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The selection of proprietary solutions versus more broadly based OpenStack solutions has emerged as one of the great debates of cloud computing.
OpenStack is an open-source Infrastructure-as-a-Service project through which cloud solutions are developed using open-source code through an Apache license. A variety of vendors participate in the OpenStack Foundation, which oversees the initiative. By contrast, other vendors are coming to the table with proprietary solutions that are arguably more tightly integrated, but also establish an environment of customer lock-in.
"Architecture is rapidly becoming a commodity," said Jim Whitehurst, CEO of Raleigh, N.C.-based Red Hat, which has placed its bets on the overall open-source movement. "The channel can derive massive value from what they can put on top of that architecture, if the partners can accurately assess the best ways to deliver that value through the various component parts."
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Whitehurst sees OpenStack as the antidote to customer lock-in by virtue of the fact that the offerings of multiple vendors can be far more interoperable than is typically possible in proprietary environments.
"With all these different vendors delivering offerings based on compatible code, how can it do anything but resolve the issue of customer lock-in?" he asked.
But despite the multivendor approach, some solution providers acknowledge that OpenStack can lock down customers in its own right.
"The cloud is a very sticky product," said Bob Keblusek, senior vice president of business development at Sentinel Technologies, a Downers Grove, Ill.-based partner. "When someone is on your cloud service, they've made a very significant commitment, and it's very painful to switch. If it's good enough and reasonably priced, customers will usually just keep going. I think OpenStack helps you to more easily explore other options, but I do think there's still a significant amount of lock-in."
But Keblusek is otherwise bullish about OpenStack's chances of success.
"We are currently running OpenStack in our cloud today," he said. "It is something that we wish was further along and had more vendors committed to it. But there are some very strong vendors already involved. So I'm very optimistic about it, but time will tell."
Meanwhile, Chris Mullins, a marketing director for Alert Logic, a cloud security solution provider based in Houston, described lock-in as a "euphemism for the massive inconvenience of moving to a different service."
"The more sophisticated buyers and the larger enterprises are very aware of the possibility of cloud lock-in," Mullins told CRN. "So we are seeing a number of mature enterprises look toward a multicloud strategy. Whether that is through multiple platforms or whether it's deploying on an open cloud platform, the outcome that they are trying to achieve is the same."
At this point in time, most of the solutions based on OpenStack are geared toward the SMB, rather than the enterprise.
NEXT: So Where's The Road Map?