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Is the cloud too important for proprietary software?

Dr Marguerite Nyhan, MaREI

26 March 2013

Imagine the scene: you have convinced the board of your business that the best way forward, irrespective of the direction your business will take in the future, is to have your core applications and IT on a cloud platform. Now whether that is a virtual private cloud hosted in a carrier neutral data centre, a completely private cloud nestled down in your own server room, or one on a public cloud infrastructure, doesn’t matter that much, but what does is the technology it’s sitting on.

Everyone in the board is delighted at the new found flexibility, capability and security you’ve found and are already thinking of new ways to leverage the new technology to drive the business. You, as IT manager, CIO or just the clever person who thought of it, sits back with the warm fuzzies and plots the next move to secure your position as the person who knows about tech.

But then your warm fuzzies are soon displaced by a cold chill as you receive notification from your cloud platform vendor to say that the technology will be taking off in a bold new direction as of a month from now and that you can upgrade in a matter of weeks.




You frantically check the details available and realise that the ‘bold new direction’ is actually not what you had envisaged at all and does not coincide with the plans you have made for your business on the platform.

A quick web search reveals a wave of protests that followed the initial release of the announcement that has followed the sun across the globe till it shone down on your little parade.

While the above scenario is fictitious, it is not by any means impossible. Only recently, Deloitte predicted that merger and acquisition activity in 2013 in the area of technology and IT would likely accelerate, providing at least one plausible scenario for the above. But the point is that as many organisations move toward the cloud, they are committing themselves to certain technologies and platforms that, despite adherence to ‘open standards’, still have the potential to be proprietary to a degree.

The news story we carry above about the CloudStack program being made a top level project for Apache, wresting control from Citrix-though admittedly without a fight-shows that many in the cloud community see the cloud as best left in open source mode.

While the top cloud technology vendors cannot be faulted for the level of effort and resources that they commit to developing these technologies, the point about control still seems to be giving many CIOs a cause for concern.

The Accenture Technology Vision Report 2013 has concluded that it is those companies that fully embrace the available technologies, with mention made of cloud in particular, that are thriving in the current difficult macro-economic environment, but still the spectre of loss of control seems to omnipresent.

While the prospect of vendor lock-in seems to have fallen somewhat in the top three list of cloud adoption inhibitors, it may soon be replaced by a new one: vendor abandonment.

Various pointers now seem to indicate that there is a growing wariness among CIOs of moving to a cloud platform or technology and suddenly finding that the technology, due to M&A, commercial or even purely technical reasons, gets effectively altered or abandoned, leaving its users potentially high and dry. This prospect it seems is already pushing greater support towards initiatives such as CloudStack and other open source projects to ensure that a like-minded community, not a single, profit driven vendor, has control of the very foundations of today’s enterprise.

 Post Script:
It was with some interest and amusement that I read today that PayPal has, as part of a refresh and consolidation initiative, started moving to OpenStack from VMware infrastructure, according to an article on The Register.

The move is attributed to efforts for greater agility.

With the likes of Amazon, eBay (the PayPal parent company) and Facebook oft cited as going their way in terms of cloud technologies, this would appear to be supporting evidence for the growing impression that cloud infrastructure is best kept open source, as argued above.

The full article is here: "Paypal struggles free of VMware lock-in, goes with OpenStack"


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