Demystifying the open cloud

George DeBono, general manager, Middle East & Africa (MEA) at Red Hat, shares insight on building clouds using the open architecture approach.

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Demystifying the open cloud DeBono says having an open architecture approach when building a cloud is crucial.
By  George DeBono Published  June 9, 2012

George DeBono, general manager, Middle East & Africa (MEA) at Red Hat, shares insight on building clouds using the open architecture approach.

Openness in software and architectures is a big win for users. This truth is so widely recognised that a lot of vendors seem to favour using ‘open’as a sort of mantra even though they are often not open except in glancing and incidental ways. This is nowhere truer than with cloud computing.

Having an open architecture approach when building a cloud matters deeply in today’s enterprise IT environment. Only an open cloud allows customers to manage diverse infrastructures by bringing them together under the same cloud architecture. Instead of creating a new cloud silo or forcing them to (impractically) start their IT over from scratch, an open cloud extends its benefits to their entire IT infrastructure, delivering greater efficiency and agility and putting them in control of their technology roadmap and, ultimately, the future of their IT.

But what does ‘open’ mean in the context of cloud? It certainly doesn’t begin and end with the submission of some format to a standards body or with an announcement of partners endorsing some specific technology platform. And open source may be (or in our view, should be) a given. But it’s more than that too.

An open cloud has the following characteristics:

Open source: This allows adopters to control their particular implementation and doesn’t restrict them to the technology and business roadmap of a specific vendor. It lets them build and manage clouds that put them in control of their own destiny and provides them with visibility into the technology on which they’re basing their business. It provides them with the flexibility to run the workloads of their choice, including proprietary ones, in their cloud.

Viable independent community: Open source isn’t just about the code, its licence, and how it can be used and extended. At least as important is the community associated with the code and how it’s governed. Realising the collaborative potential of open source and the innovation it can deliver to everyone means having the structures and organisation in place to tap it fully.

Based on open standard:  Standardisation in the sense of ‘official’ cloud standards blessed by a standards body is still in early days. That said, approaches to interoperability that aren’t under the control of individual vendors and that aren’t tied to specific platforms offer important flexibility. This allows the API specification to evolve beyond implementation constraints and creates the opportunity for communities and organisations to develop variants that meet their individual technical and commercial requirements.

Intellectual property rights owners offer freedom to use the technology. To have confidence that you will continue to enjoy access to IP assets that you depend on under the terms that you depend on, permission needs to be given in ways that make that technology open and accessible to the user.  Deployable on your choice of infrastructure: Hybrid cloud management should provide an additional layer of abstraction above virtualisation, physical servers, storage, networking, and public cloud providers. This implies, or indeed requires, that cloud management be independent of virtualisation and other foundational technologies.

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