Will the biggest clouds stay open source?

The biggest and best IT system suppliers are gearing up for what they call "cloud" computing. IBM floated its offering today. It runs Linux.

IBM Data Center, courtesy IBM
Everyone wants to become Google these days. In a way.

Google runs Linux.

A lot of enterprises, from banking to health care, are now looking to deploy gigantic Internet-facing applications to customer sets numbering in the tens of millions. (Government, too.)

The biggest and best IT system suppliers are gearing up for what they call "cloud" computing. IBM floated its offering today.  (Credit IBM with this picture, which ran today on News.Com.)

It runs Linux.

The big opportunity which Sun seems focused on, with all its alliances, is this cloud opportunity. Can they make their hardware work on this scale? Can they make Solaris run on this scale? It's what the company has been promising for a decade -- can they deliver?

Or will it have to run Linux?

Microsoft is also focusing on this world. The company has been working, for most of this decade, on scaling-up Windows and .Net, and there is an army of developers which believe it can handle the load.

But does Windows have too much overhead? Or must these companies load on Linux?

There is also one company whose name always gets spoken first when the enterprises I talk to speak of this opportunity. That company is Oracle.

Databases are at the center of all this cloud stuff, and Oracle's scale better than anyone else's. When they're looking at cost against the billions of dollars a cloud can generate, the cost of Oracle becomes a rounding error.

But won't that run Linux as well? Probably. Or so I'm told. Unless you're looking at a proprietary Unix, for the sake of being proprietary.

All we know right now is that 2008 will be the "year of the cloud" and that right now Linux has a good chance of powering more of those clouds than anyone else.

One more point. When you build those clouds, could you have them rain a bit on Atlanta?

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