Open source woven into latest, hottest trends

We may not see or hear much about open source in the latest cloud or Big Data offerings, but it’s playing a significant role in the most disruptive trends in enterprise IT.

Just as we’ve seen with open source in cloud computing, it is an integral part of trends that currently are disrupting consumer and enterprise IT markets, including hybrid cloud computing, automation and devops, and Big Data.

Read the full article at LinuxInsider.

Open APIs: The Fifth Pillar of Modern IT Openness

Last year, I wrote about the key pillars of openness in today’s enterprise IT industry, highlighting open source software, real open standards, open clouds, and open data as the ‘Four Pillars of Modern IT Openness.’

More recently, I wrote about what I now consider to be the fifth pillar, which is open application programming interfaces (APIs). Of course, when we talk about ‘open’ anything — open source, open standards, open clouds, open APIs — there tends to be debate about what is really open, how we should define open and who should or should not be able to carry the phrase. My focus on open APIs and on APIs in general generated some good discussion, as well as some pushback, regarding the value of APIs compared to open source software, which APIs are open, and how open is open enough?

I want to make clear I am not saying open APIs are better than open source. The real point is that the activity, development and innovation happening around APIs — particularly as cloud computing and hybrid public-private use continues to evolve — is reminiscent of the way open source software began disrupting the industry some two decades ago.

The other point is that while customers are typically interested in open source software for flexibility, cost savings, mitigating vendor lock-in, performance, ROI or other reasons, my conversations with both vendors and customers indicate much of the integration in the cloud centers on the openness of the APIs. When customers have stable, documented APIs, it is often more conducive and effective to work there, rather than on the source code. If code, development and deployment are disrupted by closed, changing, weak or undocumented APIs, then developers, customers and the market are likely to quickly move on to other APIs, perhaps ‘open APIs’ that are well documented and include examples. Similar to the other pillars of modern IT openness — open source software, open standards, open clouds and open data, open APIs are most effective and efficient when combined with the others.

Let’s not let open APIs become another version of ‘open standards’ that were anything but 10 years ago. Instead, we should seek to use and call out truly open APIs, which would typically mean connection to open source software, open standards, open clouds and open data as well. However, we must also be aware of the threat, competition and pressure from APIs such as Amazon’s EC2 and AWS interfaces, which are not open source nor open standards, but nonetheless may be open enough for a majority of developers and market.

Community Linux love from Microsoft

One of big stories out of the Open Source Business Conference this week was Microsoft’s announced support for the CentOS community Linux distribution, a free clone of RHEL that nonetheless enjoys significant enterprise and cloud computing use, as we’ve covered extensively, including a special report that is currently being updated, in part, with a new survey.

This is not the first time MS has displayed love for unpaid, community Linux, given its 2009 contribution of GPL-licensed code to the Linux kernel. This was significant in that it was contribution and participation by Microsoft in the Linux kernel, beyond one of its partner’s Linux distributions, such as the case of Novell and SUSE Linux and more recently, Red Hat and its RHEL for mutual, customer-demanded virtualization support (451 subscribers) between Microsoft and Red Hat.

It seems Microsoft understands that unlike pirated Windows, which it considers a loss, the use of free, unpaid Linux — particularly by large enterprise, government and other organizations — is a big opportunity for it.

True, use of community Linux is typically driven by cost savings and the capability of sizable organizations to self-manage their Linux servers, often involving no payment. However, our research indicates there is often is still a need for higher level support and, more commonly, the ‘insurance factor’ of having a commercial vendor behind your infrastructure software so you, or your boss or board, have someone to call or blame if things go wrong. Microsoft is capable of supporting CentOS in both cases of technical support and being the insurance for an organization. It will be interesting to see the kind of reaction and traction the company gets from customers, presumably Windows shops, running CentOS.

It was only a couple of years ago we were writing about the death, and ongoing life of CentOS.

Today, it continues to be one of the most fascinating open source software projects in that it has no formal commercial backer, not even a foundation, but yet benefits from a solid, dedicated development team that continues to push the OS forward. We, along with Microsoft, continue to hear about use of CentOS increasingly in cloud computing, where it can be used, often free of charge, to add, subtract, scale and scrap as needed. It is, like other Linux distributions, also popular among hosting and other service providers, who again are primarily building public, private and hybrid cloud environments and ecosystems.

This is why again it is very interesting to see Microsoft supporting CentOS with HyperV and Windows. It’s not the first vendor to do so, as server giant HP has supported CentOS, Debian and other community distros to some extent in its server and support offerings. Microsoft’s CentOS support is certainly another example of how the landscape and market for various Linux distributions and operating systems in general is currently undergoing disruption.

Channeling of open source continues

We’re seeing yet more signs of IT and software sales channels opening up to open source. The latest deal, whereby Canonical will make Ubuntu Enterprise Cloud (UEC) on Dell blade servers available to public users through government middleman Autonomic Resources, reinforces the idea that system integrators (SIs), VARs, service providers and others are quickly and increasingly including open source options and products in their offerings and recommendations.

What’s driving this channel awakening and why now? I believe it is a combination of two things: open source software’s association with cost savings and its significance and prominence in cloud computing. There are other factors as well: open source software’s growing number of commercial backers and evolved enterprise credibility, specific instances where access to source code is paramount, reliability, performance and innovative reasons, and others. There is also momentum on the part of open source users and customers, particularly those in the public sector, that are now making their open source use more official by policy and procedure. However, I believe it is cost and cloud that, in combination, are truly driving open source software right now.

We’ve covered the growth of open source software in traditional technology sales channels — i.e. the public sector, SMBs, global SIs and local suppliers — in more depth in a recent report (451 subscribers only). The Autonomic Resources deal for Canonical, commercial backer of the cloud-popular Ubuntu Linux, also comes as we watch some interesting partnerships and integrations, as well as the continued cloud progress of Linux in general.

There’s no question the channel is critical to deliver software and other IT products and services to broader swaths of customers. It is also becoming more apparent that the rise of open source software in IT sales channels is also unquestionable.

CAOS Theory Podcast 2009.09.18

Topics for this podcast:

*Microsoft founds CodePlex Foundation, losing Sam Ramji
*Software patents at the center of MS, OIN maneuvering
*Eucalyptus Systems releases hybrid cloud product
*Oracle-Sun Microsystems and the potential fate of MySQL

iTunes or direct download (26:40, 6.1 MB)