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Why Open Source is the key to cloud innovation

Thor Olavsrud | April 16, 2012
In the 25 years since Richard Stallman wrote the GNU General Public License, free and open source software (FOSS) have become pervasive in computing: Linux, Apache HTTP Server, MySQL and more can be found in large numbers of enterprises across the globe. And open source is now increasingly undergirding cloud computing as well.

Open Source Cloud to Avoid Vendor Lock-in

One big step in that interoperability and portability direction is Apache Deltacloud, a project initiated by Red Hat in 2009 and then contributed to the Apache Software Foundation, where it gained Top-Level Project (TLP) status in 2010. With Deltacloud, the Apache Software Foundation is attempting to provide an answer to a problem that hasn't much reared its head yet, but is likely to become pressing in coming years: cloud lock-in.

"The biggest challenge is that there's so much happening in the cloud that users are so busy figuring out how best to use cloud that lock-in is still not a big concern for them," says David Lutterkort, principal software engineer at Red Hat and chair of the Apache Deltacloud project. "It's not that high on peoples' lists yet."

Deltacloud is an API that abstracts differences between clouds, enabling management of resources in different IaaS clouds using a single API. It can essentially be implemented as a wrapper around a large number of clouds, freeing users of cloud computing from dealing with the particulars of each cloud's API.

Standards bodies have also coalesced to create open and interoperable standards. In 2009, leading standards development organizations (SDOs) to form Cloud Standards Coordination, intended to coordinate the work of the various SDOs developing cloud standards. Members include the Cloud Security Alliance, Cloud Standards Customer Council, Distributed Management Task Force (DMTF), the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI), the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), Open Grid Forum (OGF), Object Management Group (OMG), Open Cloud Consortium (OCC), Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information and Standards (OASIS), Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA), The Open Group, Association for Retail Technology Standards (ARTS) and TM Forum.

Lutterkort is also a board member of the DMTF, which, among other things, is working on a standard called the Cloud Infrastructure Management Interface (CIMI), which would create a standard API that any cloud could use.

Project Aeolus is another forward-looking open source project, driven by Red Hat, that essentially seeks to build an open source cloud broker. A stand-alone project, Aeolus offers a single, consistent set of tools to build and manage organized groups of virtual machines across clouds. It consists of the following:

  • Aeolus Conductor, which offers a way to provide cloud resources to users, manage users' access to and use of those resources and control users' instances in clouds
  • Aeolus Composer, which provides a way to build cloud-specific images from generic templates so users can choose clouds freely using compatible images
  • Aeolus Orchestrator, which provides a way to manage clumps of instances in an organized way, giving users the ability to automatically bring up a set of different instances on a single cloud or spanning multiple clouds, configure them and tell them about each other
  • Aeolus HA Manager, which provides a way to make instances or clumps of instances in the cloud highly available


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