growth. To that end, EMC’s strategy is to identify like-minded enterprise cloud providers and enable the development of so-called hybrid clouds built on OpenStack – a combination of virtualized, on-premise data center infrastructure and outsourced services.

But despite these efforts, Bias believes that the OpenStack community is hurting its cause by thumbing its nose up at AWS’ APIs and pushing what are really just Rackspace’s.

When OpenStack was formed back in 2010, there were no native APIs in the Nova compute component. Instead, it supported AWS’ EC2 APIs. It was only when Rackspace added its own APIs that OpenStack adopted these as “native”, moving away from Amazon.

Meanwhile, OpenStack’s Swift Storage component supported APIs created by Rackspace for its Cloud Files service. As Bias explains:

“OpenStack originated with ‘native’ APIs, where one half was AWS compatible (Nova) and one half was Rackspace public cloud compatible (Swift).”

Can Everyone be a Winner?


Essentially, what Bias is asking for is that the OpenStack community stop pussyfooting around, and he’s leading by example. Cloudscaling itself offers support to both key AWS and GCE APIs. What RackSpace and the others need to do is dump this idea that OpenStack can be a rival architecture to AWS in the public cloud, and instead focus on using it as a foundation for private and hybrid cloud implementations.

He argues that by embracing Amazon, the entire community will benefit as the open platform will be able to position itself as the best bet for enterprises looking for a hybrid solution. In other words, OpenStack-based clouds would be able to benefit from AWS’s ecosystem by carving out new terrority for themselves.

“Amazon and Google are our friends because they are spreading awareness and adoption of cloud computing. They are “making the pie bigger” for us all. Together, they are creating a rich and vibrant public cloud ecosystem, and OpenStack and can connect to it with a rich and vibrant private cloud ecosystem.”