Amazon.com is rumored to be working on opening the APIs that customers use to connect to its Amazon Web Services business, raising the stakes in cloud computing as big rivals ready competing services.
Microsoft is poised for the public launch of Windows Azure, its cloud development platform, this fall; Sun, soon to be owned by Oracle, will launch its Sun Cloud services this summer; IBM is talking about bridging private and public clouds; telecom companies including Verizon, which just announced a new cloud-based computing as a service with RedHat, and almost every managed hosting provider including Savvis, Rackspace, Terremark, The Planet and others all want a piece of the action thus far owned by Amazon AWS.
"If they do it now, everyone will have to code to it," said Andres Rodriquez, founder and CEO of cloud storage startup Nasuni Inc.
Amazon is keeping quiet for now. "We do not comment on rumors and speculation," wrote Kay Kinton, spokeswoman for Amazon, via email.
Rachel Chalmers, analyst at The 451 Group, said that while many people in the open source community and cloud service providers would be pleased, she could see no tangible benefit to Amazon to releasing its APIs, and few to other cloud providers or developers.
The AWS APIs are widely supported, but they only provide a way for clients to connect to resources at Amazon. Releasing the APIs to the public would mean disclosing all the specifications and documents related to API functions and licensing them for use by others. This would not open the actual software Amazon uses, which would be a goldmine for users and other providers alike.
Dr. Rich Wolski of Eucalyptus Systems thinks that while there are no tangible benefits to Amazon itself, the release and widespread adoption of the APIs could "solidify the ecosystem" of different public cloud providers.
"One thing it does is immediately clarify the standards question," he said, explaining that there are many different public clouds, but Amazon is far and away the biggest and its APIs are widely used. He said it could provide a firm base to stand on for others to spin off APIs targeted at security, speed for different types of traffic and so on. He believes that Amazon will eventually release the APIs.
Chalmers said that she's not so sure. She said since AWS is a small part of Amazon's business overall, they would need a real incentive to actually make a move like this.
The rumor was started by Reuven Cohen, chief cloud chinwagger and CEO of cloud services firm Enomaly. He dropped the cherry bomb in the punchbowl of the cloud crowd via his blog last week, citing two nameless sources within Amazon. Cohen divides his time between his company and jetting around to talk to anyone and everyone involved with cloud computing.
He said that after talking with high level officials, he knew the move was favored. After hearing later that Amazon's legal eagles were investigating the move, he decided to post to his blog. He said unofficial leaks like his "seem to be market research of a sort" by Amazon. "I'd bet this is going to happen," he said. "The only question is how."
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