Adopting any technology has risks. Moving away from open source software can also be difficult. In the cloud, the main benefits of open technologies, specifically OpenStack, are not primarily derived from the access to see or modify the source code or the ability to use the software without paying a license fee. Open in the cloud is important because it mitigates the risks inherent in adopting a software technology broadly and provides organizations flexibility and choice. The open cloud is like an insurance policy for your cloud strategy.
Let’s look at some of the considerations and long-term risks of adopting a platform:
- Obsolescence – It is surprising to see how quickly much technology trends change. Some technologies that used to lead a market are now extinct, while others are used because they are the only option. Remember dBase III, Cobol and WordPerfect? When a technology is supported by a vibrant community it has a much lower probability to become obsolete than when the strategy is driven by a single corporation and follows a single vendor business strategy.
- Availability of skills – There is no such thing as an overskilled or overstaffed IT organization. CIOs are challenged to find quality talent in areas like network security, virtualization, DR and other areas. A technology that is more familiar to a broader staff is easier to adopt and to use properly. Open technologies allow CIOs to reuse their skills across different kinds of development and ensure the same set of skills can still be leveraged as the organization uses different implementations of an open technology.
- Vendor choices – Most CIOs cringe when it is time to renew multi-million dollar software licensing contracts. But the real pain is when that software is no longer sufficient or does not meet the organization’s business needs, yet it is so ingrained that the option of re-writing to another, better platform seems desirable despite being incredibly expensive and laborious. Open platforms provide an option to build to a standard that allows vendor flexibility. Looking at history, while the write-once run-anywhere promise of Java never materialized in full, a large number of enterprise applications were built on the J2EE platform knowing that moving from one Java container to another one was not only possible but practical despite implementation differences. Similarly, in the cloud, an application that has been designed for the OpenStack API is likely to be able to run unchanged, or with minimal changes in multiple OpenStack-powered clouds. This provides freedom to switch vendors if or when a particular vendor is no longer meeting the business needs or has unfavorable pricing or support services.
- Architectural flexibility – One of the challenges of a single vendor strategy is the need to align with the architectural choices of a single vendor. There are many ways to implement technology and vendors, so it is only feasible to support limited choices. An open cloud gives IT the opportunity to choose between multiple implementations of a technology: spinning or SSD drives, automation versus customization, burstability versus predictability as examples. In addition, an open cloud allows an organization to adopt a multi-cloud strategy.
- Business model flexibility – The cloud is an enabler of innovation, not only in the way it is consumed but also in the way it is offered by vendors. An open cloud empowers IT to choose the right pricing, support, services and deployment model. IT can select on-premise, private hosted, public or hybrid; standalone or integrated with dedicated or virtualized infrastructure; and a model optimized for CapEx or OpEx. An open cloud provides more implementation choices. The public cloud from one vendor is unlikely to be the right answer for all customer needs – no cloud is one-size fits all.
- Technology flexibility – Similar to the architectural flexibility concept, vendors use their own point of view and profit interests to guide and evolve their technology and make decisions that will impact the future of a platform. For a technology as broad, complex and fast-changing as cloud, it is hard to imagine a single vendor has the knowledge, expertise and vision to make all the right decisions for the future of a platform, even if they have customers’ interests as their top priority.
In the open cloud, innovations are provided by multiple contributors. Companies like Cisco, EMC, HP and IBM contribute their knowledge in their respective areas of expertise like networking, storage, high performance computing and others. Customers who make large investments in private clouds are also contributing their innovations to OpenStack. The result is a platform designed by the brightest minds in the industry that provides multiple options and implementation choices that are more likely to meet IT requirements. OpenStack decisions are made by a board that comprises vendors, industry experts and customers to ensure the platform evolves in a way that benefits the community as a whole and not a particular vendor.
For more information on the open cloud and technology adoption considerations, check out the new white paper “Welcome to the Open Cloud.”