Cloud: commodity or proprietary?

A few days ago Google announced its App Engine, which lets folks build applications that run in Google’s cloud. Amazon has for a while had a number of services to let folks run applications in Amazon’s cloud. But in both of these cases, one must use their proprietary APIs.

For example, Google provides a datastore API that applications must use to persist state, while Amazon similarly provides a simple DB API. Amazon’s services are generally lower-level and easier to adopt ala-carte, while Google provides one-stop-shopping. Either way, one’s application code becomes dependent on a particular vendor. This is in contrast to most web applications today, where, with things like the LAMP stack, folks can build vendor-neutral applications from free (as in beer) parts and select from a competitive, commodity hosting market.

As we shift applications to the cloud, do we want our code to remain vendor-neutral? Or would we rather work in silos, where some folks build things to run in the Google cloud, some for the Amazon cloud, and others for the Microsoft cloud? Once an application becomes sufficiently complex, moving it from one cloud to another becomes difficult, placing folks at the mercy of their cloud provider.

I think most would prefer not to be locked-in, that cloud providers instead sold commodity services. But how can we ensure that?

If we develop standard, non-proprietary cloud APIs with open-source implementations, then cloud providers can deploy these and compete on price, availability, performance, etc., giving developers usable alternatives. But such APIs won’t be developed by the cloud providers. They have every incentive to develop proprietary APIs in order to lock folks into their services. Good open-source implementations will only come about if the community makes them a priority and builds them.

Hadoop is a big initial step in this direction. Its current focus is on batch computing, but several of its components are also key to cloud hosting. HDFS provides a scalable, distributed filesystem. It doesn’t yet meet the high-availability requirements of cloud hosting, but once folks who need that help to build it, it will. HBase provides a database comparable to Amazon’s Simple DB and Google’s Datastore API. It’s still young, but, if folks want, it could become a solid competitor to these.

Moral: if you want commodity cloud hosting, pitch in now.


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73 Responses to “Cloud: commodity or proprietary?”

  1. Mike Linksvayer » Commoditizing the cloud Says:

    […] Cutting on Cloud: commodity or proprietary?: As we shift applications to the cloud, do we want our code to remain vendor-neutral? Or would we […]

  2. Getting Up From the BigTable :: Says:

    […] Cloud: commodity or proprietary?: Doug Cutting (Head of the Hadoop Project) stresses open-source as the best alternative. He thinks that we can’t count on “cloud providers” to build on top of a non-standard APIs, and that only open-source implementations can counter their inevitable proprietary APIs. […]

  3. Nodalities » Blog Archive » Google App Engine and the Joy of WebArch Says:

    […] See also: Cloud: commodity or proprietary? […]

  4. Stephen De Gabrielle Says:

    CouchDB maybe?

  5. Psychic Advice Says:

    Too bad i didnt come across this blog before. Great stuff you got here. Thanks.

  6. Import from China Says:

    Nice post, you got some good points there – thank you.

  7. 451 CAOS Theory » On open source and cloud computing Says:

    […] of application vendors finding themselves locked-in to the App Engine platform. Of course Amazon also has this issue, the potential impact of which was revealed this […]

  8. Eugene Says:

    Nice article. Thanks. :) Eugene

  9. Tim Reynolds Says:

    Nice post. Thank you for the info. Keep it up.

  10. Kranti Says:

    hi, nice post. we are building a search website (using lucene) which would have around 1TB of data (pdf files) to be indexed on day1. Please suggest on the scalability and performance for search.

  11. Otis Gospodnetic Says:

    Kranti: Solr cluster + distributed search.

  12. Kranti Says:

    Hi Otis, Thanks for the reply. simple lucene implementation (may be a cluster) + distributed search wouldnt work? we have to implement solr?

  13. Otis Gospodnetic Says:

    Oh, it would, it’s just that Solr will make it easier. Katta is another option for you to look at.

  14. Jack Galbraith Says:

    I just watched Doug Cutting presentation video ( at Hadoop Summit-March 25, 2008 and boy-o-boy does this guy need to go back to school and learn how to be a speaker. He maybe a brain on computing but ummm auh auh ummm that is it. It got so bad I had to stop it.

  15. Kranti Says:

    Hi Otis, Thanks for the message about solr and katta. i shall check them in detail.

  16. Hadley Price Says:

    We already conduct an online search for our clients but wish to investigate having an actual searchengine designed to work with our service. Can anyone recommend someone that might be interested in this project?

  17. bonjove's anchove Says:

    Sounds like a superb idea! I hope this gains traction. Would really love to see this grow into a level playing field, with no walls and glass ceilings. Definite potential. Hadoop Hadoop oh Hadoop!

  18. Miao Xiong Says:

    I think the common API can be kind of ODBC API the can access different databases.

    Then every projects can build on the common API.

    It’s a great idea which need to and will be considered later by the vendors.

  19. Santiago Basulto Says:

    Great article. I couldn’t agree more with you. It’s true, cloud computing is the “unix revolution” of the 70/80. From now on, every one should start to think in the future of it.

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