Let my People Have Root

April 08, 2008 - by grassonthefield

First Salesforce, now Google. When will these companies get it through their heads that proprietary, single-source platforms are ridiculous? I mean, why in the world would I lock myself into one software platform AND one hosting provider when I there are so many high-quality, low-cost, portable alternatives out there? Silly.

Charlie Wood

As we as an industry build out various cloud computing offerings, the issue is becoming clear, as in computing paradigms before, who wins? Open or Closed? Google’s App Engine and Force.com are at one extreme. You must use their storage system. You must use their (choice of) language. Beyond that, you are locked into their authentication systems, their email systems and most importantly, their specific approach to scaling. Google App Engine implies a certain way of scaling. Google has scaled search (a single tenant application). They have had a little more trouble scaling Gmail, for example (also single tenant).

App Engine is certainly convenient for Google because it maps exactly to what they have already built for internal use. But does it mean that Google has solved the hard problem of how to manage a cloud computing offering while simultaneously giving developers the freedom of full root control? And is root access important?

Amazon has taken a less closed approach. EC2 is open. The down side to EC2 is that it is fully virtual, meaning that if it goes down you lose your files, your DB, everything on your EC2 instance. Amazon’s solution to this has been the “closed” or proprietary S3 storage offering.

The bottom line is that if you build your application on App Engine, Force or EC2/S3, you are locked into those platforms. Moving off will require a substantial re-engineering effort.

At Joyent, we believe Open Wins.

Developers get root on Joyent. You can run any DB, any application stack. Any storage. The fact that Twitter grew up on Joyent and then graduated is actually proof that we really do run an open-standards-based cloud. Try to leave App Engine. Or AWS. When you move can you install Bigtable? S3?

Jonathan Schwartz is right when he says computing is becoming a utility that can be monetized like any other commodity: when there are standards. There aren’t standards for cloud computing today beyond building on open protocol, open source stacks, and being willing to give customers control (i.e. “root”), and pick up their applications and move to other clouds, without a rewrite.

You want root.