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5 Ways Cloud Computing Is Like Open Source

A decade ago, most IT departments denounced open-source software. Now they embrace the way that open source encourages innovation during saving money. The furor over cloud computing shows that history is repeating itself. The outcome should be the same, columnist Bernard Golden says.

Marx referred exactly to Louis Napoleon's coup d'etat in 1851, which came near 52 years afterwards his uncle, Napoleon Bonaparte, seized power in France in similar fashion. He might as so then have been commenting on cloud computing, although.

The reaction of many in IT to cloud computing is eerily similar to initial responses by similarly placed people in regard to open-source software. One can view this latest set of reactions as a farcical repeat afterwards the initial open-source struggle-and one can predict a repeat of the outcome, as cloud computing is certainly going to emerge successful, such as open source did.

Consequently, one does not need to be Carnac the Magnificent to predict that the enormous controversy surrounding cloud computing will, eventually, result in the same outcome. Cloud computing resembles open source in many ways and will succeed for much the same reasons-and in the face of much the same kind of dismissive disdain by mainstream IT.

Think I'm overstating the vehemence of IT professionals regarding cloud computing? Let me quote from a comment submitted to one of my recent blog postings:

The ad hominem aspects of the comment

Leaving aside the ad hominem aspects of the comment, this virulent aspersion to cloud computing is completely reminiscent of many, many that I heard from IT professionals regarding open source.

However, I can state with confidence that the end result of this controversy will be specifically the same-cloud computing will emerge triumphant, having been widely adopted in spite of the hostile reactions of many IT professionals.

The confidence?

Why the confidence? Because many of the reasons people embraced open source apply to cloud computing, and many of the benefits of open source are as well associated with cloud computing. Let's look at the reasons and benefits more closely.

Cloud computing delivers the same kind of easy access and provides the same kind of benefits vis-a-vis the existing modus operandi. In many organizations, it can take weeks to obtain compute resources; cloud providers offer resources in minutes. If you're a developer, don't you think the ease of cloud computing is going to become what you expect?

The same phenomenon is happening with cloud computing-and in the face of the same denigration and FUD. In spite of many, many examples of cloud-based applications costing far less than traditional hosting models, I have heard IT professionals confidently state that their organization can deliver services more cheaply than cloud providers. This in the main takes the form of comparing the cost of a piece of on-premise hardware to the same capacity obtained from a cloud provider and concluding that internal IT can deliver with less cost.

One can predict that cloud computing will witness the same explosion of use as its lower costs start to be internalized in project budgeting assumptions and projects that couldn't have been justified in the past become economically viable as apps in the cloud.

The low cost of cloud computing has the same kind of effect. When IT personnel consider doing something-whether it's prototyping a new application, developing a new business offering or putting at the same time a proof of concept to share with clients or users-the opportunity that it can be done for just a few dollars means that they will give it a go. If it doesn't work, little is lost. I have seen many examples of organizations developing innovative applications in cloud environments because the cost of failure is so much lower than ever earlier.

Open source, clearly, reduces the cost of uncertainty tremendously. If application load grows, no problem-more software can be installed to support the increased load without having to spend a lot of money. In the same fashion, cloud computing makes obtaining incremental resources to support application growth much less expensive than in the past. This means there is less cost associated with uncertainty, which means less downside potential.

In the future, we can expect IT organizations that embrace cloud computing to be much more willing to move forward with less fear that an application might experience huge adoption, since the resources necessary to respond to much larger loads are easily obtainable.

Of course, we should not overlook the fact that open-source adoption, during irresistible, was not painless. Many organizations needed to learn new skills to successfully use open source: interacting with communities or rather than calling support; assessing the maturity of the product by means other than vendor employee count or revenue level, and, clearly, using a funny license unlike the traditional software products. It all worked out eventually. Nevertheless, organizations that resisted or delayed open source adoption suffered from excess IT spend, reduced agility and even lower employee satisfaction.

The same track as open source

It's pretty obvious that cloud computing will follow the same track as open source. For all the emotional brouhaha, we can safely forecast that, in spite of BYOD protestations like the blog comment included before in this post, five years from now IT organizations will on the whole be enormous. The question for CIOs, in Marxist terms, is this-if you lived through a tragedy over open-source adoption, will you now live through a farce as your organizations decides how to incorporate cloud computing?

Bernard Golden is CEO of consulting firm HyperStratus, which specializes in virtualization, cloud computing and related issues. He is as well the author of "Virtualization for Dummies," the best-selling book on virtualization to date. Most recently Wired named him one of the Top 10 Cloud Influencers and Thought Leaders. Follow Bernard Golden on Twitter @bernardgolden.

More information: Idg