Lydia Leong

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Lydia Leong
Research VP
11 years at Gartner
19 years IT industry

Lydia Leong is a research vice president in the Technology and Service Providers group at Gartner. Her primary research focus is cloud computing, together with Internet infrastructure services, such as Web hosting, content delivery networks…Read Full Bio

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The Amazon-Eucalyptus partnership

by Lydia Leong  |  April 2, 2012  |  1 Comment

Eucalyptus, a commercial open-source cloud management platform (“CMP”, software used to build cloud infrastructure), recently announced that it had signed a partnership with Amazon.

Eucalyptus began life as a university project to build a CMP that would create Amazon-API-compatible cloud infrastructure, but eventually turned into a commercial effort. However, like all other CMPs offering Amazon compatibility, Eucalyptus has always lived under the shadow of the threat that Amazon might someday try to enforce intellectual property rights related to its API.

With this partnership, Eucalyptus has formally licensed the Amazon API. There’s been a lot of speculation on what this means. My understanding is the following:

This is a non-exclusive technology partnership. Eucalyptus now has a formal license to build products that are compatible with the AWS APIs; at the moment, that’s EC2, S3, and EBS, but Eucalyptus can adopt the other APIs as well if they choose to. Amazon may enter into similar licensing agreements with others, enter into different sorts of partnerships, and so forth; this is a non-restrictive deal. Furthermore, this partnership is not a signal that Amazon is changing its stance towards other products/services with Amazon-compatible APIs, where it has to date adopted a laissez-faire attitude.

This is an API licensing deal, not a technology licensing deal. Amazon will provide Eucalyptus with API specifications, including related engineering specifications not provided in the public user-level documentation. However, Amazon will not be giving any technology away to Eucalyptus — this is not engineering assistance with the actual implementation. Eucalyptus will still need to do all of its own product engineering.

There is no coupling of Amazon and Eucalyptus’s development cycles. While Amazon will try to inform Eucalyptus of planned API changes so that Eucalyptus is able to release its own updates in a timely manner, Eucalyptus is on its own — if it can keep up with Amazon, fine, if it can’t, too bad. Eucalyptus is not obliged to remain Amazon-compatible, nor is Amazon obliged to ensure that it’s feasible for Eucalyptus to remain compatible.

Some people think that this deal with give Eucalyptus some much-needed life, since it has met with limited commercial interest, and its developer community has yet to really recover from the rifts created by a past licensing change.

I personally don’t agree. With people increasingly writing to libraries, or using third-party tools (RightScale, enStratus, etc.), developers tend to care less about what’s under the hood as long as their favorite tool supports it. Yes, Amazon’s API has become a de facto standard, but I haven’t seen Eucalyptus be the Amazon-compatible CMP of choice; instead, I see serious adopters choose CloudStack (Citrix, from the Cloud.com acquisition), and the vendors who want to be part of an open-source cloud project put their support primarily behind OpenStack. I’m not convinced that this licensing deal, however interesting, is going to significantly either shift buyer desires towards Eucalyptus, or improve their community support.

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