The future of the 'cloud,' open source, and the OS

Three Illuminata research notes take a look at some of the intersections among cloud computing, the way operating systems are designed, and open source.

Gordon Haff
Gordon Haff is Red Hat's cloud evangelist although the opinions expressed here are strictly his own. He's focused on enterprise IT, especially cloud computing. However, Gordon writes about a wide range of topics whether they relate to the way too many hours he spends traveling or his longtime interest in photography.
Gordon Haff
2 min read

When my posting frequency drops a bit, the usual reason is that I'm flying here and yon and otherwise occupied with goings-on at some conference, meeting, or client engagement. The situation in January was a bit different. For the first time in a while, I had some decent blocks of uncommitted time. And I put those to use fleshing out and writing some longer research notes that had been sitting on the to-do list for way too long.

Two of these deal with so-called "cloud computing"--the idea that software will increasingly run in the network. These were originally planned as a single paper, but for structural and length reasons, I decided to break out the definitional piece, "Defining Cloud Computing." To tell the truth, I don't typically find formal taxonomies and categorizations especially interesting, but I thought it useful in this case to be clear about the topic under discussion.

The main research note, "The Cloud vs. Open Source," focuses on the relevancy of open source in a cloud computing world--and, especially, whether other types of protections and rights may not be more important than the right to view, modify, and redistribute source code. Tim O'Reilly has written and spoken on this topic.

At the just-concluded Sun Analyst Summit, I also had the opportunity to broach this topic with Simon Phipps, Sun's Open Source Officer. An interesting perspective that he added is that we're really talking about two different kinds of rights. One is essentially individual--the right for me to decide who can access what "data" that I "own" (whatever those terms mean exactly) and to transfer my data from one place to another. However, there's also the idea of what I'll call community or collective rights--the idea of reciprocal obligations associated with providing application programming interfaces and access.

One follow-up piece that I want to write when I have time will be something along the lines of "Why Not the Cloud?" in which I'll look at some of the inhibitors to moving computing into the network.

Finally, "The Future of the Operating System" looks at how changes in the way that we operate computers and deploy applications is starting to change how we view the operating system, a technology construct that, in important ways, hasn't really changed for decades. Server virtualization is the big driving force behind change here. However, virtualization is hardly unrelated to cloud computing--both through services like Amazon EC2 and, more conceptually, in the fact that virtualization is all about masking lower-level details from users.

These three Illuminata research notes are all available as free samples.