The Open Source Boom and What This Means for the Cloud

Over recent years, open source software has boomed, with 47% of European organisations seeing an increase in value from open source technologies over the last year. Indeed, 70% of enterprises now favour cloud providers with open source technology, and it’s clear that open source works well with cloud tech, given that 90% of all cloud infrastructure is now run on Linux.

Despite open source’s interoperability, it may not immediately seem to be a natural fit, given that many organisations use different cloud providers for different workloads, more support is usually required for its maintenance, and it often appears far more complex than it actually is.

However, we cannot ignore the boom in popularity of open source, particularly in the hybrid multi-cloud space. So let’s take a deeper dive into whether open source is a good facilitator for this.

Benefits of open source
Organisations have always tended to sway towards proprietary technologies for a variety of reasons, mainly because the big vendors provide users with the reassurance of a well-known name and a safe pair of hands. However, customers are increasingly finding that when navigating their projects, the supposed support becomes less effective when more features are added and packages become unwieldy and sluggish. Also, when considering cloud services, one cannot ignore the fees, such as license and hosting fees, which can soon add up. Similarly, with long-term contracts, spurred on by tempting discounts, organisations often become tied to vendors, vastly limiting their freedom.

For these reasons, many communities, and particularly the cloud community, are opting for open source. This preference is highlighted in the Red Hat developer survey, which shows that over three-quarters (77%) of organisations are planning to increase their open source adoption in the next 12 months. The are multiple reasons for this preference for open source, including there being no licensing fees and no increases in costs per CPU or cluster, so therefore it is essentially free. Furthermore, cloud environments like OpenStack are built for standard infrastructure, whereas other cloud services may require unique technology. Workloads often do run best on specialised infrastructure; however, it’s always good to know one’s options.

Open source also benefits from thriving user communities sharing best practice and tools, spurring security and transparency. Organisations don’t need to take their vendors’ word for it that the software is secure; they can view and audit it themselves. In addition, when faced with a challenge, organisations can rely on the open source community, which includes thousands of engineers and other stakeholders, to share solutions, code and approaches to tackling issues, providing instant responses to vulnerabilities. One could argue however, that with proprietary solutions the contract will usually include support, albeit at an extra cost. However, open source comes as it is and therefore support can be more time-consuming to find, although it can be more cost-effective in the long run.

Open source also frees organisations from the perils of vendor lock-in, allowing software to run from any location using open source. Looking to run some Kubernetes? No problem – you can run it from your datacentre, from your own platform or even from your kitchen. This is an ideal fit for hybrid multi-cloud environments where application mobility and freedom are a huge benefit.

Challenges and responsibilities
Despite the clear benefits, open source is not always the answer and can provide some challenges when implemented. From the outset, a major challenge is the difficulty in transferring an existing, closed system to an open source one because creating in-house open source environments requires a large amount of time, human resource and investment.

Responsibility is another key aspect of open source to consider. Open source communities encourage and thrive on collaboration, but providers are often driven and existing for profit, resulting in a one-way benefit.

It’s critical for vendors to actively support the open source communities they are utilising. This could involve promotional events and contributing or sharing code. A mutually beneficial relationship is essential for the essence of open source, rather than a relationship where businesses are profiting off a community project based on a genuine desire for innovation and goodwill.

Both open and closed source infrastructure solutions produce challenges and pitfalls in hybrid multi-cloud setups. For instance, it is vital not to put different application components in different clouds, as this hugely reduces the functionality of applications.

Despite the challenges one must consider with open source, it is still a favourable solution for hybrid multi-cloud environments. Its offer in terms of flexibility, collaboration, and community support arguably beats that of closed source. However, as with most solutions, there need to be careful considerations. Perhaps most importantly, organisations must make sure to support the open source community and its principles of empowerment, accountability and trust, to ensure that open source continues to provide both today and for the future.

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Rémy Vandepoel, Technical Cloud Evangelist, OVHcloud

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