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APIs impact for Cloud Computing

Guillaume Balas is Chief Marketing Officer at 3scale. In this interview he talks about APIs and their impact for Cloud Computing.

CloudUser: What’s the special of a cloud api comparing a “normal” api?

Guillaume Balas: APIs come in a variety of flavors: from language APIs which allow programmers to use high level functions and modules in most programming languages, to Web APIs which can be called remotely across the public Internet.
From a cloud perspective the focus is often on (1) infrastructure API – which give direct access to raw hardware and network resources, (2) platform APIs – which provide access to application specific data objects and functions and (3) Web APIs which provide access not to local but remote resources such as data, content or services.

CloudUser: What’s your opinion regarding a transparent cloud concerning a cloud api?

Guillaume Balas: Two aspects of transparency are important for cloud platform. The first is the ability to “reach through” layers of abstraction to lower level resources – often higher-level resources abstractions make life easier but don’t always fill every needs. In 3scale’s infrastructure we often find ourselves reaching through layers to get the maximum performance out of the resources we use – having this access blocked would be a big negative for a platform. The second area of transparency is potentially in pricing and payments – API accessible resources of all types (from infrastructure to data) provide the opportunity for providers to provide metered access to resources – and match their own costs with resale prices to their users. In doing this it’s important that providers match the metrics which contribute to their own costs to their pricing plans. Obfuscating this relationship leads to inefficiencies and unhappiness in the long run!

CloudUser: Most companies are afraid of Cloud Computing due to a vendor lockin. Could a open proprietary cloud api reassure that?

Guillaume Balas: Given how much lock-in there has traditionally been with Enterprise software to date (and the difficulty of managing large changes in self hosted data centers) this concern always seems a little overblown for cloud platforms.
However it’s certainly a help to have standard cloud management APIs emerging – this reduces friction and costs for everybody by making it easier to build tools and services around compliant clouds.

CloudUser: What kind of influence will a cloud api management utility have for the acceptance of Cloud Computing?

Guillaume Balas: Service such as Rightscale already have a great impact on driving adoption – they provide peace of mind of an additional layer on top of multiple providers. Solutions like Abiquo also make it possible to migrate instances between VMs – the more flexible these tools become the better.
We often switch resources for customers transparently between customers on Amazon EC2 (between zones) – if you had explained this to someone 5 years ago they would have thought you has lost your mind.

CloudUser: Do you think a standard is important in Cloud Computing?

Guillaume Balas: 3scale’s business is in helping companies open up their APIs for partners and other users to access – this often provides massive value and helps build new ecosystems. In many of the areas we work in we see similarities emerging between APIs (there are only so many ways to structure a blogging API) and we’re convinced that there will be convergence in the long run. Cloud infrastructure APIs may be amongst the first since so many people rely on them but it will happen across the whole stack. What we’re less convinced about is the creation of de-jure standards up front – often this involves a lot of technical effort which gets bypassed by the real world and some co-evolution is valuable to have.

CloudUser: What do you think about initiatives like the Open Cloud Initiative or the OCCI (Open Cloud Computing Interface) from the OGF?

Guillaume Balas: Some of our team has been involved with OGF in the past and it’s an impressive effort – it’s certainly shared a huge amount of technical knowledge and created practical solutions to interoperability problems. However unfortunately sometimes big-group decision making gets bogged down and having some unfettered invention happening is also a good thing – and in the end will feed back into these efforts.

CloudUser: What is the most important thing for a cloud api management utility?

Guillaume Balas: At 3scale we certainly take reliability, scalability and security extremely seriously and these form the core of any infrastructure tool people rely on. Features come and go but you need to know appropriate steps are always being taken that everything stays up, running and safe. That’s something all providers need to work hard on constantly.

By Rene Buest

Rene Buest is Gartner Analyst covering Infrastructure Services & Digital Operations. Prior to that he was Director of Technology Research at Arago, Senior Analyst and Cloud Practice Lead at Crisp Research, Principal Analyst at New Age Disruption and member of the worldwide Gigaom Research Analyst Network. Rene is considered as top cloud computing analyst in Germany and one of the worldwide top analysts in this area. In addition, he is one of the world’s top cloud computing influencers and belongs to the top 100 cloud computing experts on Twitter and Google+. Since the mid-90s he is focused on the strategic use of information technology in businesses and the IT impact on our society as well as disruptive technologies.

Rene Buest is the author of numerous professional technology articles. He regularly writes for well-known IT publications like Computerwoche, CIO Magazin, LANline as well as and is cited in German and international media – including New York Times, Forbes Magazin, Handelsblatt, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Wirtschaftswoche, Computerwoche, CIO, Manager Magazin and Harvard Business Manager. Furthermore Rene Buest is speaker and participant of experts rounds. He is founder of and writes about cloud computing, IT infrastructure, technologies, management and strategies. He holds a diploma in computer engineering from the Hochschule Bremen (Dipl.-Informatiker (FH)) as well as a M.Sc. in IT-Management and Information Systems from the FHDW Paderborn.

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