Firms will adopt hybrid software cloud

correction Most businesses will deploy mix of open source and proprietary software on cloud platform due to complexity of business apps, says Red Hat executive.

A correction was made to this story. Read below for details.

SINGAPORE--Most businesses will deploy a hybrid cloud computing model based on proprietary and open source software due to the complexity of niche enterprise applications, said a Red Hat executive.

In an interview with ZDNet Asia, Frank Feldmann, senior product manager at Red Hat Asia-Pacific and Japan, said the industry push to get on the cloud will be a boon to open standards as businesses look more closely at interoperability issues. The Red Hat executive was speaking on the sidelines of an IDC cloud computing conference held here Tuesday. Interoperability of APIs (application programming interfaces) was a topic addressed by several speakers at the event.

Asked if cloud will lead the way for businesses to move to open source, Feldmann said most enterprises will likely end up on a hybrid model based on both proprietary and open source software.

He explained that most companies today sit "somewhere in the middle", in terms of open source adoption, where they implement such applications when there are proven examples or where there is strong vendor community support.

Businesses, he noted, will adopt a similar viewpoint on cloud computing.

"If companies look at cloud, [and ask] if it's safe to deploy open source versus proprietary...I think in many cases, it is perfectly fine to deploy your technology into the cloud," he said.

However, he added, most organizations will likely prefer a hybrid cloud model based on both proprietary and open source, "where you have some stuff of your own, and some on the public cloud".

"Open source is important but I don't think every company can go that far down the road," Feldmann explained, noting that companies may be hard pressed to find development support for niche enterprise applications.

"Some pieces of technology cannot be developed on open source easily," he said. "Tax application, [for instance], can you seriously create a community of developers who will get excited to write tax algorithm?"

To support this hybrid model, he said, the industry will need to look at commoditization and open standards.

To consume different applications on different platforms-as-a-service (PaaS), companies will need to be mindful of interoperability so that each application will be able to work with the rest in their enterprise stack, Feldmann explained.

Peter Coffee, Salesforce.com's director of platform research, said during his presentation that the provision of common APIs on PaaS will help convince developers to build enterprise apps on the cloud. "You must win developers over first before a platform will be a success, and with APIs, developers get to reap efficiencies by reusing codes," said Coffee.

He added that this would not stunt developers from creating good apps, because interoperability between different platforms will give rise to a plethora of tools to seed a developer's creativity.

"Think of [the APIs] as items in a supermarket. Create a new composite app that is uniquely yours," he said. "We want to connect [programming] behaviors, not just the apps themselves."

Interoperability between clouds
In addition to platforms, Coffee also called for interoperability between different infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) providers. With companies choosing to deploy different aspects of their business simultaneously on "different" clouds--some on-premise, some public--interoperability will be crucial to facilitate the moving of apps between clouds.

But, a larger movement may need to take place for true interoperability to happen.

Red Hat's Feldmann said there must be a common API between IaaS providers, too, so organizations are not locked-in to any one player. "If you want to change providers, you should be able to just change the address without disruption," he said, but added that it would likely take another three to four years before a common industry standard is established.

Chris Morris, IDC's Asia-Pacific director of services, said industry adoption of cloud computing is currently at the early-adoption phase, with CIOs evaluating portfolios of service offerings. "Now is the time to begin understanding the options... Cloud services will be essential tools for addressing the biggest business demands of IT," Morris said.

In a recent IDC Asia-Pacific end-user survey, 89 percent of respondents said they heard of or were familiar with cloud computing. However, the majority remained hesitant to jump on the platform, preferring instead to wait for success stories to emerge, he said.

Ken Pepple, Sun Microsystems' Asia-Pacific chief technologist and principal engineer, said the industry still requires traditional business processes such as auditing, to be applied to the cloud, before mainstream adoption can happen.

"The cloud will also have to prove itself before it will hit it big," Pepple said, in an interview with ZDNet Asia.

CIOs will also have to choose which layer along the cloud stack they want to procure their apps, he said.

A pure IaaS will provide a lot of flexibility, but users will be left with the job of administering and running the applications. Further up the stack, a SaaS option will take away administrative concerns, but will leave the user with less flexibility to customize the appplications, Pepple explained.

Furthermore, the cloud will have to provide more software options for organizations. "I don't see anyone doing telco billing yet," he said.

"Companies moving to the cloud have to realize it may not be an IT cost issue, but a huge business cost in reorienting processes.

"And, not a lot of companies will have the appetite to deal with that right now, in these economic times," Pepple noted.

Correction: This article incorrectly interpreted Red Hat's Frank Feldmann's statement that the need for open standards on cloud will not push open source adoption. In fact, Feldmann meant to say that most businesses will instead choose a hybrid cloud model based on proprietary and open source software, due to the complexity of niche business applications. More details are included in the article. We apologize for the error.