The OpenStack drama and the future of the cloud

Last week's ugly split between OpenStack and Citrix highlights the high stakes in establishing a dominant open source orchestration layer for cloud computing

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Nonetheless, both are now open source projects -- and the fact that open source is blazing a trail in such an important new area is pretty stunning when you think about it. But it's not happening in a vacuum. EMC VMware is assembling its own complicated commercial cloud solution, which extends all the way to application management; given the company's long lead in virtualization management, it may well arrive at a fully baked solution first. Microsoft is coming on strong with its own armada of private cloud software.

For some enterprises, the messiness of last week's split will reinforce fears of legal land mines in open source code, even though the two have different code bases. Those customers would probably be inclined to pay the licensing fees and go with the commercial cloud solution they're most comfortable with anyhow. Others may be drawn to Citrix or Eucalyptus or whoever emerges as the OpenStack equivalent of Red Hat. But I think OpenStack's notion of an open source cloud operating system as ubiquitous for enterprise private clouds as Linux has become on enterprise servers remains compelling -- and will be even more so when, one day, the technology to manage hybrid private/public clouds as a continuous fabric finally emerges.

You can bet that most public cloud service providers will take the open source route like they always have. Years from now they can say to customers: Adopt the same cloud orchestration software on premise and you can seamlessly burst to us. That's not even close to being true today, but one day it will be.

Sure, the big incumbents like Amazon.com, Google, and Salesforce.com have developed their own cloud orchestration -- but many other providers will opt for OpenStack, CloudStack, or some other open source solution. When you really have to scale, how much of your profits do you want to go to VMware?

Yes, Citrix did make a small dent in OpenStack. But OpenStack has too much momentum to grind to a halt. Who knows which cloud orchestration scheme will ultimately dominate, but I'm pretty sure it will be open source in the end -- if only because the march to the open source public cloud is inevitable.

This article, "The OpenStack drama and the future of the cloud," originally appeared at InfoWorld.com. Read more of Eric Knorr's Modernizing IT blog, and for the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld on Twitter.

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