451 Research perspectives on OpenStack and Amazon APIs

There’s been an interesting debate on the OpenStack cloud computing project and its API compatibility with Amazon. The discussion and debate over the open source cloud software’s compatibility with cloud leader Amazon’s proprietary APIs was just beginning when the 451 Group released The OpenStack Tipping Point in April. With the advancement of the OpenStack software and community — along with lingering questions about the desired level of compatibility with Amazon’s cloud — the matter is heating up. However, the issue of Amazon cloud compatibility is largely a non-issue.

Enterprise customers are focused on solving their computing and business challenges. They typically center on promptly providing their customers and internal users and divisions with adequate resources and infrastructure; speeding application development and deployment; and avoiding so-called “Shadow IT,” which normally involves use of Amazon’s cloud. Read the full article at LinuxInsider.

I’m not the only one with an opinion around here. My 451 Research colleagues have also weighed in on the matter and 451 Research subscribers can view their argument that Amazon API compatibility may be a fool’s errand.

Is cloud computing opening up?

We’ve already identified the significance of open source software to cloud computing, based on the cloud stacks from large IaaS, PaaS and other providers, on the most popular projects used for public, private and hybrid clouds and on the traction of key open source pieces such as Linux, Xen, KVM, Apache Tomcat, Hadoop, PHP, Ruby and many others. We’ve also discussed how open source is playing a role not only in the technology, but in the discussions, debates and overall evolution of cloud computing. While we believe the continued use and growth of critical open source pieces in cloud computing will contribute to a more open cloud ecosystem and market, we actually saw some evidence of this recently with word that the next Ubuntu Linux from Canonical will support not only the Eucalyptus cloud framework, but also the ever-popular OpenStack technology, project and community.

We wondered recently about the impact of a cloud partnership between Red Hat and Eucalyptus Systems, which also works closely with Canonical for its Ubuntu Enterprise Cloud. In a recent discussion, Marten Mickos told me Eucalyptus Systems fully expects and supports Canonical’s moves toward another cloud framework, OpenStack. While Canonical’s strategy probably has as much to do with customer demand, particularly for cloud flexibility, as it does with responding to rivals’ moves and deals, I believe that both the Red Hat partnership with Eucalyptus Systems and Canonical’s support for multiple, open source cloud computing frameworks signal a more open cloud computing market that is evolving. Customers are prioritizing flexibility and portability, and open source represents both perceived and real mechanisms for providing it. We’ve seen similar support from rival vendors on the operating system and hypervisor, most notably with Red Hat and Microsoft on virtualization, and I expect we’ll see this repeated with other vendors and technologies in cloud computing.

Sure there is still the question of how open is open enough, but the latest activity is truly good news for users of open source software and customers of open source vendors, who will benefit from this cross-project, cross-cloud platform support, collaboration and perhaps, community.

As the hypervisor turns, Red Hat leaves Xen

With its recent beta release of Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6, Red Hat is taking its most pronounced step away from the Xen hypervisor in favor of KVM, which it sees as a step forward for performance, flexibility and support, particularly for virtualization and cloud computing.

It is interesting to watch how Red Hat and Linux rival Novell are moving forward regarding hypervisors. Back a few years ago when Xen, and the hypervisor for that matter, were relatively new to the scene, particularly if it wasn’t VMware’s hypervisor, there was far different positioning from the big Linux vendors Novell and Red Hat. Novell was eagerly incorporating Xen into its SUSE Linux Enterprise Server software, ready to take advantage of the move to virtualization to consolidate servers and support, which was particularly popular with Linux. Contrast this to Red Hat, which was still holding off on actually incorporating Xen into its Red Hat Enterprise Linux, in large part based on RHEL’s key verticals and customers such as financial services and telecommunications companies that were more committed to stability than to jump into Xen. We also saw a little bit of this story repeating itself on real-time Linux a couple of years ago.

Now contrast this to today’s situation, where Red Hat is eagerly and rapidly moving its support, resources and customers to KVM, which it sees as advantageous all around with performance, manageability and other benefits of being integrated into the Linux kernel and being newer. Novell, meanwhile, isn’t being quite as reluctant on a move to KVM, since it benefits from the same integration on SLES (Novell contributes to the Linux kernel and KVM and also supports KVM for customers in a service pack to SLES 11). However, Novell is likely in no hurry to see Red Hat’s $107m Qumranet acquisition and KVM support pay off, and it is likely more than content to continue to support and work with Xen and the many customers using it.

