What is Happening? Saugatuck believes the annual OpenStack Summit, which combines sessions for developers, users, and administrators of OpenStack Cloud software, points out that the fundamental benefits of Open Source software can bring value to many aspects of IT including the underlying infrastructure of private and public Clouds.

However, Saugatuck believes that most efforts of the OpenStack group, as well as other Cloud-oriented “open” groups like CloudStackThe Open Group, and even the Open Grid Forum, will deliver limited benefit to enterprise Cloud users, mainly because these efforts tend to miss a core enterprise user Cloud need for openness and standardization: The ability to migrate and utilize workloads in Clouds, between Clouds, and between Clouds and on-premises IT (i.e., hybridized environments). Without this, such groups, while doing great work, are not developing / delivering Interoperability for users, as much as they are defining, developing and delivering new products. 

Why is it Happening? An enduring objective for most IT users is to seek solutions that are vendor agnostic – applications and workloads that would be easily portable across vendor hardware and software platform offerings. Such portability would provide increased alternatives and promote competitive pricing for IT products and services.

This ‘Holy Grail’ of vendor independence has been the driving force behind numerous innovations beginning with COBOL in the early-‘60s, followed by Unix, and leading to the current growing number of software offerings which are labeled as Open Source.

From our discussions with IT leaders and users, Open Source software such as OpenStack cloud software has the aura of providing workload portability / interoperability. Unfortunately, “open” does not mean “standard,” and “standards” especially within consortia, gets interpreted and implemented with wide latitude.

Saugatuck reminds users that due to individual differences in vendor implementations (some resulting from differences in hardware, others resulting from attempts to offer differentiation) COBOL did not provide inter-vendor compatibility until the implementation of ANSI standards. Similarly, Open Source software, alone, does not eliminate incompatibilities between offerings that utilize the same Open Source code.

Along those lines, OpenStack states on their website that they “strongly believe that an open development model is the only way to foster badly-needed cloud standards, remove the fear of proprietary lock-in for cloud customers, and create a large ecosystem that spans cloud providers.” We agree wholeheartedly with this position, but also believe that something extremely important and useful for Cloud IT buyers and users is missing: What about the workloads?

Saugatuck sees the key requisite for user Cloud adoption and independence centering on standards, open or otherwise, for defining workloads, interoperation, and interfaces. Without these, the core benefits of Cloud – affordability, portability, and scalability – mean little.

For an extended version of this Research Alert, visit Saugatuck Technology.

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