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Rackspace releases cloud API, claims it will open source in weeks

Rackspace has released its long awaited API to the public and says it will open source it in a few weeks.

In a long anticipated move, Rackspace Inc. today announced the release of an Application Programming Interface (API) for its on-demand Cloud Servers product. This brings it it on a par with Amazon and other cloud providers with APIs that allow low-level, fine-grained control of compute and storage resources.

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Rackspace said the API is based on the open Representational State Transfer (ReST) design standard, and is a deliberate shot into the riggings of Amazon, Rackspace's largest competitor and the dominant cloud player. It will release both the API and the source code for the API.

"We all know there's no such thing as a cloud without an API," said Rackspace Cloud's General Manager Emil Sayegh. He said feedback from partners and testers led to the decision to release the API into the wild for developers, customers and competitors to experiment. Sayegh said the API is generally available today, and the company will open the software to public scrutiny in short order. "I can tell you the timeline is weeks, not months," he said.

While opening the API to the public will not allow users to change the way they consume Rackspace resources or significantly impact cloud technology, it is a show of solidarity with other cloud providers and technologies against Amazon Web Services. Sayegh said that the intent was to steal a march on Amazon by attracting developers and customers who want to experiment and interoperate.

"Web development and open standards are the big advantage," he said. He pointed to iPhone developer Michael Mayo, who created an iPhone application using the API and Apple's Software Development Kit (SDK) "in 3 or four days". Sayegh said the iPhone app will be released in a month's time and called it an example of next-generation technology. "Look, that's the advantage of being a market follower. Customers have opinions [on what came before], and it's our opportunity to adapt quickly to what they want."

There are a number of iPhone applications for AWS currently in distribution.

Users want standardization

"It's great they finally released an API; although, yes, they're just adding another one to the mix," said Alex Polvi, co-founder of start-up online cloud manager Cloudkick. Cloudkick was a beta tester of the API and will support it as soon as it is generally available. Polvi says that the move is reminiscent of an IT dust from long ago.

We all know there's no such thing as a cloud without an API.
Emil Sayegh, general manager of Rackspace Cloud,
"It's kind of like the browser wars. All these [cloud interfaces] implemented slightly differently" with no clear advantages to any. He doesn't mind that Rackspace is throwing another standard into the mix - he's had plenty of time to integrate it into his own software; Polvi said Cloudkick will support the API as soon as the release is made public.

Polvi thinks that Rackspace releasing its API in this fashion only points up the need for a default way for users to interact with public clouds. "It'd be better for consumers if we standardize," he said.

But the browser wars ended with Microsoft as the winner because Microsoft was the default choice for so many users. Amazon, which claims hundreds of thousands of subscribers to AWS, has no need to change a winning strategy; it is the default standard for the majority of cloud users. But Sayegh is adamant that Rackspace can change the equation.

"The market is clamoring for an alternative to Amazon. This industry is not going to be built on one company," he said.

Carl Brooks is a Technology Writer for Write to him at And check out our Troposphere blog.

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