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Cloud Computing, Like Open Source, Is Not Just Puff

Cloud Computing, Like Open Source, Is Not Just Puff

Perhaps the biggest reason I -- and many others in my firm who follow open source software and enterprise IT -- am so bullish on cloud computing is the user empowerment and enablement that has occurred. Open source software began teaching us about the importance and value of communities. Today, software and technology communities are increasingly made up not only of developers but also of users and customers.

By Jay Lyman
04/08/11 5:00 AM PT

Given the amount of hype currently swirling about cloud computing, it brings to mind a legitimate question -- is this just hype? Is there really something to this cloud computing, or is it just another bubble that is sure to burst? The answer, quite simply, is no, there is not a cloud computing bubble or burst taking shape. Here's why ...

First off, I've asked this question before, only the topic was not cloud computing -- it was open source software. Six years or so ago, I polled enterprise software vendors, customers and venture capitalists on whether open source -- then very hot, but still evolving and far less accepted in the enterprise, was going to shape the next bubble. The bottom line was that it was too close to the dot-com bubble burst for folks to get fooled or burned.

Symbiotic Relationship

Flash forward to today, and we see similar hype, hope and trepidation around cloud computing in the enterprise. We only have to go back a year or two to find figures as large as Oracle's Larry Ellison ridiculing and voicing his "objection to cloud computing." Recent financial results at Oracle -- which rose its market reach and revenue thanks largely to cloud computing -- reflect the company's newer thinking on the topic.

Are organizations really putting production applications and workloads in the cloud? Do they want to build their own private cloud infrastructures to perform similar activities on their own? How is cloud computing changing both the production and use of hardware, software, infrastructure, systems management and other technology?

We'll get a better sense of the answers to these questions with response to the Future of Cloud Computing Survey. From what we've seen thus far, I believe it's hard to argue that cloud computing is headed for any kind of crash. It is also interesting to watch open source software and cloud computing both benefit one another, given their close relationship.

Fizz Without the Pop

Although cloud computing may certainly have some of the ingredients for a bubble -- lots of buzz, lots of investment, varying plans, pricing and principles that are still taking shape -- there is still a very large mitigating factor for any potential cloud bubble: the housing and economic bubble burst that has actually been helping to drive open source software over the last few years.

Just as the dot-com bubble burst mitigated an unhealthy open source buildup, the economic conditions of the previous years of difficulty bode well for cloud computing's future -- as caution, pragmatism, bottom-line business fundamentals and more "grounded" thinking tend to prevail.

Just as with open source, we can and do see plenty of marketing plays on cloud computing (though not as much cliche as one might expect) that have less to do with distributed, agile, flexible and automated technology as they do with catching onto the latest hype. In addition, we are seeing and will likely continue to experience heightened concerns about vendor lock-in or vendor die-off, given a recent press release pitch warned of the danger of "a vendor going bust."

No Strings Attached

This all bodes well for open source software, which through available code and vital community involvement mitigates vendor lock-in and vendor death, given there are developers and users ready and willing to take the software forward. Rather than contributing to a cloud bubble burst, recent economic difficulties and the search for cost savings are often cloud computing's reason for being.

Perhaps the biggest reason I -- and many others in my firm who follow open source software and enterprise IT -- am so bullish on cloud computing is the user empowerment and enablement that has occurred. Open source software began teaching us about the importance and value of communities. Today, software and technology communities are increasingly made up not only of developers but also of users and customers.

No longer is the user or customer tied to some huge order of servers, then left to leave them dark when the traffic spikes are down. No longer are customers limited to the features and capabilities dictated by suppliers and their road maps. No longer are users content to be supported on a single OS, hypervisor or programming language.

We've discussed on the CAOS Theory blog how cloud computing may be opening up, and I believe this is also part of the new era of the empowered user. All of these things tell us that cloud computing is very real, and customers should not -- and will not -- let go of them.


LinuxInsider columnist Jay Lyman is a senior analyst for The 451 Group, covering open source software and focusing primarily on Linux operating systems, application development, systems management and cloud computing. Lyman has been a speaker at numerous industry events, including the Open Source Business Conference, OSCON, Linux Plumber's Conference and Open Source World/Linux World, on topics such as Linux and open source in cloud computing, mobile software, and the impact of economic conditions and customer perspectives on open source. Follow his blog here.


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