Is cloud computing killing open source?

The expanded use of cloud computing is making many on-premise technologies fear the Grim Reaper

According to Andrea DiMaio, a member of the Gartner Blog Network, the increased use of cloud computing could be diminishing the use of open source. In this post, specifically looking at the government vertical, Andrea asserts that while cloud computing and open source are clearly linked, the hype and the political popularity surrounding cloud computing is turning attention away from the open source movement. Core to this issue is that the usage of both is driven around the cost advantages.

"Therefore some of the primary drivers to choose open source, i.e. cost and vendor independence, are just going away: In most cases cloud-based solution are going to be cheaper (and more elastic), and to use open source one has to go through a vendor anyhow. As a consequence I have seen a drop of interest in open source and corresponding surge of interest in cloud computing to solve pretty much the same problems (how do I reduce my dependence on Microsoft? how do I save on licensing costs?)," DiMaio wrote.

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I see the same trend in the marketplace as well. Typically, those who were advocates of open source technology are now turning to cloud computing, both inside the government and the Global 2000. They cite the following reasons:

  • Cloud computing removes the costly and time-intensive hardware acquisition component that you need for any on-premise system, open source or not.
  • Cloud computing removes the number of people you need to keep around to maintain on-premise systems, open source or not.
  • Cloud computing is quickly provisioned and easily expanded. You can decide to leverage a cloud provider at 9 a.m. and be up and running at noon, if not sooner.
  • Cloud computing is a faster way to get rid Microsoft and IBM licensing costs.
  • Cloud computing is more politically correct than open source, and it's viewed as innovative.

What's funny about all this is that cloud computing has actually expanded the use of open source technology. The fact is that almost all of the larger cloud computing providers leverage open source to drive their datacenters and at a massive scale. However, when considering that most IT organizations will leverage open source technology via the cloud, logically the use of open source technology could indeed find reduced use in the local datacenter.

I would not cry for open source, however. The larger impact will be on more traditional players, such as IBM, Microsoft, and Oracle, who will also find that cloud computing cuts into their bottom line. Of course, each is rolling out its own cloud computing offerings, but each is hooked on the huge revenues around the sales of on-premise software licensees, and none has the same revenue opportunities in the cloud.

Considering the emerging patterns, the larger cloud computing players won't be the traditional software and hardware guys. It's going to be new and existing companies that are "pure play" cloud and don't have a on-premise software or hardware horses in the race. These pure-plays seem to be more innovative and nimble, which will be a winning trait to be successful with cloud computing.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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