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Cloud Computing Wouldn't Exist Without Open Source

I'm at OSCON this week drinking from the open source fountain that made RightScale possible. In talking to Tim O'Reilly I noticed that he hadn't realized how integral open source is to the cloud, so maybe this fact isn't as obvious as I thought.

Cloud computing is all about the flexibility to launch and terminate servers on demand, or more generally, to acquire and release resources on demand. This can help solve many tricky problems, including reliability, scaling, development, testing, and business flexibility needs. Where open source comes into the picture is when you think about the software licenses for the software stacks you're running on all the servers you're launching. If you are normally running two servers but today you need 10, did you consider whether you have licenses for all the software on the additional eight servers? Most commercial software seems to be licensed by the server or by the CPU, and obviously this just doesn't cut it in the cloud. If it weren't for open source stacks, no production service would be operating in the cloud today; everyone would still be waiting for software vendors to get it and change their licenses to enable efficient use in the cloud (yeah, right).

But all this is starting to change. The vast majority of software vendors we talk to are in the process of trying to figure out how they can sell their software in the cloud, including what technical changes are necessary to enable their customers to deploy their software into the cloud environment and what business model changes are necessary to offer frictionless sales into the cloud. Of course deploying software on the RightScale platform offers a number of benefits, including some new features we're currently adding to support publishing and charging by the use. But the bottom line really is that without open source we wouldn't have cloud computing today.

Comments

It seems that the issue has nothing to do with open source or not, it has to do with free or not, and with pricing policies. GigaSpaces, for example, is a commercial software that offers pay-per-use pricing on EC2 and other cloud providers. JBoss, although open source, also offers per-usage pricing. BTW, I compare the two companies' pricing schemes here: http://gevaperry.typepad.com/main/2008/07/gigaspaces-and.html Geva Perry GigaSpaces
Tyler, you are correct that the same problems exist with internal infrastructure. It's just that the cloud makes scaling up&down or launching additional deployments for temporary purposes so much easier. One thing that I've seen work is calling up the sales rep and making a deal where you pay some fraction of a license for being able to scale-up for short periods of time.
[...] På rightscale’s blog har de netop skrevet om hvor vigtigt Open Source er for Cloud Computing branchen. [...]
This is precisely the problem my company has run into regarding scaling, and it doesn't change for an external cloud such as EC2, or internal infrastructure built on VMWare or POS (plain old servers). We have a need to be able to temporarily scale our environments based on periodic business cycles, but cannot due to restrictive licensing on some proprietary software. Our approach, which isn't necessarily recommended, is to try to find a balance between making he executives angry about the downtime or lack of capacity, and making those same execs angry about spending too much money.
Posted by Tyler (not verified)   Ι   July 24, 2008   Ι   03:33 AM
Have you thought about postgres replication ala slony? I'm in SB and I am well versed with slony replication so I could offer my $.02. I just learned about rightscale and ec2 today, pretty darn cool. I am going to try out ec2 and possibly rightscale as I learn more. I'm used to having remote servers I access via IPMI, but EC2 seems to put that to shame. One website I do does 20 TB/month and I have a ~$40/gbit pricing structure so EC2 doesn't make sense, but for the other websites it is probably a good idea. One issue is security, I wouldn't want amazon snooping in on my data, esp. since I am a competitor of sorts. So I would probably encrypt everything with truecrypt or dm-crypt. Definitely interesting territory here.
Posted by pgguy (not verified)   Ι   August 04, 2008   Ι   12:46 PM
Geva, thanks for the comment. You are correct that it has to do with free and not with open source. But it's difficult to find a non-open source application that you can run in production for free, whether it is because of licensing or features being held back from the free edition. But you have a point. Also thanks for reminding me that you guys have per-usage pricing, I know you are at the forefront of software in the cloud! pgguy, we are very interested in postgres, maybe we should have a coffee and chat? I hear you about the bandwidth prices. To compare apples to apples you have to consider that with AWS you are getting a fully managed network that is multi-hosted and can burst to multi-gigabits. But sometimes you just need rock bottom price and it's ok to have a single provider (I don't know your set-up, of course, just talking in general). I wouldn't be too paranoid about Amazon snooping on your data, they are pretty clear about something like that being strictly against their internal policies. They also have a long history of enabling competitors on their platform, from Barnes and Noble to the many sellers who sell competitive items on the retail site and get top placement if their offer is better. Hope you enjoy EC2 and RightScale and I'm sure you'll let us know what you like and dislike!
I can't agree more. But, open source is not just crucial to cloud computing. To me it has become an integral part of any software development house.

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