If you talk with your technical staff, or if you are in fact a technical person, and consider answering the question “What is the cloud?”, what are your thoughts? Often I find technicians and engineers discussing how cloud is about hosting Windows servers and desktops, the scalability resources the cloud has to offer, and how the cloud offers better options for highly available data with access from most anywhere. While these things are most certainly important parts of the cloud of today, the real benefit, that most non-development engineers miss, is that the cloud is about developing an unbiased platform to operate in. This is quite a feat and a step out of the box for most people.
Clouds real benefit is operating on an unbiased platform
The giants of today’s business technology currently dominate the choices for server and desktop operating systems. This is why your office is probably comprised of predominantly Windows operating systems, but what if your operating system didn’t matter anymore? What if your business could run any operating system it wanted and still use every application it needs to operate and in fact use or create more applications with ease and far less cost? This is what the cloud is really about. Sure you still need servers and virtualization, and all of the benefits they have to offer, but to be truly in a cloud environment your data will be in an unbiased, very redundant, platform that allows you to mesh all of your needs into one dashboard simply and affordably. But how can this happen you say? Two words answer that question “open source”. What is open source you say? It’s a company’s way of getting everyone to try a new product for “free” that is managed and developed by a large community, even by very large corporations like: VMware, Citrix, or Red Hat. This is how it works:
Technology Company ABC wants to get a new idea off of the ground but knows companies won’t just drop what they are using and spend more money to change something that already works, if it isn't broke don’t fix it right? But Company ABC knows that their idea is better than what the market has, and wants to start a new trend, so they start an open source project and make it available for “free” to the public. Being open source, anyone who wants to contribute, change and repackage the software can do so within the open source rules. (There are different versions of open source.) Because Company ABC has a good idea, lots of development is going into the project and companies are embracing the idea. This has opened the door for company ABC to offer supported, perhaps customized, versions for the open source software at a nominal fee. Eventually enough people like Company’s ABC software that they create a non-open source version with a lot more features and customization that is supported by Company ABC. It has now fully taken off and has a community behind it to keep its momentum and capture new clients.
This model is increasing popular for companies like Company ABC with a great cloud idea that they want the community to embrace, and it’s working, quite well I might add. Data centers and large corporations are moving their entire operations into a cloud based architecture, no easy feat, and open source is at the heart of all of these changes.
Data centers and large corporations are moving their entire operations into open source cloud architectures
However main players, like Microsoft and Apple, are in the cloud space but very slow to shy away from their own platforms. This mainly comes from the desire to keep everyone tied to them and keep the community from embracing a more open platform. This will become more obvious as the windows apps store matures and Microsoft bring Windows 8 alive in 2012. Still while Microsoft makes an excellent product I see Open Source making a strong shift in the market as everyone loves getting more for much less. Just a few companies to look at that bring cloud open source to life are: Open Stack, Cloud.com, Cloud Foundry, Openshift, Eucalyptus, WSO2, and OpenNeblua.
So what are your thoughts on open source running your company? Would you move away from Windows if you could still use all of your applications?