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What Does Oracle-Google Case Mean For Cloud Computing?

As a software professional using Java since its very beginning, I have been following the case regarding Google’s using Java APIs in its Android OS. I don’t want to repeat what has happened so far because you can find these updates by searching the Internet. All I want to say is that the case is pretty educational not only on the technology itself but also on the legal side like patents, copyright.

What I want to discuss here is whether, and how if yes, the result of the case has impact on the development of cloud computing. For this purpose, we need to revisit the key issue in question: is APIs copyrightable? More specifically, can the APIs originally created in Java be used by Google in Android without licensing from Oracle who inherited Java from Sun? There are of course two camps of opinions, depending on how you think of APIs, and sometimes which side you are taking.

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Although I have my own thoughts on this, let’s leave it to the judge to decide. In my short prediction, Google will win politically, and Oracle will win legally.

Let us come back to the cloud computing. Just like any part of IT, the cloud computing involves a lot of APIs as well. These APIs play critical roles in managing the lifecycle of virtual machines and applications. Without these APIs, the power of cloud computing is limited.

One good example of cloud APIs is Amazon EC2. As a leader of IaaS, Amazon created their Web Services APIs (both SOAP and REST) to create and manage the virtual machines. The APIs has thereafter been used in other implementations, for example, Eucalyptus, CloudStack, etc.

I haven’t found any explicit terms on the usage of EC2 APIs by other vendors. It’s to the benefits of Amazon to have others to copy its APIs because it helps the APIs to become the de facto standard. For businesses, de facto standard is better than open standard. Just like Java, it’s de facto but not really open.

With the similarity, it’s at Amazon’s disposal to go after the vendors who implement its Web Service APIs and their customers in the future if Oracle wins the case. If Oracle loses, there is of course no case. For that, let’s stay tuned to the case…

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