HP Drops EC2 API Support, Puts Stake In Ground Against Amazon's 'Spider Web'

Hewlett-Packard's decision not to support Amazon Web Services EC2 application programming interface (API) in the HP enterprise-grade public cloud is in response to demand from customers, developers and partners anxious to avoid being locked into Amazon Web Services like a "bug in a spider web," according to a top HP cloud executive.

"We have made a decision based upon significant input from developers and customers that we will no longer provide the EC2 API within the HP Cloud environment," said Roger Levy, vice president of technical operations for HP Public Cloud, in an interview with CRN. "The EC2 API was part of, at one time, the work in OpenStack. The only thing provided in OpenStack and, therefore, the thing we provided was EC2. None of the other interfaces, none of the other stuff is there. By the way, when people use Amazon, very few people just use EC2; they then get into RDS [Cloud Relational Database Service] and touch all these other things that lock them in like a bug in a spider's web. Then you are locked in.

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"We have seen this from all sides including being a customer ourselves and looking at how people can get themselves badly locked in where they really don't want to," said Levy. "That is the key thing we are pushing against and making sure that, as you go to HP, you have openness in multiple dimensions, openness across how you use public, private, hybrid solutions and managed solutions, how you can move between non-HP solutions with your workloads, and then, of course, what we are doing with our overall strategy even to the extent of making its infrastructure open so that you don't have to have all HP hardware and an all HP infrastructure solution underneath either."

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Levy said there is a fundamental difference between how HP views the hybrid cloud market with OpenStack versus the Amazon public cloud approach. "AWS believes everything eventually is going to be public cloud, and HP strongly believes that the world is hybrid," he said. "It is just a difference in what we are seeing in the marketplace, and it is what our customers and partners are looking for."

Amazon Web Services did not return a request for comment as of press time.

HP's belief in the open cloud models extends to providing future "management and orchestration that will make it easier for people to move even between Amazon and OpenStack," Levy said, "but we want to do that in a way that doesn't lock people into a particular closed proprietary API."

"If you are Amazon, of course, you want everyone to use your API and lock everyone in," said Levy. "That is great for them. It is not necessarily great for the customers, and it is not great for the channel partners."

The OpenStack model being aggressively pushed by HP is now the "fastest growing open source project in history, beating out Linux by a long shot," said Levy. He said channel partners and customers are embracing OpenStack at an incredible pace.

That customer and partner demand were on display at the Hong Kong OpenStack Summit last month, he said. "The really cool thing about Hong Kong is it was not just vendors or developers; there were an awful lot of potential partners and customers that were present," he said.

NEXT: HP Public Grade EC2 API Decision Also Affects Eucalyptus

HP's Levy also confirmed that the EC2 API decision also affects private cloud Eucalyptus tools. "Eucalyptus is essentially the AWS EC2 APIs, so one is dependent on the other," he said, noting that Eucalyptus is "struggling to establish itself."

"Customers and the channel partners that we operate with really don't have a great interest in us having Eucalyptus right now," he said. "We have received continuing input and feedback that people want to see the open and portable solution."

HP's decision to drop EC2 API came as no shock to Eucalyptus, according to Eucalyptus CEO Marten Mickos.

"We are not surprised and have no issue with HP dropping support for the EC2 API in their OpenStack technology," Mickos said in an email. "HP Cloud never supported Eucalyptus, and their decision to drop EC2 support is their decision and has no impact on us."

Levy said HP is receiving positive feedback regarding its OpenStack stand against Amazon lock-in from major system integrators and channel partners interested in selling and supporting the OpenStack hybrid cloud offering being brought to market by HP.

"The feedback is overwhelming," he said. "People want open. Yes, today AWS is a 'de facto standard.' But at the end of the day, people are beginning to realize what that means: You get hooked, you have got no place to go."

Mont Phelps, CEO of NWN, No. 88 on the SP500 with $266 million in annual sales, applauded HP's decision to put a firm stake in the ground against Amazon cloud lock-in.

"What makes Amazon competent in this [enterprise-Web-services] world anyway?" said Phelps. "I don't get it. I know they have got some pretty big data centers, but I don't know why they should have significance and relevance in the corporate market."

One weakness that Amazon has that may rankle customers in the business market is its inability to make a profit, said Phelps. "In my view, a good company does three things: They are profitable; they are growing; and they have got happy customers, employees and business partners. I would say that Amazon doesn't qualify, and their model is not sustainable."

Phelps said he sees HP's enterprise-grade public cloud as a long-term winner with a "no-compromise" enterprise offering versus Amazon in the business market. "It makes a lot more sense for me to do business with HP," he said "HP is a technology leader, and we have a strong relationship with them. Amazon's strategy is basically to do everything cheaper than everybody else."

What's more, Phelps said, a number of customers have been surprised at just how high the price is for Amazon Web Services once they have entered into an agreement with the company.

Phelps compared Amazon to a budget airline that advertises cheap fares and then adds fees for standard features provided by competitors.

"They end up charging for everything, and at the end of the day, you don't get the level of service you would expect," he said. "You end up compromising. The HP offering is a no-compromise solution."

Kevin McLaughlin contributed to this story.