An Open Cloud Requires an Equally Open Manifesto

There’s been a new round of noise in what I like to call the “What is the Cloud?” discussion.  It never ceases to amaze me that so many people seem stuck on this one question, despite the fact that having an answer to it is not the asset people seem to think it is.  The cloud is evolving, with or without us, and is doing so based on the needs and demands of developers.

So it was with some amusement that I caught wind of the “secret” open cloud manifesto being circulated to some of the top companies.  My boss has posted the Microsoft stance on the open cloud manifesto, and I wanted to share some of my thoughts.

The press seems to have glommed onto this meme with quite a bit of coverage.  I didn’t know Steven was so popular.  Perhaps I need to hang around him more.  Darryl Taft at eWeek had a very insightful article, which took a very unexpected turn.  He admitted that journalists have a bit of a bias against Microsoft, and when it comes to us talking about things like open processes and standards, they can’t help themselves but be skeptical.  Here’s the money quote:

“…it’s a whole new world. And not only has the web — and increasingly the cloud — forced Microsoft to become more open and interoperable, so has the sheer force of customer and developer demand.”

That’s spot on.  The Hatorade was fine back in the 90s, but in case everyone missed the memo, the web kind of kicked our ass, and we have made a very strong effort to work with standards, embrace the needs of our developers, and deliver high quality products and services to our customers based on those demands.

Further pushing the Hatorade agenda is Kevin Fiveash over at The Register, when he stated that we were dissing the cloud manifesto.  The money quote:

“Steven Martin bitched about the latest tech industry group hug on his blog today in which he complained, without even so much as a hint of irony.”

I’d like to pull a quote from Steven’s post:

“An open Manifesto emerging from a closed process is at least mildly ironic.”

You figure it out.

Sam Johnston did what I would expect from the community.  No bitching.  No whining.  He set up a wiki for an open cloud manifesto and said, let’s get this thing started.  Awesome.  Better yet, people are already writing to it.  If you read this post and are even remotely interested in cloud computing, go check it out, and contribute.  Please.  We think that it’s great to have a discussion, in the open, where everyone, no matter what size you company, can speak and be listened to.

Now for what I consider the bad news.  This may end up being a lot of short term excitement for something that ultimately won’t be the end product.  There wasn’t a web manifesto. The market decided what was what.  It wasn’t a manifesto that drove the adoption of standards, but rather a market environment with many participants who valued contribution, openness and collaboration.

There were many companies with lots of interesting ideas about how to add some proprietary sauce to the web, but in the end, customer and developer demand won out.  Locking customers in with technology sort of died out a while back, and any time that concept rears its head, it gets slapped around a bit.  If it makes sense, people will adopt it, but “makes sense” means helps people build a business, make money, or make customers’ lives easier.

The cloud is here.  It’s called the web.  What’s different with this incarnation is the removal of the challenges around getting apps spun up to scale.  The communication and data protocols are already well understood.  This notion that we need to standardize on how billing works is crazy.  Let’s go have that chat with the cell phone companies.  The market eventually decided how they would bill for things, but the reality is that no two bills look the same, and good luck figuring out how to compare plans with additional services.  That’s virtually true for any service.  Why is the “cloud” going to be different?

My personal opinion is that there is going to be a ton of innovation on the web, and much of it will be developed by single companies (as in, not coordinated efforts), and they will then share it with their respective ecosystems.  The market will ultimately decide who wins, but we are so early in this game that simply ceding to the notion that technology needs of a provider should not be driving features is a bit premature.

  • What bugs me the most about all this is the speculation that everyon is throwing around. “Microsoft is afraid of the security standard, Microsoft doesn’t like the openness and transparency”. Its ridiculous. I’m as much for standardisation than anyone. But something all these large vendors forget is that a cloud manifesto isn’t about them: its about the consumers.

  • Brandon Watson

    Steven, you make an interesting point, and one that is in line with my own thinking. THe consumer will ultimately drive what gets adopted.

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  • Dave

    Is open source the next bug thing?

  • Dave

    meant big

  • Stu

    I don’t doubt MS wants openness and probably weren’t given enough time to have a real impact on the manifesto; that to me is a sign of disorganization on the part of the manifesto organizers, not an ethical lapse.

    Having said this, I think it was bad form for Microsoft to pre-announce disagreement prior to Monday. It makes it look like it’s a political move, even if it is intended to be a principled one.

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