Is the cloud bad for open source? Just the opposite

Summary:Those who imagine the cloud will stall the growth of open-source software should think again. Open source will even end up challenging in areas that until now have remained proprietary fiefdoms.

Some have argued that the arrival of the cloud will harm the growth of open source. In fact, there's nothing to suggest that cloud and open source are mutually exclusive — in fact, quite the opposite.

The cloud is built from open source and if open source is architected to run in the cloud , it will. The cloud's operating system, database, web server, application development and even much-hyped trends such as big data are all powered by open source.

Vendor lock-in lies at the heart of the spiralling costs of maintaining enterprise systems

In fact the cloud will become yet another way for alternative open-source applications to challenge established proprietary enterprise software brands in areas such as document and enterprise content management.

Among the primary open-source developments that will be important for running in the cloud are enterprise collaboration, public information sharing, pay-as-you-use services for small, medium and underserved organisations and mobile workers.

In content management, cloud-based file management services such as Dropbox, Box , Huddle and others may continue to evolve over the next few years, but so far these vendors can only provide a fraction of the enterprise content-management capability needed to enable workers to enjoy greater productivity while on the move.

Simple interface across all devices

Regardless of whether the user is accessing a document in the cloud or behind the firewall, they should be able to access the same version using the same simple interface across all devices.

What enterprises need is a compliant, secure platform on both sides of the firewall which can provide content management functionality such as metadata, workflow, rules and sophisticated policy-setting. Right now, it is the open-source vendors that are leading the way.

Just as on-premise open systems have significant advantages over proprietary ones, there are similar benefits that open-source applications in the cloud bring when compared with closed cloud services. Rather than being the domain of tinkerers, open source is mandated as the preferred first choice by many governments and organisations.

First, open source is extremely cost-efficient and can be deployed across the board to make secure hybrid on-premise and cloud applications available to thousands of users without having to spend large sums on licences.

Second, open source provides a much greater flexibility and freedom to switch to future technologies. You are not locked into the software that you are running, whether it is running in the cloud or not. You have the choice to deploy it elsewhere and there is no cost to doing so.

Vested interest in status quo

Open-source evangelists have long argued that vendor lock-in lies at the heart of spiralling costs of maintaining enterprise systems. Many vendors with technology stacks based on closed proprietary software and proprietary standards have a vested interest in prolonging the status quo.

Most suppliers in the emerging cloud base their stacks on open-source software and open standards precisely to stop any single vendor becoming so powerful that it can dictate their future technology decisions. That thinking is also the reason why the vast majority of public cloud service providers run their infrastructures on the Linux operating system.

Indeed, governments and enterprises are starting to explore the use of open-source cloud applications to share material securely in the cloud with their mobile workers and partners so that they can collaborate as teams or on short-term projects.

Open source as a development model means the community is creating new solutions and new extensions, many of which will be very useful for cloud-based solutions.

Far from being at a disadvantage, I see open source as being the single biggest enabler of applications in the cloud.

Topics: Cloud, Linux, Open Source

About

John Powell is president and CEO of open-source content management software firm Alfresco. Before Alfresco, he was responsible for worldwide operations at business-intelligence specialist Business Objects.

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