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Deltacloud Update & Momentum

The Deltacloud project came about to fill the hole created by the lack of open, community-driven standards for moving computing and data among private clouds and the wide range of public cloud providers. This hole creates friction, slows down adoption of cloud, and raises the true cost of cloud for users and vendors alike. Imagine you are an IDE vendor wanting to enable launching of cloud instances from within the IDE – a feature that users would certainly applaud, but whose implementation forces you to make a choice immediately: do you shoulder the cost of adapting to as many vendor-specific cloud APIs or do you reign in cost by guessing which clouds will gain the largest share of the cloud market (and, best case, excluding yourself from a chunk of the market)?

There’s been activity in standards bodies, most notably the DMTF, in which Red Hat is a participant. But, in fast developing areas of technology - which cloud computing surely is - while the standards process is busy completing its work, we expect projects like Deltacloud to fit the immediate customer need for interoperability.

There are also any number of application programming interfaces (APIs) being promoted by public cloud vendors and others. This is neither unexpected nor even inherently undesirable. After all, different clouds have different purposes and goals. One might expose lots of options; another might choose to keep things simple. One might concentrate on providing customers with tight controls over service levels; another might just focus on cost. Furthermore, regulations in a specific industry can mandate interfaces that relate to audit and compliance that aren’t needed by a more mainstream audience.

Some of these APIs are understandably popular, but as the CNET Blog Network’s James Urquhart notes:

There are plenty of reasons to desire a consistent, standard cloud computing API. However, there are also many reasons why it is just premature to declare a single winner–or any winner, for that matter. As good at the AWS EC2 and S3 APIs are for their respective contexts, they are just popular APIs, and not yet anything that can be declared a de facto standard for the entire cloud community.

Deltacloud takes a third approach. For starters, it’s open source–as are a number of other interoperability frameworks. But Deltacloud goes beyond that in important ways. Significantly, Red Hat contributed it to the Apache Software Foundation last May where it’s now an Incubator project. This moved it under an upstream community and governance model that isn’t under the control of any one vendor. Deltacloud is the only major cloud framework that isn’t tied in some way to a single company’s proprietary code, APIs, or other intellectual property.

Deltacloud’s technical specifics are discussed in more depth in this earlier post. What sets it apart from similar efforts is that it’s the only one that is conceived as a web service. This has several advantages:

  • The API can either be offered directly by the cloud provider, or by individual users running their own server;
  • Client libraries can easily be written in any number of computer languages, and are already available for popular ones;
  • The core API logic resides on the API server, enabling consistent behavior across all client libraries; and
  • Support for new clouds can be added to the API without changes to clients.

Drivers for Amazon EC2, GoGrid, OpenNebula, Rackspace, Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization Management, RimuHosting, Terremark, and vCloud are all either written or in-process–as is a Microsoft Azure cloud storage driver.

Deltacloud is not about creating a new API to replace ones that are already out there, but to facilitate interoperability and portability among the many disparate clouds that will exist.

Being hosted at Apache incubator, the project now benefits from the Apache governance model, which is based on individual contributions, not corporations.

In addition to individual contributors, the approach is resonating widely. There is a range of interested parties in the Deltacloud project. Many of these parties are at various stages of support and participation. Some include:

  • Cisco
  • Condor, University of Wisconsin
  • Dell
  • GoGrid, read more information in the GoGrid blog
  • Goldman Sachs
  • HP
  • IBM
  • Ingres, read more information in the Ingres blog
  • Intel
  • Nimsoft
  • Opsource
  • Symantec

The interest is due to the fact that Deltacloud embraces cloud diversity rather than shunning it under a “de facto API” banner, while simultaneously enabling the portability and interoperability needed to realize the full promise of cloud computing. Open source, under an Apache model, enables a true community-driven solution – unique, and needed, in the cloud computing landscape.

Innovation in the Deltacloud project has been instrumental in the progress of Red Hat Cloud Foundations, announced in June 2010.

To interact, participate or find more information on the Deltacloud project, you can go to:

http://incubator.apache.org/deltacloud/.