Into The Great Wide Open: The Open-Source Cloud Revolution Takes Shape


The cloud is opening up as more open-source alternatives to proprietary players emerge.

While open source itself is nothing new -- and doesn't need grand promotion -- open source in the cloud is taking a fresh approach to the cloud model, and it's a space that has potential to shape the future of the cloud.

Currently, there are a handful of big-name, open-source cloud players out there: Eucalyptus, Cloud.com, and Open Nebula among them. Perhaps the most attention-getting open-source cloud is OpenStack, a joint open-source project between cloud player Rackspace and NASA that provides a full-cloud stack. And just last month, VMware pulled the curtain off of its Cloud Foundry open source platform-as-a-service project.

"Open source just seemed to be the logical step," said Rackspace Cloud President and Chief Strategy Officer Lew Moorman, calling OpenStack a "big change moment for the cloud space."

According to Moorman, most service providers deliver value through services, support and other add-ons, so the underlying technology like the cloud stack, or data center operating system, are not key differentiators. Leveraging an open-source model in the cloud brings the industry closer to cloud standards, while also dropping costs and opening the door for innovation.

"It just seemed like an absolutely natural way to do it," he said. "There was a need for an open-source option that was built on the Linux model."

So far, OpenStack has had a trio of code releases, the most recent being the April launch of Cactus. And since OpenStack launched in July 2010 the project has welcomed 60 partners to the fold, including major players like Cisco and Dell, and has seen between 150 and 170 developers contributing code.

OpenStack has also taken on the persona of being "the anti-Amazon," meaning that it opens up what Amazon holds proprietary. "People view us and Amazon as rivals in our approach," Moorman said, adding that Amazon's proprietary nature isn't bad, but it's different than how OpenStack does things. "It's proprietary versus a standards-based model," he said.

And for solution providers, VARs and integrators, open-source cloud plays like OpenStack open up the door for complimentary offerings, plug ins and integrations, Moorman said.

"If you're going to deploy OpenStack as your core private cloud in-house, there's a lot of integration work that has to happen," he said, adding there are configuration choices that partners can also help their clients navigate.

Marten Mickos, CEO of Eucalyptus Systems, an open-source private cloud infrastructure software player, has long been a proponent of open-source models, dating back to his time with at the helm of MySQL. Eucalyptus has built itself into one of the marquee open-source clouds, and already has tens of thousands clouds in use.

"I always thought that open source was a superior way to do code," he said. "It's easy for others to integrate with the platform and build on top of it. Open source fits everywhere in the industry."

Next: Cloud Computing Might Not Exist Without Open Source