No longer is the question for an enterprise whether to deploy open-source or proprietary technology, but how to mix them in a heterogeneous information technology environment. CIOs now commonly choose a combination of proprietary and open source software to meet their requirements. To meet enterprise demands, the IT industry is increasingly developing and deploying the tools for interoperability such as middleware, virtualisation and widely adopted standards to blend technology.
In today’s environment, CIOs look for every opportunity to cut costs. Virtualisation enables one operating system (for example, Linux) to operate in a “virtual machine” on top of another OS (for example, Windows, Apple OS X), sharing hardware resources and facilitating the sharing of data between applications on each of the OS. Server virtualisation allows an enterprise to use a mix of server OS, often both open-source and proprietary, on their server hardware. It increases system efficiency and reduces the number of machines required, lowering operating costs and energy consumption. Because virtualisation can place high demand on processors and require substantial memory for effective implementation, only in the last few years has it become a viable large-scale solution due to improvements in virtualisation software, increases in processing power and reductions in the cost of memory.
Cloud computing is transforming how enterprise networks are architected, where resources such as computing or server capacity, or applications, may reside, enabling enterprises of all sizes to take advantage of economies of scale. The resources an enterprise may draw on from the cloud may be proprietary or open-source or a blend of both. Cloud computing for enterprises is only in its infancy, and there are significant challenges in such areas as security and privacy. But there is no doubt that cloud computing is going to substantially change the way enterprises use IT.
There is no “best” cloud computing model. A major benefit of cloud computing is that customers can select the mix of features they want, weighing the benefits of each aspect of the offerings. What appears to be certain is that cloud computing has interoperability at its core.
The most familiar public cloud services are those provided by Google, Microsoft, Salesforce and Amazon Web Services. But there are others entering the public cloud market. Microsoft has introduced Azure, a cloud service platform, and now offers its own applications, the Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS), Exchange Online, Sharepoint Online, Office Live Meeting, and Office Communication Online. Oracle recently entered an agreement with Amazon Web Services to offer Linux-based Oracle database and back-up services in the cloud. Some of these are proprietary and other open-source. Cloud computing has brought together proprietary and open-source in such a way that the development approaches are becoming irrelevant to the deployment.
In the cloud, no country is an island. A user may access a cloud application from South Korea, but that application may be hosted in Hong Kong and it may save it’s user files on servers located in Uzbekistan, routed there by way of a server in the United States. From a software developer’s perspective, the global nature may be defined not only by network behaviour and the location of physical facilities, but by the structure of the business itself. From the moment of inspiration, in the research stage, a team of researchers could be working virtually, from anywhere around the globe.
Manufacturing may take place in India, Malaysia and the Philippines, of a product the developer intends for sale in Central and South America. A cloud storage provider may treat server resources located in several countries as completely fungible. In all of these circumstances, interoperability of both the technology and the law and public policy of different nations are an imperative. In an environment that is truly technology neutral, national laws that contravene this approach will miss out on the promise of cloud computing. The economic opportunity for a country with compatible laws and public policies will be an inviting place for cloud computing suppliers.
The Singapore government has long recognised technology drives economic growth for the country. In 2008, the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA) partnered Hewlett Packard, Intel, and Yahoo, and several academic research institutions, to form a joint partnership to develop an open cloud computing test bed to support research in the design, provisioning and management of services at a global, multi-datacenter scale.
The IDA’s in2015 takes a cross-industry sector approach, projecting reforms in everything from healthcare to education to logistics. The country is showing leadership in the region in looking to cloud computing as the next critical step for eGovernment, in growing its IT economy efficiently, and maintaining its role in the global marketplace. Cloud computing is in its infancy for enterprise use, but there is general agreement that it will transform of enterprise computing. To do so, design will be technology neutral, providing users the technology of their choosing.
From deployment of service oriented architecture (SOA) to the outlook for cloud computing for the enterprise, it is clear that the manner of development, business model and licensing are taking a back seat to the realities of the blending and mixing of proprietary and open-source software in the heterogeneous IT environment.
Stacy Baird is former advisor to members of the US Senate and House of Representatives on IT and intellectual property public policy