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Open Source in the Cloud - How Much Should You Care?

Open Source software is a big driver for cloud but how much emphasis should you put on the label

In his opening keynote for Red Hat Summit, Jim Whitehurst, the CEO of Red Hat asked the audience: "Name an innovation that isn't happening in Open Source - other than Azure!" I can certainly add iPhone and AWS to the mix but let me stick to the cloud topic with the following question: "How much Open Source matters in the cloud?"

Let's first elaborate on a two misconceptions about Open Source.

Open Source Is Free

Open-Ended-Funds-vs-Closed-Ended-Funds-300x300Not really! In the cloud doesn't matter whether you are running on an Open Source platform or not - it is NOT free because you pay for the service. And for long Open Source project have been funded through the services premiums that you pay. I would argue that Open Source vendors have mastered the way they can take profit from Open Source services and are far ahead than the proprietary vendors. The whole catch here is that you pay nothing for the software and incur no capital expenditures (CapEx) but you pay for the services (i.e. Operational Expenditures or OpEx) - remember, this is also the cloud model. Bottom line is that you may be better off with a propriatery vendor than an open source one, because the former need to yet master that business model.

Open Source Means No-Lock-In
Not sure about that too! Do you remember J2EE? It wasn't long time ago when Sun created the specification and said that there will be portability between vendors. Those of you who have tried to migrate J2EE application from JBoss to Weblogic to WebSphere will agree that the migration costs weren't negligible. It is the same with Open Source clouds - doesn't matter that HP and RackSpace both use the Open Source OpenStack - you still need to plan your migration costs.

I am far from saying that Open Source is not important. Quite opposite - I am big Open Source fan and the biggest example I can give is… well, Azure. They also understand that the source is not important anymore hence they open-sourced their SDKs (and continue to add more). It is time to forget those technology wars and really start thinking about the goals we have and the experience we provide for our customers. When you choose your cloud providers you should not ask the question: "Are they Open Source or proprietary?" Better questions to ask are:

  • Does the vendor provide functionality that will save me money?
  • Can they support my business for the next 5 or 10 years?
  • Do they provide the services and support that I need?
  • Are they agile enough to add the features that I need?
  • Do they have the feedback channel to the core development team that I can use to submit requests?
  • Do they have the vision to predict the future in the cloud?

All those are much more important questions for your technology strategy and your business than whether their cloud is Open Source or not.

More Stories By Toddy Mladenov

Toddy Mladenov has more than 15 years experience in software development and technology consulting at companies like Microsoft, SAP and 3Com. Currently he is a CTO of Agitare Technologies, Inc. - a boutique consulting company that specializes in Cloud Computing and Big Data Solutions. Before Agitare Tech Toddy spent few years with PaaS startup Apprenda and more than six years working on Microsft's cloud computing platform Windows Azure, Windows Client and MSN/Windows Live. During his career at Microsoft he managed different aspects of the software development process for Windows Azure and Windows Services. He also evangelized Microsoft cloud services among open source communities like PHP and Java. In the past he developed enterprise software for German's software giant SAP and several startups in Europe, and managed the technical sales for 3Com in the Balkan region.

With his broad industry experience, international background and end-user point of view Toddy has an unique approach towards technology. He believes that technology should be develop to improve people's lives and is eager to share his knowledge in topics like cloud computing, mobile and web development.

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