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Managing the cloud

manage cloudMoving power into the cloud would be all for naught if the cost of managing data outweighed the cost-savings provided by cloud solutions. Open-source management software is designed to deploy and manage large networks of virtual machines as a highly available, highly scalable Infrastructure as a Services cloud computing platform. The debate between the benefits of open-source management tools versus their proprietary counterparts had been widely debated for many years. The points on either side remained largely static until the advent of the cloud landscape.

However, now that the question has been shot into the clouds, the debate has drastically changed. As cloud solutions tend to be both more agile and more adaptive, it seems clear that an open source management tool would be the solution for cloud management. As our concept and use of the cloud evolves, and open source management tool—developed on a continuous basis—can keep up with changes over time. “The pressure on IT today is to deliver more serves to its internal and external customers whiles optimising resources and cutting costs,” says Faycal Saile, General Manager, Middle East African and Turkey, Red Hat.

The industry is moving more and more towards cloud based deployments. As of today, many popular worldwide applications are served over cloud-based infrastructures. This trend is increasing with a dependency on the selection of a vendor with specific hypervisor, cloud execution environment and the orchestrator suite with open initiatives like Linux, Android and OpenStack. It is key, therefore, for CIOs to choose wisely when it comes to management solutions for their cloud computing infrastructures.

Open-source solutions of all kind bring with them the freedom of flexibility. “Open environments means more flexibility for the vendor as well as for its customers. A development community continuously enriches the features and capabilities to support both vendors and customers,” Murat Sahinoglu, Head of EP COS, Ericsson Regional Middle East.

In addition to it’s adaptability, open source solutions to cloud management tend to relieve in house IT departments from having to manage a suite of vendor specific software. “Any cloud solution, once deployed, is likely to be placed in the hands of an ‘Operations and Management’ team who may not themselves be cloud professionals. Open-source becomes even more valuable here as it reduces the level of skill that such a cross discipline solution would normally require to support effectively,” Glen Ogden, Regional Sales Director, Middle East, A10 Networks.

In addition, open-source management solutions allow systems to be updated quickly and continuously through the adoption of subscription models. Buying into a subscription model gives customers regular access to all supported versions of management software in both binary and source form, including security updates and patches. “Life cycle management of the enabling platform is a key,” explains Sahinoglu, “For that reason, packaging and distribution is a good way to assure the support and life cycle management of an open-source system. Although this approach will create some additional maintenance costs and will limit the total flexibility, it will enable the organisation to benefit from both aspects; using open systems and guaranteeing the support and LCM of the platform.” Sahinoglu.

Buying into an open-source solution essentially gives the customer access to a community of ever evolving developers, rather than tying the business down with one vendor or utilising limited, in-house resources. “Open-source has the benefit of being worked on by a much larger group talented individuals that one single company can usually possess,” explains Ogden, “On top of this, employees within a company deploying a cloud solution based on open-source can be part of the open source community delivering the tool, making it much easier for organisations to have influence on features in comparison to the traditional vendor model.”

The price for the open access to a community of developers, is that responsibility for the open source coding can be a grey area. Open-source isn’t owned and therefore, when things go wrong or support issues arise CIOs are left that the mercy of the community to fix them. A recent example of this is the Heartbleed vulnerability that was discovered in the popular Open SSL code. The bug affected countless companies and there was no individual or firm to be blamed. As such, there was no right to compensation and no guarantee on service levels as to when a patch would be developed.

Still, in theory, an open source model allows for higher quality, more secure and more integrated software. Access to an entire community of developers has proved to be a solution that meets the rate of innovation needed in today’s world of cloud management. A single vendor company would be hard-pressed to develop a cloud management solution that is heterogeneous and meets the pace of cloud innovation while keeping costs low.

Though the initial start-up costs of implementing an open source cloud management solution may be lower than the overall costs of its traditional counterpart, there are still some “soft” costs that CIOs need to keep in mind when determining which solution is best for an organisation or enterprise. “Some of the costs that CIOs need to be aware of stem from their own IT departments. Skills may not be present in their own staff so training or outsourcing may be required. The open source software code needs maintenance, updates and support,” explains Saile.

In addition to costs, CIOs need to identify which core components and applications in their infrastructure can be managed by the open source cloud management solution, then ensure that they create a software development lifecycle methodology for the specific cloud management software. The solution itself should not be disruptive to existing processes, policies and procedures. Additionally, the solution should offer the ability to scale out and the flexibility to adapt to new infrastructure components and applications.
Saile adds that CIOs need to consider how the software will be managed and updated before selecting a management solution, “Many factors that need to be considered in selecting any open source management solution, such as the community that is ultimately driving the development of the solution and how the upstream contributions are ultimately released in a packaged product ready for an enterprise wide deployment as one specific user case.”

Open source systems might have had some maturity issues at the beginning, but today they have proved that they are mature enough. For example OpenStack was started with 2010, but evolved very quickly. Today, CERN OpenStack Cloud has been in production since July 2013, now has around 40,000 cores and produces around 35PB of data size yearly.

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