Will open source IaaS platforms ever challenge Amazon, Microsoft, Google?

Increasing popularity of open source cloud infrastructure platforms such as Eucalyptus, OpenNebula, Nimbus, Xen Cloud Platform and OpenQRM has raised hopes that open source can establish a stonghold in the IaaS platform space.Still, some open source advocates maintain that Amazon, Microsoft, Google and Rackspace will continue to control and build out a proprietary public cloud infrastructure until the open source community collaborates more closely.

Increasing popularity of open source cloud infrastructure platforms such as Eucalyptus, OpenNebula, Nimbus, Xen Cloud Platform and OpenQRM has raised hopes that open source can establish a stonghold in the IaaS platform space.

Still, some open source advocates maintain that Amazon, Microsoft, Google and Rackspace will continue to control and build out a proprietary public cloud infrastructure until the open source community collaborates more closely.

So says Sam Ramji, vice president of development of Sonoa Systems, who let his views be known at the Linux Foundation's recent collaboration summit. "The cloud will be open when the community gets together and builds a cloud infrastructure," Ramji said.

While much of the software running private and public clouds is open source, proprietary vendors are firmly in control, Ramji said, noting that APIs from Amazon, Google and Microsoft are defining the public cloud landscape.

Ramji, the former head of open source at Microsoft, noted that there have been some efforts such as the Open Cloud Initiative, Open Cloud Consortium and other Open Cloud standards efforts to advance the cause, but the undertaking needs serious corporate support.

"It's not about technology ... It's a question of funding," Ramji said, noting that one Bank of America IT executive runs his private and public clouds on open source software. "There has to be a financial model that shows up. [IE]Each foundation shows up to make it happen or it doesn't make sense."

The lack of Interoperability among public clouds is one way open source companies can gain momentum, some say.

Following a recent GigaOM forum, one author noted that "many concerns over cloud interoperability and application portability can be addressed in the planning stages and by utilizing automation capabilities from companies like RightScale. Another possibility is to use an open-source interface like libcloud, which simplifies movement between clouds."