The maturing of open source software (OSS) and increasing support from mainstream IT vendors mean that cloud architectures built using OSS tools will grow on companies looking to avoid vendor lock-in, but they will need to assess whether they have the internal know-how to manage such deployments.
Arun Chandrasekaran, research director at Gartner, said the term "open source cloud" is a generic one referring to cloud computing framworks developed or based on open source technologies. This essentially enables enterprises to architect cloud environments that offer a wider compatibility with the hardware and software available in the market.
Dirk-Peter van Leeuwen, vice president and general manager at Red Hat Asia-Pacific, added to the definition by saying the open source cloud translates to freedom in three aspects. Customers will have the freedom to control their implementations, as well as be unfettered by technological and business paths determined by IT vendors.
They are thus free to collaborate with other companies and IT communities in areas that are relevant and matter to them, van Leeuwen explained.
He added that in terms of programming languages, applications, and data, the open source cloud also offers the ease in portability among heterogeneous cloud infrastructures.
Interest on the up
Chandrasekaran said the growing interest in open source cloud can be attributed to the growing maturity of OSS tools in general, and the increasing support given by mainstream IT vendors.
In Asia, the initial interest will come from cloud service providers as Asian businesses are more guarded due to their risk-averse nature. These organizations would typically have prior investments in proprietary IT products and are happy waiting for more enterprise-ready features to be ported over to open source cloud offerings before migrating, the Gartner analyst elaborated.
When deployed well, these open source clouds also offer benefits such as lower total cost of ownership (TCO), reduced vendor lock-in, better interoperability, and support from the developer community. These are areas enterprises should consider in assessing their options, he added.
Asian companies, given that many are in emerging economies, would also have less of a problem hurdling over legacy IT challenges, noted Laurent Lachal, senior software analyst at Ovum. As such, this should increase their inclination to considering open source cloud deployments, he said.
As with any OSS implementations though, Lachal called on companies to be aware of the licenses used by the software involved and the level of community engagement for the tool. For instance, a strong developer community could indicate long-term support while a tepid one may point to a software without a future, he explained.
Chandrasekaran also urged companies to assess whether they have the necessary in-house resources to deploy and support open source cloud projects.
If they choose to enlist the help of a third-party provider, they should evaluate the robustness and availability of the vendor's pre- and post-sales maintenance and support services, he added.
Red Hat's van Leeuwen concurred, saying organizations will have to take stock of their existing IT assets, security needs, and budgets. This also means ensuring their IT investments today are flexible enough to accommodate newer technologies in the future.
Open source clouds, in this regard, would provide companies the flexibility of determining their long-term IT roadmap. "It gives companies, not vendors, the highest degree of control over their IT infrastructure," he said.