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Does a cloud have to have an API to be a cloud?

By John | July 9, 2008

At this evenings Awsome meeting th question came up about “cloud” definitions.   It was suggested that a cloud has to have an  API to  really be a cloud.  Now I am not putting a stake in the ground just yet on this definition; however, it does raise an interesting question.  From an IaaS point of view an API could be considered a differentiator between a shared hosting/VPS and a cloud.  In other word, if you assume a cloud includes autonomics and elasticity, then it would need an API.   If you have to use a control panel to provision resources is it a cloud?

Topics: cloud computing | 8 Comments »

8 Responses to “Does a cloud have to have an API to be a cloud?”

  1. Craig Balding Says:
    July 9th, 2008 at 3:16 am


    I think that may be a useful distinction – and whilst I don’t usually get too hung up on definitions we are witnessing every one and their dog calling their service a Cloud.

    From an IaaS perspective I think it makes particular sense but I’m wondering if its more a sign of service maturity than anything else. I believe there are providers today that offer Cloud Compute but no API. They are offering on-demand services but you need to use a GUI web interface to provision. From a process perspective, it makes a lot of sense – why does a Cloud Operator need to be in the way of scaling a service by clicking widgets? Especially when there seems to be general agreement that large orgs will use the Cloud to add compute resource to existing internal apps.

    For SMBs, perhaps no API with their Cloud provider is OK as they may have no/limited integration requirements.

    Perhaps its a feature of Enterprise Ready Clouds? ;-)

    Enjoying the blog,

  2. John Says:
    July 9th, 2008 at 5:50 am


    I struggled with this question when it was first raised in the meeting. In fact I agree that the term “cloud” is over used and that is why I focused on the IaaS only for this particular question. When the original question was brought up in the meeting it was in the context of all cloud types (i.e., SaaS, PaaS, IaaS, and private clouds). That is a much larger question then I want to entertain at this point.

    As the “cloud-o-sphere” tries to identify types of clouds there seems to be a lot of juggling even in just the IaaS space. For example, Mosso is completely different from EC2 but EC2 does have an API and Mosso does not. Is Mosso a shared hosting service on steroids or is it a cloud? If everything that is cloud like is a cloud then Moss is a cloud. However, how do you tell the difference between Mosso and EC2 when they really are not even close to be the same?

  3. Chris Sears Says:
    July 9th, 2008 at 12:05 pm

    I think if you want to claim your cloud computing offering competes with EC2/S3 or AppEngine, you absolutely need to have an API.

    The guy who made that point in the meeting last night definitely had it right.

  4. John Says:
    July 9th, 2008 at 12:14 pm

    That dude was a pretty sharp guy :)

  5. What is cloud computing? — Server Specs Says:
    July 11th, 2008 at 10:00 am

    [...] Willis expounds on the aaS point with a bit of humor. He recently shared a discussion from an Awesome meeting, in which attendees asked “Does a cloud have to have an API to be a cloud?”. [...]

  6. Sam Johnston Says:
    July 30th, 2008 at 8:25 am

    I’ve ranted a lot on this subject already (see my link), but I don’t think an API is an absolute requirement in much the same way that I dispute ‘massive scalability’.

    Consider for example an app that I upload (perhaps as a VM image) to a ‘cloud’ hosting provider via a web form and then just click the big green ‘Go’ button and let the load balancing, monitoring, scaling ‘autonomic’ magic take care of the rest.

    Cloud solution? Arguably yes. API? No… but that’s not to say an API wouldn’t be an improvement.

    In reality the vast majority of ‘cloud’ offerings will have APIs.

  7. Moriah Says:
    October 22nd, 2008 at 3:39 am

    Well said.

  8. Cloud with API means Cloud platform Says:
    January 15th, 2009 at 12:05 pm

    [...] colleague Lydia Leong weighed in on a raging controversy in the blogosphere on whether a Cloud requires an API or not.  This is something that has a [...]