So while Red Hat can rightfully claim the lead on KVM development and pushing it into the market, Novell may benefit from spreading its support more evenly among the various hypervisor and virtualization management technologies that continue to get customer and cloud use, including KVM and Xen and VMware. Regardless of where these and other vendors are placing their hypervisor, virtualization and cloud computing bets, it is certainly intersting drama to watch.

451 CAOS Links 2009.12.08

Palm sued for GPL violation. Wind River launches Android distro. And more.

Follow 451 CAOS Links live @caostheory on Twitter and Identi.ca
“Tracking the open source news wires, so you don’t have to.”

For the latest on Oracle’s acquisition of MySQL via Sun, see Everything you always wanted to know about MySQL but were afraid to ask

# Palm sued by Artifex over alleged GPL violation.

# Bradley M Kuhn described “The Anatomy of a Modern GPL Violation.”

# Wind River launched a commercial Android platform, optimized on the Texas Instruments OMAP 3 Platform.

# GigaOM reported that Android has stepped closer to fragmentation.

# JetBrains released both the Community and Ultimate editions of IntelliJ IDEA 9.

# Talend announced the availability of Talend Integration Suite LCP, extending Talend Open Studio.

# Black Duck Software offered a five-point checklist for the successful deployment of applications built with OSS.

# Gear6 introduced Gear6 Web Cache Server for the Cloud – a commercial Memcached offering on EC2.

# Red Hat updated its MRG, messaging, real-time and grid offering.

# OStatic published Sam Dean’s predictions: What’s Coming for Open Source in 2010.

# The H reported that EtherPad is to become open source as Google changes plans.

# Gluster announced the general availability of Gluster Storage Platform.

Oracle buys Sun, but does it buy open source?

The big news to kick off this week was Oracle’s announced acquisition of Sun Microsystems. There is already a lot of discussion of the integration challenges, how Oracle is getting into hardware (or as Matt Asay describes it, having an ‘iPod moment’) and of course, the implications for open source software. What stands out to me is the fact that the world’s biggest proprietary database player — one of few software giants that still sells and supports primarily proprietary software — will own the world’s most popular open source database, MySQL. It is unclear how significantly MySQL figures into the deal, but given Sun spent $1b acquiring it and further invested in its enterprise readiness and use, it must mean something. What is perhaps even more unclear is what will happen going forward to MySQL and the many other open source software technologies — Java, GlassFish application server, OpenOffice.org to name a few — that are under Sun’s moniker?

These questions bring Oracle’s open source citizenship, covered previously on the CAOS blog and in a 451 Group report, into the spotlight. Oracle rightfully deserves credit for its positive participation in the development of the Linux OS and many other open source projects, including Apache, Berkeley DB, Eclipse, InnoDB, PHP, SASH, Spring and Xen.

We’ve certainly emphasized Sun’s open source projects, products and strategy in assessing its value, position and opportunities. Looking across Sun’s assets, the open source holdings have been among the shiniest.

However, this doesn’t really jibe with the view of open source presented by Oracle and its CEO Larry Ellison, a view that I think somewhat misses the point of open source software. Mr. Ellison and his company have showed they value the advantages of open source software development and innovation based on Oracle’s contributions and investments in open source. Still, when asked about having top Linux vendor Red Hat or a similar open source company on his shopping list, Ellison indicated there would be no need to buy an open source company when he could simply take and use their code. In fact, that’s exactly what Ellison and Oracle did with Unbreakable Linux. While it has been taken up by a number of Oracle shops and even some additional customers that see greater value and time-savings in getting their Linux from Oracle, Unbreakable Linux has not exactly broken out. Furthermore, Oracle has always downplayed the commercial and revenue potential for Unbreakable Linux, which has had minimal impact on Red Hat.

So while Oracle has displayed an ability to participate in and benefit from open source software, I think its expectations and aspirations for open source software are limited. You can’t blame a company making billions for not getting too excited about millions, especially when sometimes the millions are simply numbers of users. Nevertheless, Sun is sitting on top of some of the most pervasive, disruptive and popular open source software used in the enterprise today.

With Oracle’s purchase of Sun, we may go from overly high expectations for Sun’s open source software — driven in large part by pressure to right the ship and reward investors — to drastically lowered expectations from Sun’s open source software by an Oracle far more concerned with proprietary software and hardware.

