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Open Source consultancy LinuxIT shares expert Cloud computing insight

Blog post   •   Jul 24, 2012 10:37 BST

A Match Made in Heaven: Why Cloud Loves OS Technology

The overarching view is that a Cloud environment is run predominantly on proprietary Cloud-based software, but the Open Source Cloud is growing. Open Source Cloud implementations are catching up.

Can Linux be used in a Cloud and, if so, what are the key benefits? Mike Curtis, Executive Director - Service Delivery at Linux consulting expert LinuxIT, says it can; with, for example, OpenStack. 

The top five benefits of an Open Source service in a Cloud are:

  1. Flexibility
  2. Agility
  3. Carbon footprint reduction
  4. Potential to save money
  5. Avoiding vendor lock-in.

Open Source Cloud technology is growing because customers want to avoid vendor lock-in. Organisations have the ability to move their infrastructure to a new Cloud as part of a disaster recovery plan. A Cloud offers them cost reduction opportunities too, as customers don’t need to buy the software, hardware or infrastructure required to run it. Organisations can therefore gain benefits such as the ability to upscale and downscale their operations in order to meet demand. The Open Source community model allows for faster deployment to market, and Curtis says that the quality of the code is very robust.

So is it a case of Open Source software against proprietary Cloud software? Not at all. “The Cloud doesn’t constrain anyone”, says Curtis. “It allows for a blended environment depending on what your organisation runs it on. A Linux, VMware or Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization (RHEV) platform could serve Microsoft Windows”, explains Curtis.

So what is the difference between a Cloud environment and a virtualized Cloud environment? There is a difference, but it’s quite subtle:

  1. Cloud is built using virtualization technology, so it’s a Cloud enabler.
  2. When hosting virtualized servers in a Cloud there’s no need to worry about infrastructure (the technology: physical servers, load balancing, backups, etc.)
  3. The alternative is to host the servers in-house. This provides the opportunity to decide between different technologies like RHEV, VMware and Xen, etc., and it also requires the design of a resilient data centre infrastructure, which offers maximum flexibility. Complete control can be placed over the organisation’s virtualized Linux servers.

Interconnectivity is provided by using some Application Programmable Interfaces (APIs). These are nearly all Open Source – even enabling the creation of an interface between Open Source platforms and proprietary systems.

An example of a Cloud-based application is Google Docs, which is delivered as Software-as-a-Service (SaaS). “We have no control over whether Google Spreadsheets are Open Source or not”, says Curtis. In fact, there are many flavours of Cloud, and Amazon EC2 is an example of an Infrastructure-as-a-Service Cloud. “This lets us run our own Open Source Linux servers with associated Open Source applications in the Cloud if we want to”, Curtis adds.

For more ideas, please take a look at our guide ‘How to ensure Open Source software delivers real world ROI’.

Guest Post: Simon Mitchell is the executive director of LinuxIT, a UK-based Open Source specialist. He creates and delivers sales strategy heading up the field and internal sales, renewals and sales administration teams. You can read more of Simon's articles about open source software by subscribing to the LinuxIT blog here. You can also find him on Google+ and Twitter.