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Where does the enterprise stand with open source cloud computing?

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Open source options in cloud grow -- will customer confusion follow?

With OpenStack, Cloud Foundry and CloudStack each making open source market moves, the waters muddy when it comes to differentiating.

The reach of open source cloud is widening, creating a dilemma for businesses. On the plus side, companies now have more open source options when building out their cloud infrastructure. On the downside, the dividing lines among the different initiatives are becoming murky; making it difficult for firms to understand which option best suits them.

As open source initiatives gain traction, they are widening their reach and encroaching onto one another's territory, creating potential competitive scenarios. Cloud vendors, meanwhile, have limited research and development dollars, and they must eventually choose which ones to support.

But, the open source movement is sending corporations a mixed message. It has become core to many leading cloud application development initiatives, but as the various forays rub up against one another, users may find themselves caught in competitive battles that open source -- at least in theory -- promised to avoid.

OpenStack: The market leader?

The OpenStack movement illustrates the market's divergent forces. Created from a collaboration of NASA and Rackspace Inc., OpenStack supports public, private and hybrid clouds. And it seems to be picking up steam in enterprises.

As open source initiatives gain traction, they are widening their reach and encroaching onto one another's territory, creating potential competitive scenarios.

"OpenStack has been gaining momentum lately," said Jay Lyman, senior analyst, 451 Research.

The movement has the backing of many large commercial enterprises, including AT&T, Hewlett-Packard Co., IBM and Oracle Corp. A number of established businesses, like Comcast Corp., GoDaddy Operating Companies LLC and PayPal Inc., use the OpenStack for their cloud deployments.

But what is OpenStack exactly?

"The OpenStack community is pushing development in a number of different directions," said Gary Chen, research manager of cloud and virtualization system software at IDC.

Initially, OpenStack was layered on top of virtualization software and positioned as Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS). Recently, however, it has morphed into a general-purpose development environment. The software has a modular design, and many working groups have branched off to develop components, including big data, mobile applications and performance monitoring systems. Such work is in early development, so it is unclear how much traction these different add-ons will gain and how well they will mesh with the original OpenStack purpose.

But what about the other open source options?

OpenStack's acceptance has stolen thunder from CloudStack, an early entrant in the cloud software infrastructure space. Citrix developed the software in a proprietary manner and eventually forged its own open source initiative when it became dissatisfied with OpenStack's direction. CloudStack is now an Apache project, one flexible enough to work with public, private and hybrid clouds, as does OpenStack. To date, its focus has been mainly on the IaaS space as OpenStack began.

Red Hat Inc., meanwhile, has also stepped up as a leader in the open source movement. Red Hat OpenShift automates much of the provisioning and systems management functions found in application development. This Platform as a Service (PaaS) tool allows developers to create applications with various programming languages, middleware and development environments.

In February, the Pivotal Initiative formed the Cloud Foundry Foundation, marking another instance in which a commercial effort turned into an open source play. Founding members of the movement include EMC Corp., HP, IBM, SAP AG and VMware Inc.

"Cloud Foundry has been focused on building an enterprise PaaS solution," noted IDC's Chen. Organizations, such as American Express Co., Associated Press, Cornell University, Facebook Inc., and Zions Bancorporation, use it to support their cloud applications. This PaaS-based open source option has similarities to Red Hat's OpenShift. OpenStack also has a PaaS initiative, Solum, under its ever widening umbrella.

Rackspace, which has been a prime OpenStack backer, is now one of the supporters of the Cloud Foundry initiative. With all of the ever-changing and emerging open source technologies on the market, it's clear that finding the best fit will be an evolving process, staying up-to-date on the leaders' moves. The open source vendors themselves must look to differentiate to move ahead of the pack.

About the author:
Paul Korzeniowski is a freelance writer who specializes in cloud computing issues. He has been covering technology issues for more than two decades, is based in Sudbury, Mass. and can be reached at paulkorzen@aol.com.

This was first published in March 2014

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Essential Guide

Where does the enterprise stand with open source cloud computing?
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