Friday, July 9, 2010

Do Customers Really Care About Cloud API's?

Interesting post by Ellen Rubin of CloudSwitch asking if Amazon is the Official Cloud Standard? Her post was inspired by a claim that Amazon’s API should be the basis for an industry standard. Something I've long been against for the simple reason that choice / innovation is good for business. Although I agree with Ellen that AWS has made huge contributions to advance cloud computing. And also agree that "their API is highly proven and widely used, their cloud is highly scalable, and they have by far the biggest traction of any cloud". But the question I ask is do cloud customers really care about the API, so much as the applications and sevice levels applied higher up the stack?

At Enomaly we currently have customers launching clouds around the globe, each of which have their own feature requests ranging from various storage approaches to any number of unique technical requirements. Out of all the requests we hear on a daily basis, the Amazon API is almost never is requested. Those who do request it are typically in the government or academic spaces. When it is, it's typically part of a broader RFP where it's mostly a check box and part of a laundry list of requirements. When pushed the answer is typically, -- it's not important. So I ask why the fascination with the AWS API's as a sales pitch when it appears neither service providers or their end customer really care? More to the point, why aren't there any other major cloud providers who support the format other than Amazon? The VMware API or even the Enomaly API are more broadly deployed if you count the number of unique public cloud service providers as your metric.

An API from a sales point of view isn't important because you're not selling an API. You're selling the applications that sit above the API and mostly those applications don't really care what's underneath. As a cloud service provider you're selling a value proposition, and unfortunately an API provides little inherent value other than potentially some reduction in development time if you decide to leave. Actually the really hard stuff is in moving Amazon machine images away from EC2 in a consistant way, which Amazon through their AMI format have made a practically impossible mission. [Paravirt, really?]

I'm not saying API's aren't important for cloud computing, just that with the emergence of meta cloud API such as LibCloud, Jclouds and others, programming against any one single unique cloud service provider API is no longer even a requirement. So my question to those who would have you believe the AWS API is important is again -- why? Is it because your only value is that in which there is little other than your API support? Or is there something I'm missing?

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