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The defining traits of open cloud technology

Open standards help companies avoid vendor lock in.

The open design philosophy has been gaining traction throughout the IT industry, with many valuable contributions coming from open source software. However, businesses have increasingly applied the paradigm to other areas, including cloud infrastructure. TechCrunch columnist Alex Williams recently identified some of the defining traits of open cloud technology that he extracted from conversations at VMware's annual conference and Linux's CloudOpen:

  • An open Application Programming Interface to facilitate collaboration
  • A developer community to contribute to the platform
  • No proprietary solutions
  • A federated cloud environment

These concepts translate to significant advantages for businesses that are able to optimize the technology according to their needs. For example, the lack of proprietary technology makes it easier for companies to move assets between disparate cloud environments and utilize new hardware when there is a need to upgrade. In many cases, this plays a significant role in driving down total cost of ownership since customers can buy only the resources they need.

"The two shows demonstrate how the cloud world is maturing. And as it matures, the stakes will get higher," William wrote. "This is quite evident when you consider how much VMware is trying to move beyond its traditional story about virtualization. Not only has the company has asked to join OpenStack, it is talking about IT support for Amazon Web Services. VMware is definitely singing a different tune than we have heard before."

Traditional IT solutions can place many constraints on technology decision makers, which the push for more freely available APIs and design information has addressed. According to Red Hat business unit manager Colin McCabe, open standards have become essential for success in the cloud. McCabe told ZDNet this approach amplifies the flexibility of the technology itself while giving companies the freedom to switch vendors as their needs evolve.