Open Solutions Alliance – not off-course for open source

As chance would have it, just after briefing with new Open Solutions Alliance President Anthony Gold, who also serves as VP and general manager of open source business at Unisys, I read a fairly critical blog about Gold and the OSA from Glyn Moody. I believe that Moody raises some valid points and offers Gold the opportunity to clarify the OSA’s dedication to truly open standards and openness in enterprise software later in the comments. However, I must disagree that the talk of including proprietary players in the work of making open source software more integrated and acceptable in the enterprise is something new or attributable to Gold. In fact, it was at OSCON 2007 when I talked with former Jaspersoft CTO and then OSA spokesman Barry Klawans about the changing direction of open source, much of which involved more effectively getting into the enterprise alongside and working with preponderant, proprietary software.

While I wanted to point out that I was hearing about this direction from the OSA long ago, I don’t fault Moody for questioning what this increased involvement and influence from proprietary players will mean for open source software. Still (and much of this may be attributable to the pure mention of Microsoft), I don’t think the OSA is straying from its mission of making sure the enterprise open source coals stay hot by looking to integrate with proprietary software.

Another example of where we may see more of a ‘proprietary’ or traditional influence on open source: (as brought to us by 451 CAOS colleague Matt Aslett), the new U.S. President Barack Obama administration’s request for perspective on government use of open source and its advantage from Sun co-founder and former CEO Scott McNealy. It seems some FOSS supporters would prefer Uncle Sam turn to a more pure open source executive than the prior head of the formerly more proprietary Sun Microsystems. However, it does make some sense to seek counsel from someone such as McNealy on adopting open source from a legacy and history of more traditional, proprietary software adoption, which exists in government. Similarly, Anthony Gold and Unisys have a unique perspective on what customers are asking for: open source, proprietary, both or other. It’s also worth noting here that in its member predictions for 2009, OSA executives highlight the impact and opportunities of a new U.S. administration and its incorporation of open source thinking.

During my discussion with the OSA, we talked about the changing motivations driving enterprise organizations to use open source software at all levels of their IT. While cost certainly remains a huge draw from customers, particularly in current conditions, we’ve seen other considerations high on the list of customers: interoperability with existing, legacy, often proprietary software and continuity of support; access to a community of experts; and the ability to combine open source tools. All of these are pertinent to open source vendors, including OSA members and the organization as a whole. While there is certainly opportunity in making open source software tools work well together, there is equal, if not more opportunity in making open source software tools work well with existing, proprietary tools.

A few years ago, this was typically an immense challenge for open source vendors since proprietary vendors were hardly receptive to such interoperability. Things are different today, however, and as Gold confirmed and as evident by greater interoperability among different operating systems, systems management software and applications, proprietary vendors are increasingly seeing the open source light and seeing the benefit of supporting open source components: it brings in customers.

Moody and others that sound the signals of caution and concern have good reason to do so and we do need to ensure that open standards are truly open, but again, the fact is that there is more opportunity than risk in making open source software work with whatever currently sits in enterprise IT shops, much of it proprietary.

Microsoft self interest is its commitment to open source

Microsoft continued its moves to make its Windows OS and other software more supportive and integrated with open source last week, releasing Web Application Installer software to facilitate development and use of popular Web applications, including open source software such as DotNetNuke web application framework, Drupal content management software, osCommerce e-commerce software and WordPress blogging software.

The release and Microsoft’s statements and stance are being viewed as both supportive and detrimental to open source. While I would agree developments such as these continue to blur the line between what is, or is not, an open source vendor, I do not agree with Microsoft’s contention that all software players are becoming ‘mixed-source’ companies. Sure, vendors and users seem to care less about whether the software they use, support, sell and pay for is open source or not, but those using open source to make products move faster and cost less, such as Red Hat, continue to differentiate themselves based primarily on open source.

I believe that Microsoft’s earnest intent is to make open source on Windows, ASP.Net and Silverlight as simple and supported as open source on Linux and Apache infrastructure, following on its previous movement toward open source. Would Microsoft benefit from making these newly-supported, open source pieces and products less efficient or integrated? Would it benefit from seeing them sway toward proprietary licensing and development? I don’t think so, since the company could already create that without open source. No, I belive Microsoft is genuinely looking to provide as good if not better support for open source software as anyone esle. Consider Drupal creator Dries Buyteart (also Drupal-based startup Acquia CEO) and his excitement at the prospect (even though he couldn’t test it since he didn’t have a Windows computer). Sure, Microsoft may be less inclined to offer its support in more competitive areas such as the OS with Linux or office software against OpenOffice.org. However, even in those cases we see recognition of reality and thus, collaboration, integration and support for open source from Microsoft.

