Srinivas Reddy’s Weblog

My Tech Rants

Open Source to Open API’s

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A few years back Open source software was the rage and everyone was extolling the virtues of open source software. We are currently in the next stage in the software journey with everyone talking about Open API based systems.  I would like to reflect on the transition and its implications.

Key innovations in the open source area include Linux OS, Apache Web server, mySQL database, Eclipse IDE and many scripting languages and UI/Application frameworks to name a few. Its interesting to see how many web 2.0 companies are using these technologies to offer software as a service. On one hand IT consumers have established vendors offering ‘cathedral’ model  legacy software (as in not designed for web consumption)  and on the other many new vendors offering software as a service(SaaS) in a ‘bazaar’ model, not very different from the roots of the open source software. Not surprisingly, most SaaS vendors have software running on the open source stack (mostly LAMP).  They have REST services to expose there functionality using ‘Open API’s’ enabling there consumption by different mashups. Basically web apps exposing services using http get/post interfaces together with other standards such as RSS.  Users can easily consume services from different providers (be it Facebook, Yahoo, Foogle, Ebay, Amazon, Salesforce,…). So where does this leave the established vendors? There are two trends that can be seen here. One the established vendors are buying/acquiring other players leading to a consolidation in the market. Two they are service enabling their applications/infrastructure to better compete with the new vendors. Service enabling legacy systems is better marketed as ‘SOA’ software which mostly means putting webservice (can be SOAP or REST) interfaces to existing functionality.

The data center innovations happening in the SaaS world is the biggest disruptor for legacy vendors (be it Hardware, Network or Software provider). Amazon has created a infrastructure where computation and storage can be bought on demand as a service at commodity prices using ‘Open API’s’. In the networking space many vendors are trying to provide ‘Network as a Service’  (Cisco included) but this area is still not so advanced. Hosted software platforms are seeing most innovation. Be it as Infrastructure/Platform services or Applications. Hosted Server environment such as those provided by Amazon, Facebook, Salesforce, Google, Ning,.. which already include the complete Server software stack with hardware and tools/toolkits to develop applications or compose on top. No upfront investment needed and pay only for what you really need.  This is a major shift from the packaged software/hardware world of the past with huge implications for the ecosystem. As some one recently said there will be only a few big computers in the world which will be handling most of the computation. No wonder Microsoft is so keen to buy Yahoo ;o)

Offering ‘Open API’s’ is a key element of this new IT ecosystem in order to create the needed scale for applications to be viable.  This calls for a new mindset for the Software developers and consumers. Before you create or consume IT make sure to make it future proof by being part of the open ecosystem.  While SaaS has still to prove its extensible, manageable, configurable, scalable, secure,… even as people create increasingly complex distributed applications running on virtualized hardware, we are surely getting to the utility model of computing.

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Written by srinivasreddy

February 26, 2008 at 7:05 pm

Posted in 1

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