Cloud Computing and Open Source

Does Cloud Computing and SaaS concept undermines the Open Source model? In my opinion, SaaS and open source are complementary and not competitors.

Let us reason together. Looking at the value chain of business software can think of three basic questions:

a) Who builds the software?
b) Who distributes and adds value?
c) Who uses it?

To answer the first question that the software can be created by a community or business, either for themselves or for sale. The Open Source model fits in this case. It’s basically a model of creation and software development. Being a collaborative model, it lets you create new business models, alternative to the traditional license sales. The revenue usually comes from added services around the software itself.

Since SaaS is a model of software distribution and consumption. A company or a user purchases a service that uses certain software. For example, a user gets the right to use a mail service like Gmail, for free as an end user or paying a fee as a company.

Analyzing the value chain of software, we can see that Open Source fits into question “who builds the software?”, and therefore is a model of development, whether the software will be distributed via model on-premise or via SaaS.

Let’s see some examples in practice. Linux is an operating system developed by the community and an icon of the Open Source movement. The community itself and some companies will add value to it, in the form of adjacent components and utilities such as distributors, and provide, for free or contract service as remuneration for value. In the current model, on-premise, who takes care of downloading the software on servers and customize it for the user and company itself, on its own or contracting services out. But it can be used as SaaS? Yes, indeed, many of the public offerings of Cloud hosting and SaaS existing today use Linux and other open source software as a base, adding closed-source software to their offerings. The well-known example is Google AppEngine, which is supported by Linux servers and virtualization software and open source management, such as Xen.

There are also several open source projects that allow you to create private clouds infrastructure based on Linux. The user of public cloud or SaaS offerings, be it a person or company, will use the service or the features that will be provided the cloud, not the source.

Moreover, to be profitable to a provider of SaaS software needs to be based on three pillars: virtualized environment and multi-tenancy, standardization and automation. However, a standardized environment doesn’t allow each user to customize the software or change the code to your pleasure. It is different than on-premise model where the responsibility for good or bad use of the software is a user company. SaaS provider is responsible for the level of service and may not offer individualized versions otherwise they will not have the economy of scale to be profitable. Build and maintain an operational infrastructure cloud service (SaaS is a model of public cloud) high investment demand.

On the other hand, a public cloud provider or a SaaS offering can open the source code of its software to achieve community collaboration and accelerate the innovation process. But the software delivered as SaaS will not open. Users must have access to the same software version and that provider has to close the version available in the cloud.

Of course, if the software is open source we can always copy it and create our own public clouds. To create differentiation in service, each provider will end up having to create specific functions and differentials, including using some software components closed. The end result is increased competition, which will be healthy for the market as a whole.

Thus, if the user wants to modify a particular open source software to run on a cloud feature that interest specifically to them, they will have an option to use this software in a cloud IaaS, taking responsibility for its use.

In my perception, the use of Open Source operating in synergy with closed software can open opportunities for creation of Cloud and SaaS offerings faster and cheaper.

What is your opinion?



One thought on “Cloud Computing and Open Source

  1. sean

    I agree that open source and cloud computing are "complementary and not competitors."

    There is a new OSS application, called Sheetster Standing Cloud, that displays how open source can be effectively utilized in the cloud. People can host their open source private cloud web spreadsheet server.

    The product shows how private cloud computing is starting to gain popularity, as many users are leery about having their data handled by a third-party vendor. Public clouds just do not offer enough security and privacy.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *