Amazon is the leering monolith in the cloudy room – OpenStack boss

Azure and Google don't even qualify as scary, apparently

The COO of the OpenStack Foundation took aim at Amazon as “the monolith in the room” today, before claiming its power to dominate the future of the cloud was already on the wane.

However Mark Collier delivered little reassurance to other public cloud vendors in his speech, with Azure and Google not even meriting a mention, despite the billions they have poured into challenging AWS in the hypercloud space.

Collier kicked off the second day of the OpenStack Summit in Paris with a paean to “distribution” as the handmaiden to democracy. He cited a Gates Foundation report on how technology would lift billions out of poverty within two thirds of people in sub-Saharan Africa having access to 3G within the next five years.

More here and now, he continued, democracy activists in Hong Kong had used a peer-to-peer app called Firechat to communicate and organise – even when authorities had shut down the internet. In Hungary, he noted, government attempts to impose an internet tax had been stymied when millions turned out on the streets, waving their mobile phones in defiance. [The fact that CERN is locating its new data centre in the country, with massive implications for funding and tech development in the country, may also have played a part in the government’s about-turn.]

Once the crowd was spun up and contemplating how the warm glow of millions of smartphones is melting the bonds of tyranny around the world, Collier flipped into explaining how OpenStack was doing much the same in the computing world.

Except, he continued, “There’s a monolith in the room.” In case anyone didn’t get the point, a slide popped up behind him showing the bedroom scene from 2001: A Space Odyssey - except that this time the monolith wore a leering smile normally associated with a large book-seller located in Seattle.

Collier then cited a flurry of headlines describing Amazon’s domination of the cloud world, before pointing out they were all from 2013. “Things move fast in the distributed world.”

Amazon’s offering was “certainly impressive, but one provider simply is not going to be enough.”

He added: “There’s not going to be one cloud strategy that’s going to satisfy everyone.”

At the same time, he said, Amazon did great things and he acknowledged many OpenStack houses also used AWS, including later speakers at the conference.

But already power was being distributed, with other offerings, including those powered by OpenStack, filling in the gaps on Amazon’s map of the world, he said.

Data sovereignty issues were just one driver of this. If a customer in France was told they could only access a data centre in Germany, said Collier: “That’s not choice, that’s audacity.”

The targeting of Amazon with its massive resources is an obvious move for OpenStack. Open source efforts always need a demon – it was Bill Gates for Linux back in the 1990s.

But Collier’s speech reflected some harder-headed trends, as questions are raised about the economics of the public cloud, even as larger established enterprises take a long, hard look at issues of vendor lock-in and account management when it comes to the cloud.

Still, at least Amazon got a mention. Microsoft and Google have also spent billions on their cloud rollouts, while IBM has bought its way into the public cloud via SoftLayer. Yet to the OpenStackers they don’t even register. Or maybe it's just tricky to focus on more than one demon at a time. ®

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