Don’t wait up for the open cloud

Many people envisioned an open, interoperable public cloud, but the reality has been somewhat different

Don’t wait up for the open cloud
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The “open cloud” is often tossed out as the savior for cloud computing in general. Of course, there is nothing to save. Public cloud usage is exploding by any measure.

However, we are challenged by proprietary, or less open, public clouds that lead to lock-in. I would love to see all the public cloud providers offer tested and supported interoperability with their competitors, but the reality is going to be much different. 

As explained by this article: Open Cloud: Making the Case for Interoperability in Cloud Computing, “while it does make sense for these rival companies to work against each other from a business perspective, some of its consequences hurt the user in the end. It creates the problem of vendor lock-in, where a user’s projects are so reliant on one vendor’s cloud environment and services that it becomes incredibly hard to transition to another provider. That makes it tricky for users who aren’t satisfied with their current vendor to move their projects from another provider seamlessly.”

Open clouds have been a concept since cloud computing became a thing; the reality is that we’re dealing with public companies that have to return an investment to shareholders. They operate based on gaining profitable advantages and working within their own market microcosms. They court users in their own way, pushing their own cloud services, which leads to having workloads that are not easily transported from cloud to cloud. Indeed, if the objective is “cloud native,” by definition that's going to mean lock-in.

A few open cloud standards have been pushed in the past, and currently as well. Although they found traction as private clouds, with some public cloud instances as well, private clouds have declined relative to public clouds, and the public cloud instances shut down. It’s just too hard to keep up with the larger public cloud players and their billion-dollar R&D and marketing budgets.

This leads me to a few conclusions about the state of cloud computing now, as well as some projections of where things are likely to go:

The notion of interoperable public clouds is not likely to happen unless the user bases demand it and the public cloud providers feel the pinch. I do hear it often mentioned as a good idea, but I don’t see any real demands being made yet. We will see some interoperable cloud services from the public cloud providers, such as those built around containers and Kubernetes, but this is generally speaking.

Interoperability will likely come from innovative third-party providers. Cloud-based data integration providers, common container orchestration, and security that spans different public cloud brands will go further to solve many of the interoperability issues.

It’s not to say that interoperability is bad—this is really about looking at the current reality.