For those who fear Microsoft’s talk of mixed-source means the company is looking to muddy the waters, a couple of things. First, there are a whole range of trends, issues and places — virtualization, SaaS, cloud computing, systems management, SOA, Web services, etc. — where the mixed-source mantra is getting pushed along quite well regardless of Redmond. Second, I have argued before Microsoft’s involvement in open source will rightfully draw the full and complete scrutiny of open source supporters, thus providing some good vetting to involvement by Microsoft and other proprietary players. In the end (and after several more confrontational approaches have failed), I think Microsoft may end up providing a significant paradigm for how proprietary software companies can successfully confront and coexist with open source.

Red Hat-Ubuntu pairing would have potential

I’m starting to see some big potential for symbiosis between two Linux and open source leaders: Red Hat and Ubuntu. Red Hat’s departure from the consumer desktop Linux market comes at the same time Ubuntu continues rolling in the same market with the release of Ubuntu 8.04 Hardy Heron this week. The latest Ubuntu also comes in a server version that continues distributor Canonical’s aspirations for enterprise servers. While it has been a struggle to sign OEMs for pre-installation, Canonical appears to be on the right track with regard to certification from the biggies. Still, Ubuntu’s server challenge is a big one, and it comes in a Linux market where Red Hat rules the roost.

All of this is happening at a time when the use and management of server and desktop computers is coming together through virtualization and continued mixing of operating systems and server/desktop deployment. This makes me wonder if Red Hat could help Ubuntu on the server with greater support and integration of the ‘other’ Linux. Why would Red Hat do such a thing? We already see the company, wisely, offering deeper integration and support for Windows — why would they do that? The answer is reality. Enterprise datacenters and even divisions rarely run one OS, let alone Linux. There are typically Windows and others in play and there is also much greater acceptance and use of Linux, which has become less exotic and more like any other OS in the datacenter. Let’s remember too that choice and flexibility are no longer customer requests, they are expectations, and every major server vendor supports at least some OS variety.

Red Hat could also benefit from greater integration with and support for Ubuntu desktops. While Ubuntu leads among Linux consumers, it is also gaining more significance for the enterprise desktop. I believe Red Hat may be underestimating the impact of consumer desktop choices when it says it wants to leave that market alone. Ubuntu is thriving there, and it is also leveraging its desktop popularity and prowess to push further into enterprise desktops. By partnering with Canonical and building ties between Red Hat Enterprise Linux and Ubuntu desktops, Red Hat could harness Ubuntu’s popularity among technical fans (admins anyone?), consumers and enterprise users. This would only help Ubuntu’s uptake in the enterprise desktop market, and I believe there is potential for enterprise and consumer desktop success to feed off each other. I also believe this would bolster Ubuntu’s server efforts, paricularly as desktop management moves from the help desk to the datacenter.

These factors — plus the fact that a Red Hat-Ubuntu relationship is far more palatable to the larger FOSS community than say, a similar arrangement with Microsoft — lead me to believe the two Linux organizations have opportunity in banding together. Sure, they’ve differed in the past and even more recently, but I would argue Red Hat and Canonical are similar enough to produce some synergy and round out their respective open source offerings.

Red Hat and Ubuntu also have a striking similarity that could be integral to any kind of relationship, whether focused on the server, the desktop, management, virtualization or all of the above. That similarity is community. The community development of Red Hat’s Linux is often cited by those inside open source as a key to the company’s success. It has kept the community relatively happy with direction and development, and has kept them busy producing features and functionality in enterprise demand. It is Ubuntu’s community development that is often credited not only with the Linux flavor’s technical and feature advancement, but also its popularity among FOSS fans. The combination of these two communities is perhaps the most compelling argument for collaboration between them.

Maybe it’s just that I wrote a couple of reports back-to-back on the two companies and their opportunities and challenges, but I do believe Red Hat and Ubuntu could help one another and, in doing so, strengthen one another, Linux and open source in the enterprise.