Open clouds – Let freedom ring!

Open clouds must be purposely built, and IT must remain vigilant to keep them open

Open clouds build upon all three of the open software models – open standards, open source, and open core – described in our last blog, "What does 'open' mean to IT in the cloud era?" Beyond the benefits of open software, one can garner some or all of the benefits of cloud computing. Those benefits include economies of scale, fast time to deployment, consume-what-you-need pricing models, reduced physical plant costs, and the ability to focus more resources on core business differentiation for customers rather than building and supporting commodity IT infrastructure.

Public cloud computing magnifies the benefits of the subscription model of open source software (OSS) to include hardware. It also offers speedy startup and tear-down, a consume-what-you-use model that is particularly beneficial to widely variable workloads over time, and savings on real estate, electricity and staff dedicated to managing and maintaining infrastructure. It seems a bit oxymoronic that a public cloud could be open. While public cloud is designed to hide the infrastructure in a black box, if that infrastructure is behind open APIs, OSS frameworks and user interfaces, then it matters less what is under the covers. Just make sure you are not locked in and can reap the benefits of open infrastructure with your public cloud deployments.

A lot of private cloud deployments are coalescing around OpenStack, which is built in a set of open source projects with open source, open core and public cloud offerings by multiple vendors. The open source foundation delivered by OpenStack, combined with the availability of enterprise subscriptions from reliable and quality vendors make OpenStack a solid foundation on which to build an open cloud. OpenStack will yield most or all the benefits of OSS, depending upon which vendor you partner with. Additionally, OpenStack can deliver a better cost profile than public cloud for 24/7 workloads.

Retaining the freedom of choice and movement that an open cloud can deliver may be constrained by the business terms. The basic subscription model offers greater freedom and flexibility than a traditional perpetual license arrangement in that you’ve not paid up front for long-term use and can terminate the agreement at a renewal boundary. However, these simple subscriptions may be wrapped up into larger enterprise or unlimited license agreements that usually change the nature of the business terms significantly. Notably, watch out for agreements that appear to be beneficial at first with significant discounts and "all you can eat" terms for a designated period. These may be traps that drive costs much higher in the future by forcing you to true up at renewal time or risk the discount you negotiated if you threaten to migrate to another solution!

Get to the cloud and remain free

As more workloads are developed in the cloud and more existing workloads migrated, IT must remain vigilant as to the technical features and business terms of cloud offerings to understand their flexibility vs. the lock-in points of a variety of options. We will delve more deeply into these options, trade-offs, opportunities and innovation in The Open Cloud Blog.

Copyright © 2017 IDG Communications, Inc.