Has Amazon Solved Its Private Cloud Dilemma?

Amazon Web Services (AWS) is great, but many of our enterprise clients want those cloud services and values delivered on premise, behind their firewall, which may feel more comfortable for protecting their intellectual property (even if it isn't). AWS isn't very interested in providing an on-premise version of its solution (and I don't blame them). Today's partnership announcement with Eucalyptus Systems doesn't address this customer demand but does give some degree of assurance that your private cloud can be AWS compatible.

This partnership is a key value for organizations who have already seen significant adoption of AWS by their developers, as those empowered employees have established programmatic best practices for using these cloud services — procedures that call AWS' APIs directly. Getting them to switch to your private cloud (or use both) would mean a significant change for them. And winning over your developers to use your cloud is key to a successful private cloud strategy. It also could double your work to design and deploy cloud management solutions that span the two environments. 

Eucalyptus, from the beginning, has pledged AWS API compatibility (or at least compatibility with the APIs for AWS' IaaS service, Elastic Compute Cloud, EC2) but that pledge was one-sided. There was no statement of assurance of this compatibility from AWS. This (and other reasons) have held back many enterprises from committing to this open source IaaS implementation. While the agreement doesn't contractually obligate AWS to ensuring this compatibility, it does provide a clear statement of commitment (and resources) to make best efforts at ensuring these solutions will work together well. That's a big deal given that AWS is by far the most commonly used public cloud by enterprise developers today (confirmed by our Forrsights surveys) and its API has become a de facto standard in the market. This is a significant shot in the arm for Eucalyptus. And it comes at an opportune time.   

Next month the other major open-source IaaS project will hold its biannual conference. At The OpenStack Summit the Essex release will debut and is expected to be a major milestone showing that OpenStack IaaS clouds are ready for enterprise implementation. A variety of software vendors are counting on Essex for cloud fortunes in 2012 including Piston, Nebula, and HP. But the pressures of anticipation are on the OpenStack community for more than just this release — APIs are a hot topic in the community and the degree of commitment to AWS compatibility will be part of what enterprises will be listening for at the summit. All indications so far point to only limited AWS compatibility from this effort, which could give Eucalytpus a clear differentiator. Sort of.

There's yet another open-source IaaS implementation in the market that has also pledged AWS compatibility and is used in one of the biggest hybrid cloud implementations to date — the Zynga's Z Cloud. That solution is CloudStack. Citrix bought cloud.com in 2011, giving it ownership of this technology solution that powers a large number of public and private clouds today, including those from GoDaddy, Korea Telecom, and Tata. While Citrix is a member of the OpenStack community and has even marketed this heavily, it only incorporates the Swift storage services from OpenStack today. For many of Citrix's customers, AWS API compatibility is key. For Zynga it makes moving games back and forth between environments dead simple. For GoDaddy the value is competitive as it eases transitioning customers off of AWS. 

AWS said the partnership with Eucalyptus is not exclusive, so a similar commitment to CloudStack could come right on the heels of this announcement. Eucalyptus better move quickly to capitalize on this differentiator.

 

Do you value AWS compatibility? To what degree does this have bearing on your private cloud selection process? Do you value VMware vSphere API compatibility more? What should the OpenStack community do around API compatibility? Share your thoughts on this and other private cloud issues in the Forrester Community.