Why an S3 compatible API ? A rebuttal

I read a post by Gladinet yesterday that talked about why, in their opinion, an S3 compatible API is not a good idea, and to be honest I was surprised at their viewpoint. If an S3 compatible API is such a bad idea, why do Eucalyptus offer it ? Why do Mezeo ? Why do Google Storage ? I’ll tell you why, because right now Amazon S3 is the big gorilla in Cloud Storage and to make it easy for developers, and tool vendors, to move to/use their platforms they are offering the nearest thing there is to a standard (apart from WebDav….and I’ll come back to that), which is an S3 compatible interface, or way into their storage clouds.

If you extend that thinking further you can see why it would be useful to users, developers, and Organisations, to use an S3 API above other Storage Clouds, that don’t currently have it. For example using an S3 endpoint with RackSpace or Google Docs could solve some key integration problems if you already use S3 and want to manage files against these clouds.

The issue really is about standards, and the lack of standard API’s in Cloud. There is an old, but still relevant ,post from Gartner on this that I tend to agree with. Having standardised API’s from day one is not good because it stifles innovation, however the basic object cloud storage is pretty basic in terms of an API and for lots of users, developers, and companies, being able to standardise around the dominant API, has in certain circumstances, many benefits.

This brings me back to WebDav. Dav was the first real  (and still the only) standard for working with files over http. I’m amazed by how many vendors don’t support it as an entry point to their cloud ie. Google Docs, Amazon S3, RackSpace Cloud Files, DropBox etc etc. Someone made a comment to me recently that WebDav “was so 20th century”. It made me smile as WebDav is still one of the most implemented integration points for Applications. Consider the Apple App Store. It’s two years old and there are a myriad of Applications that support WebDav and also have to support the clouds that don’t support WebDav, and if your cloud is not on the list, then, well it’s tough !  Need a more recent example? The new Nokia N8 Smartphone. It supports WebDav as a native client and users have already picked up that they can use our service to access their cloud data on the device. When we launched our ubiquitous WebDav over any cloud (whether it support it natively or not), CloudDav interface, we did it because we had the same frustrations. We launched this on August 25th.  In only 3 months it is responsible for 30% of our traffic and it has lead to a huge increase in our user base ! That is an amazing statistic and shows that users really want standardisation when it enables them to access their data the way they want to, and of course this is our raison d’etre 😉

Interestingly, in the past Gladinet also had a positive point of view about the S3 API, at least in earlier blog posts, so I’m not sure what lead to their change of heart, but one thing is for sure, I expect more storage companies, not less, to continue issuing compatible S3 endpoints as entry points into their storage clouds.

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