Red Hat: Cloud won't drive open-source adoption

The cloud's heightened focus on interoperability does not directly translate to ramped up adoption of open-source software, says Red Hat executive Frank Feldmann.
Written by Victoria Ho, Contributor
Open standards and the need for interoperability on the cloud will not necessarily drive the adoption of open-source software, 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.

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

However, he noted that this focus on open standards does not necessarily mean companies will be fully reliant on open-source software, because a mature developer community may not exist for certain niche applications.

Feldmann said: "You may be hard pressed to find a huge community of open-source developers passionate about building that tax billing app, [for instance]."

The Red Hat executive was speaking on the sidelines of an IDC cloud-computing conference held in Singapore on Tuesday. Interoperability of APIs (application programming interfaces) was a topic addressed by several speakers at the event.

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.

However, 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 is likely to 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 chief information officers 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 had 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's 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.

Chief information officers 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 applications, 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.

While Red Hat's Feldmann does not believe the need for open standards — to better leverage cloud applications — will directly affect open-source adoption, others expect the cloud to fuel the need for open source, as companies search for better cost efficiencies. A survey by Evans Data also indicated that open-source developers were planning to build for the cloud platform.

This article was originally posted on ZDNet Asia.

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