OpenStack – the open cloud

suitcase-cloudNo one likes vendor lock-in. It’s an artificial limitation on technology, designed to benefit the vendor, not the customer.

The restrictions may seem insignificant on day one, when the technology may appear to be the best option currently available. But the world keeps spinning and technology keeps evolving, until you’re stuck with a platform that cannot appropriately adapt to suit your new situation without considerable expense.

The big, proprietary public cloud vendors of today didn’t invent vendor lock-in, but they certainly know how to work it to their advantage.

Cloud Computing isn’t owned by anyone. Companies locked into a proprietary cloud service lose the flexibility  needed to make good business decisions; making vendor lock-in a real threat to your competitive advantage. What might put you ahead one day can hold you back the next.

Open Source standards

Cloud computing may have ushered in huge benefits to businesses everywhere, powering many of the world’s biggest websites and services. But until OpenStack arrived, cloud technology still struggled to address two of the most important customer expectations — freedom of choice and workload portability.

OpenStack is the only cloud platform that threatens to break the market stranglehold of the proprietary cloud vendors. In case you hadn’t noticed, Microsoft, Amazon and Google aren’t big on transparency, interoperability and open standards.

Why should you care about open standards? Because it is risky to buy services from a single vendor. Vendor-owned ecosystems often drift into irrelevancy.

Before OpenStack came on the scene, one cloud platform wasn’t necessarily compatible, or even comparable, with another. Each solved the various software problems in different ways, requiring different code modifications and different architecture to achieve the best results.

And that meant it wasn’t so easy to switch providers as your needs changed.

“Oh, but you can’t take that with you”

It doesn’t matter which electricity supplier you use to power your television. Simply plug it into the wall and it’ll work just fine. Electricity is also sold by consumption, meaning you’re not paying for power when the television is switched off (except for that pesky standby light). However, your service levels, pricing, billing model and add on services may vary (“Would you like to bundle your gas supply with that?”).

If you’re unhappy with your current electricity supplier, it may still be a pain, but at least you can switch to another provider without having to buy a new television (freedom of choice) or wiping everything recorded on the DVR (workload portability).

Computing should offer the same consumption model and flexibility as energy, powering your website and online services while only charging for the capacity and resources you actually consume.

Your cloud, your rules

The open source movement is all about transparent code and greater compatibility. And the rapid rise of OpenStack means these open source standards and APIs are becoming accepted as the industry standard. The cloud industry is adapting to be more compatible with OpenStack, making it the natural default for any new cloud service.

And because OpenStack is the accepted standard, it immediately reduces the issues of workload portability and freedom of choice.

Not happy with your cloud provider’s service or pricing? Need an add-on service (such as Hadoop – which is also open source) not offered by your provider? Simply take your website, application or other workload and plug it in somewhere else.

If your organisation is considering a move to the cloud, it is no longer a question of “Should we look into OpenStack?” but instead, “Why on earth wouldn’t we?”

OpenStack puts the user back in control, not the vendor.