For Open Cloud Computing, Look Inside Your Data Center

For all the talk about openness and interoperability in cloud computing, public-cloud providers still operate very much in their own silos. Amazon, Rackspace, Google, Microsoft – they’re all doing wonderful things, but they’re doing so largely within their own environments. In many ways, the internal-cloud market is no different. While (most) vendors can’t offer users complete vertically integrated cloud stacks, they’re more than happy to lock users into their product lines as much as possible and form strong partnerships in areas they don’t play. However, the writing on the wall suggests that, from the customer’s perspective, things might be changing for the better.

Open Source Gathering Momentum

For example, while open source software has been part of cloud computing since the beginning, it’s really starting to gather momentum. And, not surprisingly, it’s Red Hat that’s leading the charge. In the internal-cloud sphere, the Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization tools are gaining acceptance as cloud building blocks (IBM certainly likes them) alongside those from VMware, Microsoft and Citrix. And with its newfound Java support, Red Hat’s JBoss application platform makes it a strong competitor to a SpringSource-enriched VMware for hosting virtualized enterprise applications. Red Hat’s continuously high profits in the face of the economic recession show customer confidence that might follow it into the cloud when it starts pushing such a migration.

A level up the stack, open-source cloud-platform provider Eucalytpus continues to make headlines. This week, it did so by bringing in ex-MySQL boss Marten Mickos as CEO. According to reports, the company, which has raised $5.5 million to this point, is now valued at $100 million. It’s a large number, but not foundationless. Eucalyptus’s AWS-mimicking software is ideal for IT departments that want to serve up internal resources like cloud resources – a potentially large market as virtualization pushes its way into production environments – now it’s up to Mickens to convince the world that every organization can reap the benefits, not just NASA.

Eucalytpus’s tight alignment with Canonical’s Ubuntu Linux distribution doesn’t hurt its chances, either. Ubuntu’s server OS is gaining in popularity, especially among EC2 users, and the Ubuntu Enterprise Cloud edition comes with Eucalyptus baked into the OS. For IT departments considering, or experimenting with, Ubuntu, the ability to launch open-source, hybrid cloud environments has to be a tempting proposition. A recent poll of Ubuntu users shows cloud interest is on the rise.

Standards-Based Infrastructure Shaping Up

Open standards have long been a rallying cry of cloud commentators, but reports from the recent Cloud Connect event suggest we can expect to wait a long while until meaningful software standards actually emerge. This isn’t necessarily the case on the hardware side, though.

In comparison to the vertically integrated architectures offered by HP and Cisco, Dell has been touting its open approach to picking components, and it bolstered its argument with a slew of cloud announcements this week, as well as InfoWorld test results that show Dell blades performing on par with those from market leaders HP and IBM. The inclusion of Joyent’s new cloud software in certain packages makes Dell’s approach even more sellable – no other systems provider is offering a cloud platform of this pedigree.

On the networking front, Force10 Networks this week began pitching its “Open Automation Initiative” as a direct competitor to Cisco in the data center automation space. Force10 won’t drive Cisco out of business by any means, but it joins the ranks of Juniper Networks, Extreme Networks, BLADE Network and others in ensuring there will be some heterogeneity in the networking layer.

How the internal-cloud market will play out is anybody’s guess, with systems and software vendors all trying to establish themselves as cloud-computing leaders.  What’s clear, however, is that open source and open standards will have a place within cloud data centers at levels currently not present in the public-cloud sphere.

Join us at GigaOM Pro on March 31, from 9 a.m. – 12 p.m. (PST), for a subscriber-only webcast of the latest GigaOM Bunker Session. A group of 60 entrepreneurs, executives and investors will be joining us to engage in a discussion about the impact that open source and cloud computing technologies are having on each other.

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