Amazon fails to address interoperability concerns; Flexiscale plans cloud platform

Just attended a session here at FOWA from Amazon’s Jeff Barr and Flexiscale’s Tony Lucas on cloud computing. These vendors have similar offerings (in kind, but not in scale; Flexiscale is tiny by comparison). Lucas had told me he would talk about interoperability between Amazon and Flexiscale but did not do so, nor did Barr mention it.

I took the opportunity to get in some questions at the informal gathering after the session. The context is that Amazon has had serious outages this year, which will not have gone unnoticed by organizations considering its platform; the ability to import and export AMI’s (Amazon Machine Instances) would help users to implement failover plans. Is either Amazon or Flexiscale considering support for the Open Virtual Machine Format (OVF), used by VMWare?

Neither is doing so. Lucas muttered something about standards driven by commercial agendas; Barr said Amazon would wait and see and did not want to standardise too early; and that customers were not asking for it.

What interested me was the intense interest from other developers who had come up to ask questions, in this topic of interoperability and avoiding lock-in. This makes me wary of Barr’s comment that there is little interest.

In mitigation, Lucas said that his company can already import AMIs, but does not do so because it might breach Amazon’s terms and conditions. Barr pointed out that AMIs are just Linux VMs so you can easily migrate their contents. Both good points. Nevertheless, it strikes me that VMWare’s vCloud offering goes beyond either Amazon or Flexiscale in this respect.

Lucas made a couple of other observations. He said that Google’s BigTable, which sits underneath the AppEngine API, is not open source and makes  it impossible to implement AppEngine on his platform. He added that Flexiscale was always conceived as a platform offering, not just on-demand virtual servers, and will announce a platform based on a 100% open source stack shortly (aside from the Windows version; sounds like there will both Linux and Windows available).

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2 comments to Amazon fails to address interoperability concerns; Flexiscale plans cloud platform

  • Tim,

    Interoperability certainly is a major concern for users of cloud computing. However, it’s important that we get the functionality in place first to provide sufficient value for users.

    We looked at OVF when the first draft was released, but came to the conclusion it isn’t well designed for cloud computing. It seemed more of a descriptive wrapper targeted at traditional data center operations.


  • Tim,

    Sorry we didn’t catch up properly at the event, we were originally meant to be discussing the pro’s and con’s of interoperability, rather than announcing something. Unfortunately when you only have one side willing to even discuss it, (I’ll let you guess who!), it wasn’t possible.

    Happy to give you an update on the work we are doing to make these things easier though. We are certainly keen to enable the automated transfer of AMI’s to ourselves for starters.