Hey Vendors — It’s Too Early For An API Death Match

I am not one to argue with abundance. I am a big believer in the way we can create so much, all the time.

But I can’t stand an abundance of vendor one-upmanship and that’s just what I heard this morning at CloudOpen in a panel discussion about Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) v. Platform as a Service (PaaS).

The conversation quickly turned to APIs. From there, it fell into a talk about their vision of an API and why or why not there should be one or many APIs to connect to IaaS environments – specifically Amazon Web Services (AWS). There was not one user on the panel.

But more so, in the context of the discussion, it is too early for an API death match. There are still way too many unknowns about how third party service providers and enterprise clients will integrate data centers with PaaS, IaaS or both. To cement one API makes no sense now. Open infrastructures still need to be baked out. We do not yet know how deep a functionality they will offer. Google has not yet said a lot about its APIs. So why are we talking about this?

Citrix Peder Ulander and Cloudstack’s Joe Brockmeier said it well to me today — it takes a long time to make a decision about transforming your infrastructure. It’s a once in a decade decision. Right now — for most customers it’s not about the API. And it shouldn’t be. It’s first about getting the blocks in place and establishing better automation and orchestration. That’s the DevOps way — a cultural change that has to take place before we start deciding what is the holy grail of APIs.

Opscode’s Chris Brown started with this beauty: “Who has the best API and why?”

Brown was at one time the founding member, architect, and lead developer for Amazon Web Services (AWS) Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2). AWS has been in the IaaS business longer than anyone else. Chris, a technically brilliant fellow, knows the answer to the question. Greg DeKoenigsberg who works as vice president of community at Eucalyptus Systems did point to how AWS lacks IT administration capabilities. He said Eucalyptus offers that functionality via the AWS API.

Only Eucalyptus has full access to the AWS API for companies to use in their own enterprise environments. AWS has the copyright on the API. So if you want to use it like Eucalyptus does you need to get AWS okay. And so far, they have not made it available like they have for Eucalyptus.

There were some great points, mind you, especially from Google’s Craig McLuckie who said it is too early to talk about one API to rule them all. He said we are still trying to figure out the shape and direction of what an API stands for in an infrastructure setting. People are over focused on APIs and API convergence as the cure-all for the cloud space. He said we, as a community, have not thought through the semantics differences of an API.

And that is in part because we still do not know what shape architectures will take across the market. It also ignores what enterprise customers will want to do.

Mind you, this has been an awesome conference. My friend Rich Miller compares it to the Gluecon conference. An apt comparison as the conversation is great here. But it’s that conversation outside the vendor bubble that makes it meaningful.

One thing is certain. The cloud market is not moving at a rapid pace. Users are giving things a try. But they are not committing in any mass way. Its going to be a long process. Most know little about an IaaS. They know even less about PaaS. So the talk about the best API is just a vendor conversation – a way to gain some advantage that is only relevant in a marketing context.