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Is Google's BigTable too private?

During a panel discussion at the Structure conference, the issues of lock-in and standards for Google's cloud-computing platform fire up some open-infrastructure conversation.

SAN FRANCISCO--During a panel discussion at the Structure conference here Wednesday, various representatives from the cloud-computing world offered their views. Panelists included:

  • Christophe Bisciglia, senior software engineer, Google
  • Jason Hoffman, founder and chief technology officer, Joyent
  • Tony Lucas, CEO, XCalibre Communications
  • Lew Moorman, senior vice president of strategy and corporate development, Rackspace
  • Geva Perry, chief marketing officer, GigaSpaces
  • Joe Weinman, VP of Strategic Solutions at AT&T

The panelists agreed that there will be open and proprietary, as well as specialized, cloud platforms. The discussion got a little heated between Google's Bisciglia and Joyent's Hoffman on the subject of open platforms and Google's BigTable software for distributed data storage.

"The question is, is it about selling your soul? You can't leave," Hoffman said during the panel, referring to Google's App Engine and cloud-computing platform. "There's been a lot published on what an open, loving cloud should do. We should give people real assurances that the cloud is a good place to be."

During the panel, Bisciglia said people can build a better mouse trap and compete with what Google offers. "When we publish something on BigTable, it is not to say that it is a lock-in, but it's our attempt to say that this is something that worked for us," he said.

"If your data is in Google's BigTable, you can't pull it out. You can't install it on your own hardware or leave. You have big brother telling you everything will be OK," Hoffman told me after the panel concluded. "One solution is that Google should provide nice export tools, but that doesn't solve the problem of where you run it. If I were a big enterprise company, I might want to run BigTable on my own hardware. If Oracle had the equivalent of a Google App Engine, a customer could run it on their own or someone else's hardware. What if Facebook started on Google App Engine? They would be stuck on Google."

Joyent is a David facing at least one Goliath, and its livelihood depends on an open-infrastructure approach. It doesn't have the market power to create its own standards. The company is doing 5 billion page views on month, which includes about 25 percent of third-party Facebook application pages, according to CEO David Young.

Joyent is working on a cloud-computing standards initiative called Cloud 9.

"We want to make it easy for people to leave," Hoffman said, adding that application programming interfaces should not hard-code server provider names into APIs.

"We need to interoperate just like the electrical grid," Young said. Google's BigTable and Amazon's SimpleDB are not pushing standards, which are needed to move things forward."

See GigaOM for more coverage.

Click here to see more of CNET's stories from the Structure 08 conference and on cloud computing generally.