Is Amazon Going to Open Source its Web Services and Cloud APIs?

by Ostatic Staff - May. 29, 2009

Although it's only a rumor, Reuven Cohen reports hearing from more than one source that Amazon intends to open source its (AWS) Web Services APIs. "Word is Amazon's legal team is currently 'investigating' open sourcing their various web services API's including EC2, S3, etc," he writes. Cohen argues that the move would make a lot of sense, and I agree. Although Amazon's APIs are, as Cohen writes, "the de facto standards" in cloud computing, Amazon faces significant threats from open source cloud computing efforts if it pursues a purely proprietary path.

Last summer OStatic broke the news about Eucalyptus, an open source infrastructure for cloud computing on clusters that duplicates the functionality of Amazon's EC2, using the Amazon command-line tools directly. More recently, Eucalyptus Systems launched as a commercial open source company providing support and services for Eucalyptus, with more than $5 million in venture funding. Sun Microsystems has also paved an open source cloud computing path with its Open Cloud Platform. Joyent, Reservoir, Enomalism and 10Gen are just a few of the other players with significant open source cloud computing efforts in place.

Of the various open source cloud computing efforts, Eucalyptus is particularly notable because it's a software infrastructure for cloud computing that mimics Amazon's tools directly--like a clone. In a recent discussion we had with Eucalyptus co-founder Rich Wolski, we asked him what companies are doing with Eucalyptus, and he said:

"They're doing a variety of things, but a lot of them are basically interested in Eucalyptus for doing the same kinds of things they're doing in Amazon AWS, such as business logic applications, where part of the attraction of Eucalyptus is that they can use it as a platform for seamlessly running their public cloud applications and their on-premise cloud apps."

Eucalyptus provides pronounced cost advantages over Amazon's cloud services, with the software itself being completely free and open source. The trend toward cloud computing remains strong. In a recent story we did reporting survey results from IT managers, they said that software-as-a-service applications are having a more disruptive impact on the commercial open source arena than any other trend.

Amazon can't ignore the cost advantages and diversity of product offerings that open source players are already offering in the cloud computing space. The company's best move is to open source its tools, which will end up diversifying them, play on a level field in terms of cost with the open source alternatives, and charge for services. Absent these moves, the company will lose potential customers to free, open source alternatives.