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Customers and vendors do battle in the clouds

Once you drop that market demand for openness, for standards, and for true interoperability you won't get another for many years.

Every turn of the technology screw brings with it a clean sheet if paper on which vendors try to write their ambitions.

Each turn also brings with it a new opportunity for customers to bend those standards to their will. And their will is always the same. They want more, they want it cheaper, and they want the chance to switch vendors.

Clouds are the first major new paradigm to emerge since the open source era began, and thus customers have new ammunition for the battle.

Is open source an ally in that fight? Depends on what you mean by ally.

Red Hat has a powerful new virtualization engine, but it runs under KVM. Does that make it non-standard? It does if you've built your cloud strategy on a different hypervisor.

It's true that open source does not have to mean compatible or even interoperable. There are plenty of proprietary companies, starting with Microsoft and Oracle, that are working hard to make this true.

Point is customers don't have to knuckle under to these vendor strategies. They can demand openness as their price for entering a cloud, leasing one, or building one. This is a demand they have to enforce with their dollars. Or Euros. Or whatever.

The proprietary companies have learned how to live in this world, however. First they promise interoperability. Then they play the old political trick of claiming open and closed are two sides of the same code, equivalent, a choice that customers must make.

No, you can't, they say. At which point customers have to say yes, we can.

These are what folks now call "c-level" discussions, the kind that large and mid-sized companies have at the top of the corporate tower. And it's important, when you're at the top of the tower, that you not get lost in the weeds, that you not let your short-term desire to get it done and get it for less cloud your judgement.

Once you drop that market demand for openness, for standards, and for true interoperability you won't get another for many years.

Use your power wisely.