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The interfaces through which we communicate with public clouds haven’t coalesced into a single set of options and perhaps never will, claims of "de facto standards" notwithstanding. That’s partly because large cloud providers have a certain vested interest in making it difficult for users to leave once they’ve checked in.
However, clouds also target different feature sets and different types of users, which is reflected in different application programming interfaces (API), pricing models, hardware and software infrastructure, and points of differentiation. Red Hat sees this first hand with our discussions with cloud service providers around the world. Our experience isn’t unique. Approaches to and needs for storage, messaging, high availability, latency and so forth differ widely.
Furthermore, cloud computing is still developing rapidly. As an industry, we’re still at a stage where there’s a great deal of experimentation going on. The sweet spots for public cloud use cases are still being discovered.
One implication is that there is a need for a broad-based mechanism for cloud users to provide feedback to public cloud providers.
The issue isn’t so much large enterprises which, by dint of their size, will often have a direct path of communication into a public cloud provider. Rather it’s the small organizations and developers - who are driving a great deal of innovation in the cloud computing space - that often lack a good way to get their feature requests, including API feature requests, heard.
That’s the thinking behind a new Web site, APIwanted.org. It lets users make API suggestions for a given cloud provider and vote for or comment on suggestions that have already been made. In this way, the site systematically brings together the "long tail" of cloud developers. For example, if a lot of small development shops were looking for a specific form of persistent storage, this site offers a mechanism to bring that collective desire to the attention of cloud providers.
In addition to providing an aggregation point, APIwanted.org also offers a forum for collaborative brainstorming. (APIwanted.org is based on IdeaTorrent, which describes itself as "open innovation software.") This is the same sort of model that works so well with open source software and we expect it to provide some great thinking from the user community around public cloud APIs as well.
Red Hat engineers first became interested in creating this site after getting involved with cloud APIs through the Deltacloud project. There’s no explicit connection between this site and Deltacloud, now an incubator project under the Apache Foundation. However, both this site and Deltacloud reflect Red Hat’s firm belief that cloud APIs should evolve in an open and community-based way rather than being the proprietary creation of individual vendors.
So, if you’re a cloud developer (or even if you’re not), check out the site and start building a community to help shape the future of the public cloud.