As I pointed out last week, cloud computing does not need traditional consensus-committee standards, at least not yet. The inherent flexibility and programmability of cloud platforms and applications lends a certain flavor of openness to cloud computing that reduces the requirement for (and thus impact of) standards. Furthermore, the amazing creativity currently being applied to cloud is filling the standards gap organically with practical methods to create portability and compatibility between cloud providers. Case in point: Today, Zend (the folks behind PHP) introduced a cross-platform interface to most major public cloud providers, including Amazon, Microsoft, Rackspace, and Nirvanix.
This new Simple Cloud API is a godsend to PHP developers looking for a simple object-oriented way to access cloud file, document, and queueing services. I’m not much of a programmer, but I use PHP all the time and am looking forward to adding simple calls to my code to store and access data wherever it lives, in S3, Azure, Cloud Files, and the Nirvanix SDN. Most of my PHP work goes into the WordPress blogging platform, and I’m already imagining cool new plugins that this simple interface makes possible.
But the most telling aspect of this announcement is not what it is but what it is not: Rather than meet with a committee or ask for approval, the fine folks at Zend and others in the PHP community just whipped up the whole thing and launched it. The fact that Amazon, Rackspace, Microsoft, and Nirvanix offer fully-documented APIs and leverage open protocols like IP and HTTP made the creation of this interface a straightforward matter of coding. This may not meet the definitions of open and free put forth by the open source and free software community in the last two decades, but it certainly meets the spirit of openness and freedom demanded by today’s web developers and end users. And isn’t that what it’s all about?
Of course, the Zend Simple Cloud API is by no means unique. Indeed, CloudLoop, which launched earlier this month, offers a similar interface to public cloud storage for Java programmers and even included a UNIX-like command line interface. Like Zend, CloudLoop was able to dispense with the politics and implement their open interface using programming skills, API specifications, and technical support forums. It is gratifying to see cloud vendors actively foster and support this kind of creativity, even creating and publishing their own frameworks for languages like Ruby and Python.
These practical interfaces really deliver the goods:
- Developers and programmers get simple, instant access to all of the major public cloud storage service providers.
- End users of these applications will get a choice of cloud services as well as easy portability if they decide to switch.
This is true freedom, available today, and enabled without contentious political battles and long waits for standardization. Another telling aspect: No one asked for permission from the service providers involved, they just went ahead and did it. Now that’s the Internet I love! Who needs standards?