OpenStack APIs – The Secret to CenturyLink Cloud’s Support for Pivotal Cloud Foundry

May 8, 2015 Joshua McKenty

featured-CF-logo-simplegreenCenturyLink has recently announced that they will now deliver managed Pivotal Cloud Foundry environments atop their CenturyLink Cloud platform for customers in both public and private environments. This is ridiculously exciting.

Like the majority of public cloud providers, CenturyLink uses and supports the OpenStack APIs. As one of the OpenStack founders, and the former co-chair of the OpenStack interoperability committee, it’s very validating to see this. Put simply, the OpenStack interoperability effort works. Pivotal has been able to support Cloud Foundry across a large number of both public and private cloud environments, by relying on these standard APIs. (This includes Telco, Government, Financial Services, and Industrial customers around the world.)

What’s particularly exciting about the CenturyLink Cloud environment is that it’s not running OpenStack. Rather, they chose to implement these APIs as a compatibility layer, to take advantage of the ecosystem of tools and products built for OpenStack.

The work to provide OpenStack support in Cloud Foundry was originally undertaken by Piston Cloud Computing, and has been refined and contributed to by many members of the Cloud Foundry Foundation, Pivotal most notable among them.

Five years ago, when we started OpenStack, I believed that the AWS APIs should be considered a de facto standard. Thankfully, many of our co-founders at Rackspace disagreed, and the OpenStack community carried forward with a community-owned open set of APIs. Over the past five years, that decision has been continuously validated. OpenStack-based clouds are now available in more regions of the world than any other standard.

Why did the AWS APIs fail to achieve status as a “standard”?

  • They are controlled by a single vendor.
  • The feature roadmap is both secret, and closed.
  • AWS lacks clearly defined boundaries of collaboration, and they have a pattern of leading to disintermediation for the partners who have chosen to adopt their services as a platform.

When folks talk about adoption as a key measure of API success, they often forget that people aren’t the ones using APIs – software is. So the key characteristic of API success that matters in the long-term, is an ecosystem of many vendors supporting that API. This allows a matching ecosystem of tools and libraries to develop with commercial stability.

There have been many times in the past few decades where it looked as though proprietary technologies would triumph over free and open communities – Adobe Flash over HTML, Windows over Linux and BSD. But in each case, the benefits of a multi-vendor ecosystem have been proven out over time.

This highlights a pleasing symmetry – CenturyLink actually provides two different PaaS options; a multi-tenant platform called AppFog, intended for developer productivity, and the managed service Pivotal Cloud Foundry environments we’ve been discussing. And they’re both powered by Cloud Foundry. The same open-source and open community pattern that has been proven by OpenStack at the IaaS layer, is now being applied at the PaaS layer.

Of course, Cloud Foundry supports much more than just OpenStack. With commercial support for both vSphere and Amazon AWS, and community support for many more, there’s no major IaaS environment in the world that Cloud Foundry can’t run on.

The good news, then, is that CenturyLink’s announcement is further proof of the success of the multi-vendor, IaaS-agnostic approach that Cloud Foundry was built upon. With companies like Pivotal and CenturyLink collaborating on a deep level across the Cloud Foundry Ecosystem, our enterprise customers can focus on the agility initiatives that matter for their business.

About the Author

Joshua McKenty

Entrepreneur and technologist Joshua McKenty works with Fortune 100 customers who seek to transition to a cloud native architecture, and with Pivotal’s Cloud Foundry team to bring new features and functionality to Cloud Foundry-based products, the industry-standard enterprise platform for the cloud era.

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