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OpenStack leaves out the “extra” you’ll only find in Amazon AWS

Noah Campbell / 

Often I’ve heard the off hand comment that it is just a matter of time before there is another rival to Amazon’s EC2. The private cloud has always been looming around the corner for those with large pocket books, and yet one rarely hears about a cloud offering the beats AWS’s EC2. Even Rich Wolski, CTO of Eucalypus, has no delusions as to the scale pre-package software can tackle out of the box.

“One of the misconceptions about Eucalyptus is that it is able to allow an org to compete with Amazon,” Wolski told us. “The Amazon AWS [Amazon Web Services] cloud is far more than a collection of software components. It operates on a gigantic scale, multiple time zones, multiple data centers, human resources that must be committed to maintain it so it can operate at that scale. It’s not likely — maybe even impossible — that you’re going to download something from the internet that is going to be able to operate at that scale. Eucalyptus can’t really be used for that purpose.” [1]

So what gives EC2 the “extra” everyone wants to replicate?

First and foremost, AWS’s EC2 is not a product of technology, but instead a product of operational excellence. It is in their culture, all the way down to their infamous door desks [2] and Jeff Bezos mediations on waste to shareholders in 2008 [3]. They took existing open source software and wrapped a service interface around it, while quietly offering some pretty amazing feats (vm startups measured in minutes from some mysterious cloud storage). Don’t let their technology stack fool you, their value is in their operational discipline. AWS keeps their operational practices under wraps because they believe it gives them an advantage, and even if they did divulge them, they’re likely nontransferable to your organization.

With the recent announcement of OpenStack, folks can consider another set of software components to implement their cloud and try to replicate the “extra” they get from AWS. However, without a solid focus on operations, they’re not going to get much further than they would have gotten with Eucalyptus.


This post is by the newest blogger, Noah Campbell. Noah is a consultant specializing in automated infrastructure and DevOps process improvement.



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