"We're committed to open-sourcing all of our cloud infrastructure, for the simple reason that we don't believe the cloud infrastructure is a competitive differentiator for us," says Todd Papaioannou, Yahoo's vice president of cloud architecture. "I have this question pop up from time to time, 'Is Yahoo ever going to move into the cloud?' And the answer is, 'No. We are the cloud.'"
Nonetheless, Yahoo's internal project could make deployment of its own web properties more efficient and give enterprises and developers a free software platform to build their own clouds. Papaioannou says Yahoo's cloud will provide infrastructure-as-a-service along the lines of Amazon's Elastic Compute Cloud, but with a higher level of abstraction to make it easier for developers to build services.
The cloud-serving engine lets developers build services in containers that sit above the virtual-machine layer, letting developers quickly deploy applications that are up and running with a set of common services. It's somewhere between infrastructure-as-a-service and platform-as-a-service - offering, for example, a lower level of abstraction than that provided by the Google App Engine, a pure PaaS play.
Over the past 15 years Yahoo has had to become quite sophisticated in provisioning new services, Papaioannou says. But "sometimes sophistication becomes complexity, and we are trying to abstract that complexity away from our developers," he says.
Yahoo intends to start running the cloud-serving engine in production before the end of March. The timeline for releasing the software as open source isn't set, but Papaioannou is hoping for this year. "The simple answer is I'd like to prove that it works in production, with heavy traffic running across it," before releasing as open source, he says.
Papaioannou, who joined Yahoo in May 2010, says the project started development last year and is in alpha stage now.
Yahoo, known for its contributions to Hadoop, typically uses the Apache license in open-source projects, Papaioannou says.
"We believe there is a huge benefit to open-sourcing our infrastructure, allowing other people to augment it and make it better," Papaioannou says. "That's what's made the Internet successful to date."