Cloud Computing

TMCnews Featured Article

June 20, 2011

Open Source and Cloud Computing: A Powerful Combination

By Mae Kowalke, TMCnet Contributor

During the four years or so, cloud computing has expanded from being only a public computing utility model to also including private clouds. New technologies and innovations have emerged to make this evolution possible.

“Although public clouds continue to be an important technological breakthrough, private clouds have emerged as being almost equally as important,” said Rich Wolksi, cofounder and CTO at Eucalyptus Systems (News - Alert), in a TMCnet video interview with TMC’s (News - Alert) CEO Rich Tehrani during Cloud Expo 2011. 

Some of the innovations making this transformation possible came from a University of California Santa Barbara research group Wolksi was part of – and which led to the formation of Eucalyptus.

When UCSB research group began its work in 2007, the goal was to build its own version of cloud computing using open source components. The cloud had to run on the computer science department’s data centers, and consequently needed to be compatible with technologies of varying vintages.

The group was successful in building a private infrastructure capable of public cloud functionality, yet it wasn’t clear that such technology would be of interest outside the research field.

“But, as soon as we released the software as open source, there was tremendous commercial interest,” Wolksi recalled.

Initial customers were Fortune 10 companies. Over time, this grew to also include Web 2.0 firms, media companies, and software developers. 

Open source technology plays a big role in Eucalyptus’ success as a provider of technologies allowing companies to use cloud paradigms under private control, with IT processes already in place.

“We use very tried-and-true, best-of-breed, open source e-commerce technology,” Wolksi noted. “People have built very scalable, stable, secure e-commerce websites using open source technology for about 15 years.”

Amazon Web Services (News - Alert) (AWS) is a major player in e-commerce cloud computing, and Eucalyptus solutions are AWS compatible. Interoperability is important, of course, and so is security. Wolksi said security is a key reason why his company uses open source. 

“Open software provides transparency that can be used for good or evil,” he noted. “Think about how Linux works. Linux is very open, but it’s also the operating system of choice for data centers. People are constantly finding new ways to hack Linux, but the people who are using it for professional reasons are constantly finding ways to defend Linux. That can only happen if the software base is open.”

Wolksi compared this to closed technology, where holes exploited by hackers often remain for months or years before a solution is found. The time to security breach is short with open source, but time to remediation is much shorter. 

Watch the full video for more discussion about cloud computing, patent and licensing trends, and the future of data management.

Mae Kowalke is a TMCnet contributor. She is Manager of Stories at Neundorfer, Inc., a cleantech company in Northeast Ohio. She has more than 10 years experience in journalism, marketing and communications, and has a passion for new tech gadgets. To read more of her articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by Jennifer Russell