Cloud Storage API Wars – Here We Go Again

March 12, 2011 Off By Hoofer
Grazed from Cloud Storage Strategy.  Author: Steve Lesem.

In Standardized Cloud APIs? Yes, Don Macvittie takes on the opposing view held by editor Mike Fratto in Standardizing Cloud APIs Is Useless.

Gentlemen, you are both right…

In a previous blog entry, I noted the following:

One last comment on this business of vendor lock in and cloud storage APIs (another focus of the OpenStack announcement).  I would submit that, while a specific set of APIs has the potential to create vendor lock in, this is a much smaller problem than what is experienced in other technologies.  If you are really worried about it, you probably have never actually written a REST API call.  It is written in many languages, and we have seen cases where applications that run on S3 run unchanged on Mezeo.  Others need very minor modifications, and some are excited to take advantage of some of the unique Mezeo API based services.  It just is not a problem, and this is much more related to FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) and marketing zealotry than it is associated with technological reality.  The APIs of choice will shake out, and it is far too early to say if it will be S3, OpenStack, CDMI or a combination of all of these and others yet unknown. 


At Mezeo, we have never believed there will be one winner, and instead focused on architecture to enable easy and effective delivery of whichever APIs stand the test of time. The Mezeo Cloud Storage Platform API enables advanced services and programmatic access to Mezeo enabled storage clouds.   The Mezeo Interoperability API enables interoperability of applications developed for Amazon S3, Google and Eucalyptus based storage clouds. 

(Note:  we are soon announcing our first addition to the Interoperability API that will deliver the SNIA CDMI data management capability).

The interesting view that seems to be missing here is that marketplace competition by service providers already serves to drive down the price of cloud storage, so a commoditized stack embraced by most is unlikely to yield extraordinary incremental savings.  At the same time, while the competitive market conspires to drive cloud storage costs ever lower, the need to differentiate, and deliver solutions as well as a programmable storage to enable multiple new and exciting types of applications will rapidly replace the pure cost and scale focus of current cloud storage offerings.  Sometimes, the "new" application is simply enabling it in the cloud, to produce the same result at a lower cost!  This requires significant cloud storage functionality in order to make this easy and productive.  Amazon continues to prove this with their many additions and capabilities which differentiate their service.  Mezeo sees much the same view on the part of our customers.  Their focus is on what cloud storage can do, the problems it can solve, what business opportunities it creates and what new applications it enables.  All of these views assume it will be competitively priced.

So, should we ultimately and will we ultimately achieve some sort of "standardized" API for cloud storage and cloud computing?  YES! 

What benefits will it bring?  The usual ones we expect from standardization. 

Will it be a panacea and a reason to buy?  No, but it will ultimately be a reason not to buy.

Is it the most important thing all of us in the cloud space can do right now? 
No, but supporting the standards bodies is, and your suppliers should have a position on that. 

I like practical business approaches.  That is why we try to look at cloud storage through the lens of what it can be used for, why that makes sense and why it is a big business opportunity.  We developed our Interoperability API to make it easy for cloud storage solution providers to use Mezeo enabled clouds.  We built the Mezeo API to provide a robust development environment for programmable storage.  Both are important.  We did not do either one to get engaged in the "which API will prevail" struggle for becoming a standard.  We support CDMI, and are beginning to utilize it where it makes sense and adds real business value. 

I would like to close by saying that standardization will be important, it will never be perfect and it is going to take some time.  In the meantime, what I do know is that there are excellent ways to use cloud storage to solve real business problems in new ways that will yield substantial business improvements, including savings.  If you are worried about vendor lock in, get your top technical people together and do two things:

1)    Make sure that you understand that converting from one API to another, while not the most productive or best use of time, is simply not that big a deal and;

2)    Remember that there are big market forces at work here, and that your cloud storage service suppliers will be bound as much by those versus being protected by their proprietary APIs!