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Open clouds aren't only about open source. But open source is the sine qua non.

Open source puts the customer in control and can free them from the technology decisions and business practices of any single vendor. This is important because even the best-intentioned vendors have to ultimately make choices about product roadmaps, pricing approaches, and target markets that may or may not align with the needs of a particular customer. Vendors get acquired, go out of business, and shift technology focus. That's life. And, with proprietary software, you as a customer ultimately may not have many options if your vendor isn't willing or able to support your needs or, indeed, to continue selling you software at all. Your only recourse may be to shift to another vendor, even if that means overhauling a large chunk of your infrastructure. Open source can crack open this lock-in.

We see great examples of the power of an open approach within Red Hat CloudForms, Red Hat's all-open source Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) hybrid cloud management software that is currently in beta. One of the components of CloudForms is Deltacloud, a top-level project under the governance of the Apache Software Foundation. Deltacloud is an API that abstracts the differences between clouds. However, unlike proprietary software in which a vendor decides what will be supported by an API and what won't, Deltacloud makes it easier for developers to write drivers that modularly add support for the cloud providers of their choice.

This sort of flexibility is especially important in a cloud computing environment in which attaining the greatest value comes from spanning an entire heterogeneous IT infrastructure. By cutting across silos of capacity, IT organizations can greatly simplify their environments and thereby redirect people and capital from keeping the light on to driving innovation for their business.

Open source isn't just about avoiding lock-in, important as that is. Open source allows users to control their destiny and provides them with visibility into the technology on which they're basing their business. This is increasingly important as businesses are ever-more driven by what technology makes possible from data analytics to mobile devices to real-time telemetry. Open source provides the headlights that can give businesses an early view into what may be possible in the years ahead and therefore how to position their business to take the greatest advantage of these coming possibilities.

But open source has the potential to go far beyond how individual organizations can leverage it in isolation. Open source also lets them collaborate with other communities and companies to help drive innovation in the areas that are important to them. We see this approach increasingly coming to the fore in this complex and connected world. Companies have seen how open source can create software that is not just a good value but that increasingly pushes forward the state of the art. Consequently, we see end-user organizations working cooperatively and in cooperation with vendors to drive innovations that are important to them in areas such as messaging and, yes, cloud.

Cloud computing started out, in many respects, as a user-driven phenomenon. “Shadow IT” use of consumer-oriented cloud services and public cloud providers set new expectations for IT departments. And with Linux and open source at the core of almost every major cloud provider, IT departments may have more choice as they seek to meet those expectations. With Linux and open source also prevalent throughout the Fortune 500 and other organizations worldwide, powering some of the largest and most mission-critical applications, who wouldn't want open source for their cloud?

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