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June 17, 2013

Open Source in the Cloud - How Much Should You Care?

Open-Ended-Funds-vs-Closed-Ended-Funds-300x300In his opening keynote for Red Hat Summit, Jim Whitehurst, the CEO of Red Hat asked the audience: "Name an innovation that isn't happening in Open Source - other than Azure!" I can certainly add iPhone and AWS to the mix but let me stick to the cloud topic with the following question: "How much Open Source matters in the cloud?"


Let's first elaborate on a two misconceptions about Open Source.


Open Source is Free

Not really! In the cloud doesn't matter whether you are running on an Open Source platform or not - it is NOT free because you pay for the service. And for long Open Source project have been funded through the services premiums that you pay. I would argue that Open Source vendors have mastered the way they can take profit from Open Source services and are far ahead than the proprietary vendors. The whole catch here is that you pay nothing for the software and incur no capital expenditures (CapEx) but you pay for the services (i.e. Operational Expenditures or OpEx) - remember, this is also the cloud model. Bottom line is that you may be better off with a propriatery vendor than an open source one, because the former need to yet master that business model.


Open Source Means No-Lock-In

Not sure about that too! Do you remember J2EE? It wasn't long time ago when Sun created the specification and said that there will be portability between vendors. Those of you who have tried to migrate J2EE application from JBoss to Weblogic to WebSphere will agree that the migration costs weren't negligible. It is the same with Open Source clouds - doesn't matter that HP and RackSpace both use the Open Source OpenStack - you still need to plan your migration costs.


I am far from saying that Open Source is not important. Quite opposite - I am big Open Source fan and the biggest example I can give is… well, Azure. They also understand that the source is not important anymore hence they open-sourced their SDKs (and continue to add more). It is time to forget those technology wars and really start thinking about the goals we have and the experience we provide for our customers. When you choose your cloud providers you should not ask the question: "Are they Open Source or proprietary?" Better questions to ask are:

  • Does the vendor provide functionality that will save me money?
  • Can they support my business for the next 5 or 10 years?
  • Do they provide the services and support that I need?
  • Are they agile enough to add the features that I need?
  • Do they have the feedback channel to the core development team that I can use to submit requests?
  • Do they have the vision to predict the future in the cloud?

All those are much more important questions for your technology strategy and your business than whether their cloud is Open Source or not.

January 25, 2012

Accessing Windows Azure REST APIs with cURL

Tonight I was playing with cURL on my Mac wondering how easy would it be to develop few scripts to manage Windows Azure applications from non-Windows machine. As it turns out getting access to Windows Azure REST APIs was quite simple. Here are the steps I had to go though in order to be able to receive valid response from the APIs:

Set up Windows Azure management certificate from your Mac machine

The first thing I had to do is to create a self signed certificate that I can use to do the Service Management. Creating the cert with openssl (which is available on Mac) is quite simple - just type:

openssl req -x509 -nodes -days 365 -newkey rsa:2048 -keyout azure-cert.pem -out azure-cert.pem

During the creation openssl will ask you for all the necessary information like country name, organization name etc. and at the end will generate .pem file that contains the public and the private key.

In order to upload the certificate to your Windows Azure subscription using the Management Portal though you need to have the certificate in PKCS12 (or .pfx) format. Here is the openssl command that will do the work:

openssl pkcs12 -export -out azure-cert.pfx -in azure-cert.pem -name "My Self Signed Cert"

Now that you have the PKCS12 file you can go ahead and upload this to your Management Certificates using the portal.

Update: By writing this in the middle of the night I totally messed up what you need to do. PKCS12 you need if you want to enable SSL for your service. For management you only need the public key that you can export in .CER file. Here is the command that you use for this:

openssl x509 -outform der -in azure-cert.pem -out azure-cert.cer

Now you can upload the .CER to the Management Certificates section using the portal.

Windows Azure Management Certificates - Management Portal Screenshot

The initial set-up is done!

Using cURL to Access Windows Azure REST APIs

Now that you have the cert created and uploaded to Windows Azure you can easily play with the REST APIs. For example if you want to list all your existing hosted services you can use the List Hosted Services API as follows:

curl -E [cert-file] -H "x-ms-version: 2011-10-01" "[subscr-id]/services/hostedservices"


  • cert-file is the path to the .pem file containing the certificate
  • subscr-id is your Windows Azure subscription ID

Don't forget to specify the version header (the -H flag for cURL) else Windows Azure will return an error. As a result of the call above you will receive XML response with list of all the hosted services in your Windows Azure subscriptioin.

You can access any of the REST APIs by manually constructing the request and the URL as described in the Windows Azure Service Management REST API Reference.

I didn't get to any of my planned scripts but I can explore the APIs easily cURL.