Cloud computing has the tremendous potential to free enterprises from the expense and inefficiencies of traditional personal and server-based computing. As nice as this sounds, however, the more we move to the cloud, the greater the opportunity for vendors to lock in their customers.
Once your data resides in the cloud, moving it to alternative vendors may be even harder than in traditional software.
Unless. Unless vendors step in to maintain open data and common tools across disparate cloud resources. In the first area, Google has charted the way with its Data Liberation Front, an internal organization charged with keeping data open.
On the second, Cloudkick has announced server management tools that work across a wide array of cloud providers.
Cloudkick's approach works, in part, because of its active involvement with the Apache Software Foundation. The company created libcloud, a Python-based client library that works across disparate cloud providers. After helping to foster a community around the open-source project, Cloudkick secured libcloud's place among Apache's incubator projects.
With its open-source foundation and pan-cloud vendor management approach, Cloudkick offers a way to get into the cloud without getting stuck in any particular vendor's cloud-computing approach.
As Cloudkick co-founder Bob Hrdinsky noted to me:
We feel that we're leading the democratization of the cloud - users have a lower barrier to entry in participating in the cloud, and don't have to fear the burden of relearning tool sets if they switch providers. We are offering people who use multiple providers (or simply manage multiple accounts from the same provider) a super-accessible way to do so.
On Tuesday, Cloudkick announced that it has incorporated libcloud into the company's management tool, which means Cloudkick's cloud-management tools support seven different cloud-hosting providers: Rackspace Cloud, Amazon EC2, Linode, GoGrid, Slicehost, RimuHosting, and VPS.NET.
This open (and currently free) approach to cloud computing has resulted in thousands of companies registering to use Cloudkick's free tools to manage hundreds of thousands of servers. Management tools give insight into a company's cloud resources using intuitive charts like these:
The company plans to roll out premium services for those who want more than the free tools provide, as TechCrunch reports.
It's a promising approach. Drive adoption through an open-source project like libcloud. Then build it out, give away significant services for free, and charge only for higher-end services that customers will need in serious production. Cloudkick, both from a technology and from a business perspective, remains one cloud-computing vendor worth watching.