This article was originally posted on the OpenSource Delivers blog. Enjoy! –Clint
In last month’s Open Source and Innovation webinar, Editor-in-Chief of CRM Outsiders Chris Bucholtz, and I had the opportunity to speak with the Olliance Group’s Greg Olsen, about various aspects of the cloud including its future, the issue of security in the cloud, and the cloud’s role in the open source community. Naturally I was most intrigued by the relationship between open source and the cloud – two of the biggest technologies in business today.
Companies operating at every layer of the cloud have an interest in creating open source models and initiating open source implementations of cloud technologies. What we are seeing is a movement to make open source ubiquitous in the cloud environment. But why is it that open source is so influential in this space? Why does it matter if the cloud is built with open source software?
The primary reason for the popularity of open source in the cloud environment is the complexity of the cloud itself and the demand for standardization at each layer of the cloud.
At the base level, the innovation of the open source community has made cloud assembly possible and has continued to foster progress. Furthermore, with so many connected elements at the base level, a certain amount of openness is absolutely essential to enable code sharing, thereby facilitating the entire assembly process.
The next layer of the cloud is infrastructure as a service (IaaS). Using open source at this level is the most efficient and most natural way of standardizing infrastructure services, much of which initially grew from open source roots. By openly sharing both code and implementation, developers can take advantage of cloud portability (the ability to seamlessly move applications from one cloud to another) and cloud interoperability (the ability for applications to incorporate more than one cloud). OpenStack and Eucalyptus are two great examples.
At the platform layer – platform as a service, aka PaaS – most application developers are focusing the bulk of their attention on big data applications and web applications, which emphasizes the importance of standardization even more. Once again, by using open source and sharing code, developers can effortlessly move an application from one platform to another. Open source technologies like Linux, Apache, PHP and MySQL allow PaaS platforms like EngineYard, Red Hat OpenShift and Google AppEngine to deliver true application portability. Sharing within the application developers’ community also stimulates community extension to your existing platform, encouraging further growth and higher levels of integration.
Next, at the layer of software as a service (SaaS) and applications, open source enables companies to quickly and effectively modify a cloud application to suit their changing needs. As an example, SugarCRM has focused seven years of open source development on making it easy to extend the SugarCRM platform and applications. For instance, companies can integrate multiple systems like Sugar, Drupal and Alfresco within the cloud to make solving business problems easier. Cloud applications can evolve with the company, rather than the other way around.
Finally, end users benefit from the use of open source in the cloud. The open source developer community is quite prolific, but surprisingly the end users of open source have created a sharing community as well. More than users of commercial products, open source end users actively share their experiences, creating a flourishing ‘community’ of their own like the Sugar Community, and enriching their cloud experience.
It is clear open source software (OSS) adds value to the cloud on every layer. OSS represents the most reliable, most secure, and most innovative set of tools available, especially when applied to the booming cloud space. Not only does open source foster integration and standardization – two essential components of cloud operations – but it also encourages innovation, creativity, and communication. Open source and the cloud are a match made in heaven.