RH to host in EC2- does it blend?^W^W^Wis it open?

endlich himmelblau by extranoise, used under CC-BY license

So Red Hat is going to sell hosted servers in EC2. (see also) With my recent focus, this prompts an obvious question.

Given that EC2 is basically hosted Xen (a defacto open standard), so that you can apparently fairly trivially move a VM from your machine to EC2 to some other Xen-running server, and that you can apparently access (both upload and download) your VMs trivially via a robust API, does that make EC2 an open service?

I’m not completely sure what the answer to the question is, but I’ll at least say that this appears to be meaningfully different than most hosted services. I can get my data in and out, use the data on a Free operating system with minimal modification, and I can maintain my identity by easily ‘hiding’ EC2 usage behind my own URLs. That may not be ideal but it goes a long, long way, or so it seems to me.

Some other perhaps-relevant details:

  • obviously, source is not available. Not clear it would be of any use to mere mortals anyway, and we do have the Xen source. Still, not satisfactory to everyone. Obvious question: are Amazon’s services so complex, their hardware so expensive, and their skill so deep, that they could maintain competitive advantage without proprietary source code?
  • Amazon’s paid services give you 15 days before a changed TOS becomes binding. This is nice, given that the standard is ‘we change it and voila, it is binding.’
  • they actually promise to maintain your data for certain periods if for some reason the service is suspended or terminated. Again, the standard is ‘we can nuke your data whereever, whenever.’ However, a casual read of the TOS suggests that they reserve the right not to give your data back to you even if they don’t delete it immediately. Odd. (I’d prefer to see a guarantee that data retrieval services will be available as long as they hold the data, even if all other services are suspended/terminated.)
  • uses language I wish I saw more often: “we will endeavor to do ___ but shall have no liability for the manner in which we may do so or if we fail to do so.” Not that I’m a huge fan of empty promises (which this is) but it is surprising how many TOSs refuse to even go this far.
  • explicitly notes that the user retains all rights in their own data and software which is uploaded.