The “Open” Cloud Manifesto
So I’ve been head down and arse up this week; I’ve barely had enough time to get on top of my email inbox let alone my unread blog entries. Finally made some progress this evening at YVR and now on NZ83 en route YVR-AKL.
So while I was underwater a stink kicked up around a thing called the ‘Cloud Manifesto’. Meant to be being released Monday, it was leaked here (all 6 pages of it) a few days early. From my reading between the lines of the thinly veiled blog post by Steve Martin from Microsoft it looks like the document has been written, by an as yet undisclosed group, and is being farmed around a bunch of companies for them to ‘sign up’. There is a posting on the Cloud Computing Interop Forum (on Google Groups) by Reuven Cohen (who I’ve never heard of) who is the ‘Creator of the Enomalism Elastic Computing Platform’ (which I have to admit I’ve never heard of either). Reuven is also involved in Cloud Camp (which I have heard of). I tell you all this and encourage you to go and have a sniff around some of the links above and some of the press coverage so far so that you have some context before continuing.
http://www.techcrunchit.com/2009/03/26/out-of-order-20/ Steve Gillmor from TechCrunch
http://blogs.zdnet.com/BTL/?p=15341 – Amazon expressing their antipathy towards the whole thing
http://www.eweek.com/c/a/Cloud-Computing/Microsoft-Calls-for-Open-Cloud-Standards-538212/ Darryl Taft
I provide the above to give some background. Now for some of my thoughts.
The Emperors New Clothes*
So reading the document itself most of it feels so obvious it barely warrants saying- it’s PR puffery really. I’m going to cherry pick a few statements from the document to discuss.
“We believe that these core principles are rooted in the belief that cloud computing should be as open as all other IT technologies. “
I hate to break it, but, other IT technologies aren’t that open. As I’ll set out below I’m a big believer that in most cases openness and interoperability are emergent aspects of technology and not something you should really set out to engineer.
“To reassure their customers, cloud providers must offer a high degree of transparency into their operations.”
So I just don’t know how realistic this is. Certainly Microsoft and even more so Google are highly protective of their data center operation details. A measure of security through obscurity is important here still I think. I would also disagree with the authors that moving data into a shared infrastructure necessarily exposes one to more potential for unauthorized exposure.
“Cloud providers must use and adopt existing standards wherever appropriate. The IT industry has invested heavily in existing standards and standards organizations; there is no need to duplicate or reinvent them. “
So this is bang on target and to be honest the biggest thing that the Cloud Providers can do to ensure *useful* openness is to ensure they use existing standards wherever possible. But do we need this sort of industry bickering to state the bleeding obvious?
“Any community effort around the open cloud should be driven by customer needs, not merely the technical needs of cloud providers, and should be tested or verified against real customer requirements. “
Would be interesting to know what level of customer involvement there was in the Manifesto document? Were folks like SmugMug (who are my favourite example of a great Cloud operated business) or enterprise customers (I know there is at least one airline using EC2 for some of their stuff) involved? It all feels like a bit much of a simplistic puff piece at the moment- though according to the CCIP group post ‘major players’ have been involved.
“Cloud computing standards organizations, advocacy groups, and communities should work together and stay coordinated, making sure that efforts do not conflict or overlap. “
Haven’t really gotten off to the best start in this regard to be honest.
This document is meant to begin the conversation, not define it.
I’m afraid I agree with a number of the commentators (both vested interests and ‘independent’ voices) at the top of this post. It was a pretty shitty way to ‘begin the conversation’.
Who’s Actually Behind It All
So a big question in my mind is who is actually driving this thing?
To be honest if it were just a group of bit players stroking and stoking their egos then I don’t actually think it would have generated the level of interest and posturing (from MS and Amazon to date) that we’ve seen.
Gillmor looks at the obvious candidates, IBM and Google (Amazon having declared they’re outside the tent). It seems inconceivable that Microsoft and Amazon would not be invited to be involved in this at the earliest opportunity. Even if it were the ‘Anything But Microsoft Brigade’ you’d still expect Amazon to be seated at the table- hell their model of a high scale application operator selling their dog food to others embodies for me much of what the cloud is about.
I have no idea how Cohen can, with a straight face, say:
“Given the nature of this document we have attempted to be
as inclusive as possible inviting most of the major names in technology to
participate in the initial draft.”
Given that this Manifesto appears to be largely driven by East Coast companies I can’t help but think that IBM have got their finger in this somehow. It’ll be somewhat ironic if this the case, as a key proponent of the standardization of Office Open XML (now ISO29500) I’ve had first hand knowledge of IBM’s ‘do as we say’; might this be their ‘not as we do’ moment?
I guess all will be revealed come Monday.
On The Substantive Matter- Or Why I Only Kind Of Give a Crap About Interop in the Cloud
Standards stifle innovation. There, I said it. Friends of mine will probably bitch at me for being so blunt, but, I genuinely believe that standardizing technologies is, in most cases, best left until they have reached a reasonable level of maturity.
Once something is standardized pace becomes glacially slow and the ability for innovators to recover a return on intellectual property becomes nigh on impossible. There are, of course, some business whom this model is de rigueur- I guess we’ve got to wait until Moday to find out more.
For the most part we’ll be building our applications using the same protocols and technologies that we’ve always done. At least for the stuff that spins my wheels, high scale applications, there’s not a lot that’s new in the cloud; it’s really just an interesting new way to deploy and dynamically scale the same architectures I’ve been working on since I was building SaaS apps in the Dot Bomb days.
The new stuff really comes down to the cloud fabric^ and the management thereof and frankly I think it’s too early to think about standards. Amazon scales at the unit of a virtual machine, Microsoft does the same but with sugar on the top to hide the fact that it’s really Windows at all. Let’s see what sort of models shake out best for customers before we try and anoint one king.
I Guess We Wait Until Monday
As someone looking to ship a pretty significant Cloud delivered app later this year what I really want is;
- For my Cloud provider of choice to ship their bits!
- For my travel schedule to slow down a bit- my Tripit stats are truly horrendous and I’m flying to Bangalore Monday morning.
- For the Manifesto authors, whoever and wherever they might be to read a little Hayek.
Let’s see was happens Monday.
*So worth nothing this wasn’t my turn of phrase. Used here first but I liked it so much I pinched it!
PoliTechLaw | Rants | Windows Azure|Saturday, March 28, 2009 7:53:37 PM UTC||
^Call it what you will, this is the term I use when talking about Windows Azure at least.