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Cloud Talk

Andre Yee

Is Cloud Computing Killing Open Source?

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Gartner's Andrea Di Maio seems to think so in his blog post a couple of weeks ago.

According to Di Maio, the primary advantages for open source - vendor independence (since you have the source code) and cost (it's "free" plus you get to leverage the collective strength of the community) are no longer valid...at least not for government agencies. He argues that cloud computing offers a better proposition for these agencies and by extension, other larger enterprises.

Is Di Maio right? Is it true that cloud computing is an alternative to open source, rather than a complementary technology? Di Maio has probably overstated the cloud computing effect on open source but he may be on to something.

There's no question that an appealing aspect of open source is cost savings. You can't beat free, right? Except that it isn't really free...not if you're managing an enterprise IT shop leveraging open source. In that case, signing up for professional customer support subscription isn't optional and numerous successful companies have been formed around fulfilling this need. Additionally, open source companies like Red Hat and Sourcefire are either providing their own commercial version of "open source product" or selling a value added package of tools/content. Add it all up and you'll find the open source option isn't necesssarily inexpensive but increasingly these "commercialized" open source versions rival that of most commercial proprietary product.

Cloud computing does offer an alternative from a cost perspective, allowing companies to get ramped up with a smaller cost footprint. For instance, instead of installing & deploying Ruby-on-Rails in-house, enteprises can use cloud-based vendors like Engine Yards. In this case, open source is still leveraged but its value is enhanced and delivered through the cloud computing model.

Another point of advantage of open source is the ability to "control your own destiny" from a technical perspective. When you have access to source code, you can fix defects or extend it whenever you need it. It's a legitimate advantage for the kind of organization that needs and values that level of "control". Di Maio characterized this advantage as "vendor independence"

However, the idea that cloud computing addresses vendor independence is fallacious at this point. Easy portability across cloud computing platforms is not guaranteed and in many situations, IT shops may find themselves in "vendor lock-in" positions similar to what they experience today...perhaps albeit with different vendors.

One advantage of cloud computing model that Di Maio didn't speak to was the concern some organizations have in tainting their code with open source in the event of intellectual property right disputes. Remember SCO? The cloud computing delivery model may offer a level of abstraction that might protect IT organizations.

Depending on the cloud computing service, I find that open source is complementary, rather than competitive with the cloud based model. If that's true, even though cloud computing offers an alternative as a delivery model, the future bodes well for open source technologies. In fact, it may accelerate its use.

1 Comment

Because some html formatting was lost/scrubbed in the previous comment, I'll remake it here; thus, I wanted to write:


A lot of spelling mistakes, 3 of them in the first 3 paragraphs, e.g.:


  • [...] that cloud computing offers a better [...]

  • [...] customer support subscription isn't optional [...]

  • [...] Additionally, open source companies [...]


Brrr!

I read more carefully written entries even on private blogs...

Andre Yee blogs about cloud computing, SaaS, Web 2.0 and other emerging technologies that matter to businesses.

Andre Yee

Andre Yee is an entrepreneur and technologist with nearly 20 years of experience in the business of technology.

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