When evaluating cloud services, enterprises first must determine whether to use an open source cloud platform or a proprietary one -- an increasingly difficult decision.
As cloud services began to emerge, vendors such as Amazon, Google and Verizon/Terremark developed services based on proprietary APIs. These vendors provide only select interfaces to their software, making it difficult for enterprises to tailor cloud environments specific to their needs.
On the contrary, open source cloud software allows IT teams to modify the cloud architecture more than a proprietary or commercial cloud platform might. And working with the open source community often has benefits. “By adopting an open source model, vendors that may have small teams of developers gain more [programmers],” said Lydia Leong, research vice president at Gartner Inc.
OpenStack, CloudStack duke it out for open source authority
Since its inception in 2010, the OpenStack project, originally developed by Rackspace and NASA, has evolved into three interrelated products: OpenStack Compute, OpenStack Object Storage and OpenStack Image Service.
In the race to develop open source cloud software, OpenStack has a bit more market momentum.
OpenStack Compute is a multi-tenant cloud computing environment that includes control panels that allow cloud managers to move workloads from one data center to another or from one vendor’s cloud to another. OpenStack Object Storage provides redundant, scalable object storage. OpenStack Image Service is a tool that enables discovery, registration and delivery services for virtual disk images.
Rackspace, a managed hosting and cloud computing services provider, is transitioning its commercial cloud services to the open source model, with plans to make the switch to OpenStack in the third quarter of 2012.
Once a member of the OpenStack project, Citrix Systems has recently moved in a different direction. Nearly a year after its Cloud.com acquisition, Citrix released CloudStack, an open source cloud initiative -- moving control of its CloudStack APIs to the Apache Foundation under an Apache 2 open source license. Unlike Rackspace, which oversees OpenStack’s development, Citrix ceded control of CloudStack’s development to a neutral party.
Because there is input from so many sources, open source solutions tend to take longer to develop than vendor specific systems.
Open source cloud down the line
In the race to develop open source cloud software, OpenStack has a bit more market momentum, with about 160 supporters, including data center equipment suppliers Cisco Systems, Dell Inc., HP and IBM. CloudStack has about 60 backers, including Brocade Communications Systems Inc., Intel Corp., and Juniper Networks.
Still, Rackspace and Citrix face challenges in the open source cloud market. They are competing against much larger entities with deep pockets for marketing and R&D. Additionally, they need to compete with the notion that open source isn’t for all enterprises
Open source can be a less efficient approach for certain enterprises. “Because there is input from so many sources, open source solutions tend to take longer to develop than vendor specific systems,” Leong notes. However, these vendors think that the flexibility open interfaces offers as well as the additional brainpower that comes from an open source community make their products more appealing to a wider range of enterprises.
Paul Korzeniowski is a freelance writer who specializes in cloud computing issues. He is based in Sudbury, MA and can be reached at email@example.com.