How Open Source and OpenStack Are Commoditizing – and Transforming – the Cloud

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A little more than 20 years ago, a new technology emerged that changed the software landscape as we know it. Linus Torvalds’ Linux was born out of the desire for more open and flexible software that allowed developers the freedom to create innovative, useful solutions. It also gave businesses the ability to install and utilize cost-effective technology that could work just about anywhere, in any environment. In effect, Linux – and open source – made software accessible and affordable by commoditizing it for the enterprise.

Look around and you will see the impact that open source has had on our daily lives. It is ubiquitous, powering our mobile devices, e-readers, home automation systems, and even cars.

Soon enough, clouds will likely be considered ubiquitous as well. They’ll be as much of a part of our daily existence as the Internet, data storage, networks and, yes, operating systems. Open standardization will be the driving force that leads us to this point. That standardization is already being created by the open source industry itself.

Similar to how Linux rewrote the rules for software, open source technology is making the path to the cloud more available to enterprises. It’s helping to eliminate the need for specialized software, and offering a standardized platform through which businesses can build open, public, and even hybrid, clouds. A major factor in this is OpenStack, which is the direct result of an entire industry coming together to collaborate and create cloud functionality that can work within any organization, regardless of IT infrastructure.

OpenStack is based on a fundamental belief that the best way to provide enterprises with the most direct path to the cloud is through an open model that gives us all an equal seat at the table. Many of the organizations behind OpenStack have readily contributed to the ideas behind the governance model, and everyone contributes to the project through a uniform sense of collaboration and sharing of ideas. Through this, we’ve been able to declare OpenStack the overwhelmingly right choice for the entire industry’s cloud infrastructure.

This effort toward open standardization has driven commoditization, which has, in turn, allowed OpenStack to be embraced more broadly. Organizations adopting OpenStack appreciate the fact that OpenStack is backed by some of the largest players in open source, and they are attracted to the fact that it allows them a pathway to the cloud that is capable, open, and cost-effective. In fact, entire industries are looking to OpenStack as pivotal as they transform their businesses.

Take, for example, the telecommunications sector. Traditional telephone companies are being disrupted by organizations like Google, Facebook, Amazon and others, which are embracing the cloud as a communications platform. Conversely, many telecommunications organizations are still reliant upon legacy architectures and have not been able to respond quickly. Increasingly, however, I’m seeing them look to OpenStack as they move from old and inflexible proprietary infrastructures to open, flexible environments. The technology is allowing them to be more nimble and competitive, while offering the additional benefit of allowing them to increase their cost savings. Most importantly, it can position them to compete in today’s cloud-based world.

Through collaborations and our own efforts, Red Hat is helping these organizations reach this platform. For example, through an effort called OpenDaylight we are working with Cisco, IBM, and others to build an open source software-defined networking controller. That controller will manage the virtual wiring of a company’s network, independent of physical configuration. OpenDaylight will address the scale needed by large networks, while at the same time offering the adaptability that is typified by software automation.

Cloud will be a continuous evolution, and we see that within OpenStack itself and its rapid pace of development. All of the companies involved with OpenStack are working very hard to accelerate the technology. This May, the OpenStack Summit is expected to draw about 5,000 people to the Georgia World Congress Center. They will come together – some of the most ardent proponents of open source cloud technology – to discuss, detail, and design new ways to move OpenStack forward. As a result, enterprise cloud efforts and goals will advance, with open source technology being a significant keystone of that effort.

I’ve been involved in technology for more than two decades – roughly around the time that Linux first came into being. From that first open source ripple, I’ve seen computing evolve a great deal – yet I suspect it’s nothing compared to what open source and OpenStack have in store for us. Because even though open source has already transformed the way software is developed, there are still many more territories ahead of us. The cloud is the next great frontier, and we – the organizations and developers dedicated to carrying on what Linus Torvalds started all those years ago – are already well under way toward taming it.

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