AWS deal bolsters Eucalyptus' enterprise appeal

Companies can now more easily move workloads between Eucalyptus-based internal cloud and AWS private cloud

Eucalyptus has become far more attractive to enterprises wishing to build private clouds, now that the No. 1 cloud provider -- Amazon Web Services -- has thrown its weight behind the software company.

On Thursday, Amazon said that it would back Eucalyptus' efforts to support Amazon Web Services' APIs. Such support makes it easier for companies to move workloads between an internal private cloud based on Eucalyptus and the AWS public cloud.

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"As Amazon's only approved platform, [Eucalyptus] can expect its attach rate within organizations consuming Amazon cloud resources to improve substantially," Stephen O'Grady, a RedMonk analyst, wrote in a blog post about the announcement.

The partnership is crucial for Eucalyptus, which has been operating under a cloud of uncertainty since it wasn't clear if Amazon approved of its use of its APIs. O'Grady wrote that some companies wouldn't consider using Amazon's APIs because their legal departments were worried about potential intellectual property violations.

"Amazon is, for the first time, playing the intellectual property trump card it has been holding in reserve," O'Grady wrote.

The announcement also indicates that for the first time Amazon is recognizing that it needs to support the idea of private clouds. "It's a validation of the private cloud publicly by AWS," said Joshua McKenty, CEO of Piston Cloud, a company that makes private-cloud software based on OpenStack, a competitor to Eucalyptus.

Despite Amazon's position as the dominant public cloud provider, it faces a common complaint from users or potential users who say it's too hard to get their data out of AWS. Making it easier for customers to move data between a private cloud and Amazon's cloud minimizes this issue "as an angle of attack for competitors who might otherwise attempt to sell against Amazon by emphasizing its public cloud-only technology story," O'Grady wrote.

In fact, its openness has been one of OpenStack's biggest selling points. Giants including AT&T, Dell, Internap, and Hewlett-Packard have announced or launched public clouds that use the OpenStack software. Many companies like Piston now offer software that enterprises can use to build their own OpenStack clouds. Because they're all based on OpenStack, users should be able to more easily move projects between their private clouds and the public clouds.

That's one big advantage for OpenStack over Eucalyptus, McKenty said. OpenStack users have more options of public clouds, while Eucalyptus users have only AWS as a compatible public cloud option.

In addition, while Eucalyptus is open source software, the development process of the software isn't open, he said. Users of OpenStack can more easily have features they want added to the stack, he said.

There are many APIs for using AWS, and OpenStack supports some of them. Eucalyptus doesn't support all of them either, but this new agreement suggests that Amazon will help it support more of them.

While the legal threat of using those APIs still hangs over any other software using them, including OpenStack, the organization isn't likely to bridge a similar deal with Amazon, O'Grady said. "OpenStack is not likely to either ask for or receive the same blessing from Amazon that Eucalyptus received," he wrote.

Some OpenStack distributions might like to have Amazon's blessing, but McKenty doesn't "think the community as a whole has an opinion on wanting a similar relationship with AWS."

One thing is certain: The deal crystalizes the competitive landscape. "This cements the perception that it's Amazon and Eucalyptus versus OpenStack and everyone who's not Amazon, with the notable exceptions of Joyent, Microsoft and VMware, each of whom owns and sells their own cloud stack," O'Grady wrote.

Nancy Gohring covers mobile phones and cloud computing for The IDG News Service. Follow Nancy on Twitter at @idgnancy. Nancy's email address is Nancy_Gohring@idg.com

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