Jan Brass Takes a Hard Look at the Cloud

Open Source Cloud Concerns – What’s the Verdict?

Open Source Cloud Concerns - What's the Verdict?The open source software movement first took hold in the late 90s and quickly gained momentum. However almost from the beginning, free software was surrounded by concerns regarding security and applicability within the enterprise sector. Over the years many of these concerns have been shown to be misplaced, yet many managers continue to avoid open source software based on these fears.

When cloud computing first made an appearance in the technology industry, proponents of free software were opposed to the very idea of storing data on someone else’s servers or data centers, mainly due to privacy concerns and the perceived loss of control. Fast forward to today, it is indeed ironic that open-source cloud software is quickly becoming popular as an alternative to proprietary protocols.

As awareness about cloud technology grows, corporate IT departments are starting to embrace open source deployments as they realize that security concerns are misplaced and unfounded. While many managers used to perceive open source developers as amateurs lacking the knowledge to incorporate enterprise security, that viewpoint has since changed. Now most professionals acknowledge that the open-source model – where changes can be reviewed by the public and contributions made by experts – is at least as robust compared to other models.

Another major concern regarding open clouds is the level of maturity and whether it is suited for corporate use. In this particular aspect, the growth of open source cloud deployments can largely be attributed to the OpenStack project backed by technology heavyweights such as HP, Rackspace, IBM, Dell and others. While there is no dearth of open source cloud software such as Eucalyptus, Docker etc. organizations appear to prefer OpenStack because of the technology consortium behind the project.

In fact, far from worrying about the maturity or lack thereof of open source cloud software, enterprises need to consider which deployment is most suitable for their organization before taking the plunge. The open cloud sector is changing so quickly – with millions of lines of code being added every year – that companies find it difficult to evaluate competing technologies properly.

On the other hand, various concerns about proprietary cloud deployments such as lack of interoperability and vendor lock-in is also driving growth towards the open source model. The recent revelations regarding NSA surveillance has also raised fears among companies regarding access to sensitive and confidential corporate data. Many businesses view open source cloud software as a solution to mitigate privacy concerns.

Another commonly held misconception is that open cloud software is not ready for mission-critical operations. However nothing could be farther from the truth. Increasingly organizations are opting for a hybrid cloud model where core processes are deployed on private clouds while others take advantage of the elasticity and scalability offered by public cloud architecture. In these scenarios, open software may be the best choice for organizations that are worried about access controls and security.

The current cloud landscape seems right for the growth of open source cloud deployments and time will tell if the cloud returns another victory for the open source movement.

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