Why cloud computing needs open source

Despite what some vendors might tell you, the use of open source software will be a fundamental element to the future of public and private cloud computing infrastructure, according to The 451 Group.

Speaking at Red Hat Inc.’s Open Source Cloud Computing Forum Webcast on Wednesday, the New York-based research firm said open source and cloud computing could actually be a match made in technology heaven. Significant advantages include the reduced barriers to entry, open data standards and APIs, and flourishing support communities, the firm said.

“Vendor lock-in is also not necessary or desirable,” said Matthew Aslett, an analyst covering enterprise software for The 451 Group, adding that organizations will be able to focus their attention on value-added software services rather than client licences.

For companies like Red Hat, ISVs have to more fully embrace moving apps that enterprises need to the public cloud, according to Red Hat CTO Brian Stevens. For the future, the company wants to see a higher degree of compatibility between external cloud providers, zero cost of entry and exit for users moving to cloud-based environments, better data mobility, the elimination of ISV licencing obstacles, and an overall reduction in complexity for on-premise cloud installations.

“It’s clear Google and Amazon wouldn’t be where they are today without the use of open source software,” said Stevens.

The Google Inc. and Amazon.com Inc. success stories were also echoed by Aslett, who said both public cloud platforms benefited from low cost licencing and flexibility, as well as the ability to empower their developers.

“For Google, it’s about ability to make changes to their operating system without having to ask anybody’s permission or pay for client licence fees,” he said, adding that development times are also speed up in the process.

“Amazon looks at the benefits of an active community and being able to make use of it to solve their problems.”

Other benefits that open source will bring to private cloud environments include lowered barriers to adoption, de facto interoperability standards, SLA-based subscription pricing, flexible licencing, and the ability to choose whether or not you want to contribute your source code modifications, Aslett said.

“This has given Google the option of solving their problems without having to hand answers over right away,” he said. “But even Google is seeing the ability to give back and contribute to the community code.”

But while open source has certainly shaped the foundation of cloud computing and its biggest success stories, some industry watchers have argued that the cloud model threatens to introduce a new layer of complexity for organizations, whether they are taking advantage of public clouds or building out private clouds.

In terms of interoperability standards, vendor competition is a listed as a potential impediment. While most major cloud vendors are taking about the ability to move workloads from one cloud to another, their efforts are “closer to lip service” than actually achieving anything valuable, said Forrester Research Inc. analyst James Staten.

Staten cites the Distributed Management Task Force’s Open Cloud Standards Incubator, which has signed up almost every major technology vendor in Silicon Valley, as an impressive effort.

The group will let individual vendors demonstrate interoperability between two clouds and document methodologies to ensure interoperability occurs, according to Staten. The group thus tackles interoperability on a case-by-case basis, but the hope, according to Staten, is that this process will spur the development of industry-wide standards over time.

– With files from IDG News Service

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