VMware has announced open source friendly tools for its vCloud initiative in the hopes of enticing developers to use its vCloud application programming interfaces (APIs). The company is releasing software development kits (SDKs) for Java and Python and working with open source cloud projects including libcloud, jclouds and Dasein to build in support for vCloud.
The goal is to make it extremely easy for developers to use the API.
Jian Zhen, director of vCloud Solutions for VMware
vCloud APIs allow users to write applications that can manage virtualized resources inside a data center and also bridge out to select VMware hosting partners that support vCloud. It's a move that VMware hopes will boost uptake of vCloud as more enterprises look for ways to mix and match public cloud infrastructure services with their own internal IT environments.
"At the end of the day, the goal is to make it extremely easy for developers to use the API," said Jian Zhen, director of vCloud Solutions for VMware.
Zhen said that releasing the new SDKs and having free, community supported cloud resources would give developers, especially those who might already operate in a VMware environment, access to VMware-friendly hosting resources at their fingertips. He said that reaching out to the open source software community was important.
"They're extremely critical because a lot of these folks are using the cloud -- they are really the fore runners," said Zhen.
If VMware helps projects like libcloud, an offshoot of multi-cloud management portal Cloudkick, support vCloud without extra work, he reasoned, then when current VMware customers look at moving into vCloud, they'll find the path a little smoother.
Zhen also noted that if other cloud providers wanted to, they could add support for the vCloud APIs even if they didn't use VMware's virtualization technology, because it was built with VMware's previous open standard, OVF, in mind. He suggested the APIs might not be a bad basis for a standard cloud interface, and that cloud providers might be missing out if they didn't look into it.
"The API is very powerful because it supports OVF…any service provider can use this," he said.
Alex Polvi, co-founder of Cloudkick and one of the original authors of libcloud, said, "They want to show traction."
Libcloud is a software library for Python that pushes developers' commands into the appropriate API for whichever cloud provider they want. Dasein and jcloud do the same for Java. All of them are open source projects, and Polvi said that VMware had been solicitous and generous in helping get vCloud, itself an open standard, into the projects.
For example, "they were very open in allowing our developers to email their developers," said Polvi.
Polvi said because VMware is so dominant in the enterprise, it's almost a requirement for developers working in large virtualized environments. As enterprises gradually shift to cloud computing behind the firewall and out in public resources like AWS, they may wish to keep things as consistent as possible.
"It has very interesting implications between the public EC2/Rackspace world and the private VMware world," he said.
The SDKs and inclusion in libcloud will make vCloud more popular in the long run, but Polvi noted that vCloud was very new and vCloud hosting options were limited compared to the rest of the cloud providers.
"There's a lot more work to be done," he said.
A shot at enterprise cloud computing
"We've been a really early user of this and the API is pretty early on … It will take a little time," said WebAppVM CEO Isaac Roth.
Despite that immaturity, Ross called it a useful tool.
"The API itself is pretty well thought out and pretty standard to work with," he said.
He also called it very different from the bare-bones command-line API of AWS or Rackspace's web server friendly approach.
Ross has just launched a vCloud version of his Java Platform as a Service offering on VMware hoster Terremark. He said his users can consume his software platform from multiple cloud providers, but running in VMware's vCloud Express ecosystem of hosting providers gives him a straight shot into the enterprise.
The API itself is pretty well thought out and pretty standard to work with.
Isaac Roth, CEO of WebAppVM
"For us, it's a way to approach enterprise. Today, they can only think about running on Amazon or Rackspace… [vCloud] provides them with an option that's a lot more familiar," Ross said.
It's also a lot more expensive, and vCloud Express is currently only available from a few hosting partners, like Terremark, Hosting.com and Bluelock.
Ross said that enterprises are hidebound when it comes to cloud in any case. They'll wait for vCloud to mature and may well choose the vastly pricier and less flexible options from VMware partners like Terremark because it has the brand name they associate with the idea of enterprise-ready: VMWare.
"If you're not sure if you want to run something in a public cloud, the option to start your project on vCloud Express and move it back in house is nice," he said.
That may be the hook that VMware is hoping for, but there is clearly a ways to go yet, both for the vCloud APIs, more efficient interoperability between public and private environments and actual customer adoption. Convenience may not be enough to justify VMware's costs compared to the pennies per hour services from Rackspace and Amazon. And many may miss the vaunted flexibility and freedom of cloud computing if they stick with the same old VMware, inside or out of the data center.
Carl Brooks is the Technology Writer at SearchCloudComputing.com. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.