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Explore open source cloud software in five quick links

When dealing with open source cloud computing, there are many factors to consider, ranging from support to hidden costs. Make informed decisions with these five quick links.

Open source cloud software delivers a range of benefits, including greater flexibility and low costs. But like most technologies, open source cloud computing also has its drawbacks. And because it's a relatively new approach to cloud, it's hard to know if open source is right for you. So, before choosing open source cloud, it is important to weigh all the pros and cons that come with it.

There are also various open source cloud options, with OpenStack leading the charge. OpenStack offers a building block approach to its software, promising new tools and services in the future.

Still, with all the open source choices available, it's tough to know where to start.

Here are five tips to bring you up to speed on open source cloud computing:

Weighing the perks, drawbacks of open source model

While the freedom of open source software is appealing, its drawbacks can be equally off-putting. With an open source model, there are no worries about software payments or vendor lock-in. But these benefits come at a cost, according to this tip from cloud expert Tom Nolle. Without vendor backing, for example, it can be difficult to find open source technology support.

And with the growth of cloud applications, support for open source cloud tools will become vital. To solve the open source cloud support problem without committing to a vendor, users can pay for third-party support from a vendor or consultant.

Evaluating OpenStack vs. VMware for open source private cloud

One pixel Comparing open source cloud platforms

Many companies struggle to choose the right private cloud technology, especially when deciding between two big players: OpenStack and VMware. While both companies have high support costs, another important factor is the maturity of the technology. OpenStack is only three years old and expanding, but hasn't matched VMware's high-quality standards just yet, according to this tip from cloud expert Jim O'Reilly.

To compete, VMware recently launched VMware Integrated OpenStack, software that supports OpenStack in vCenter and vSphere environments, but it can be complex and costly. Additionally, for companies considering "whitebox" hardware, OpenStack may be the better option.

Beware the hidden costs of open source cloud computing

Open source cloud computing systems are attractive because the code is free and users can gain complete control. But don't be distracted by its glamour -- there are hidden costs. Depending on the company, it might be more cost effective to choose a proprietary cloud, according to cloud expert David Linthicum.

Nothing is ever completely free, so enterprises should be aware of the support, tools, skills and other expenses related to open source cloud. Also, the use of a cloud management system may introduce additional costs. Still, users shouldn't completely fear these up-front costs, since open source cloud can provide cost advantages throughout ongoing operations.

Where to turn for OpenStack development support

Open source cloud software has many benefits: they're freely available, their source code can be modified, and users can make the software their own. But when you choose to go the open source route, you're jumping in without a safety net. One of the biggest drawbacks of open source technologies, according to this tip from Jim O'Reilly, is that there is no vendor support.

OpenStack, one of the most popular open source cloud technologies, is so new that it lacks the support that most legacy vendors supply. Users, however, can turn to third-party vendors or integrators that offer applicable tools and services. Due to the "Lego" mentality of OpenStack, even more tools and services will be available in the future -- so support will remain vital.

When to embrace, or walk away from, open source cloud options

"No software payments" is a powerful lure for open source cloud computing. But sometimes, companies need the support and reliability that propriety clouds provide.

So is open source cloud right for you? It all depends on your broader cloud and IT strategy, according to this tip from Tom Nolle. For example, IT shops with limited internal IT support may want to steer clear of open source and opt for proprietary cloud technologies instead. In all cases, enterprises should review their cloud plans to determine the best direction to take.

About the author
Kathleen Casey is the assistant site editor for SearchCloudComputing. You can reach her at 
[email protected].

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