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Interview: Defining a true open architecture

Nurdianah Md Nur | Nov. 4, 2013
With all the hype around OpenStack, it is no surprise that vendors are trying to tie their products to the open source project. However, adding a proprietary solution to OpenStack will only negate its open nature. So what does it mean to have a truly open architecture?

It is based on open standards, or protocols and formats that are moving towards standardisation, that are independent of their implementation. Approaching interoperability so that the architecture is not under the control of individual vendors and are not tied to specific platforms offer important flexibility. This allows the API specification to evolve beyond implementation constraints, and creates the opportunity for communities and organisations to develop variants that meet their individual technical and commercial requirements.

It gives you the freedom to use IP. Recent history has repeatedly shown that there are few guarantees when a company owns IP on which you depend. Even if using some piece of proprietary IP is today tacitly tolerated, there are no guarantees for tomorrow in the event of a change of ownership or financial situation. The only guarantee is to use technology that is free from any required or potentially required licenses or other restrictions. So-called "de facto standards," which are often "standards" only insofar as they are promoted by a large vendor, often fail this test.

It is pluggable and extensible with an open API. This lets users add features, providers, and technologies from a variety of vendors or other sources. Critically, the API itself cannot be under the control of a specific vendor or tied to a specific implementation, but must be under the auspices of a third-party organisation that allows for contributions and extensions in an open and transparent manner. Deltacloud, an API that abstracts the differences between clouds, provides a good example. It is under the auspices of the Apache Software Foundation and is neither a Red Hat-controlled project nor tied to a particular implementation of cloud management.

Q: How does adding a proprietary virtualisation solution to OpenStack negate its open nature?
RB: One of the key drivers/motivation for enterprises and telcos to embrace OpenStack is to get away from the vendor lock-in. In that context, continuing to invest in proprietary virtualisation solution takes away from their efforts. Also, OpenStack is based on a public cloud model of massive scalability, which magnifies the cost of proprietary virtualisation and makes larger clouds less economically viable.

Q: What should companies take into consideration before moving from a traditional to a virtualised environment, and later on to the cloud?
RB: The first and foremost consideration organisations should have is to be able to own their own destiny from an IT perspective. This would mean investing in an open platform that is backed by a credible vendor and an ecosystem that stands behind it. Juxtapose this to the widely reported claims by a proprietary vendor to "own" customer's workloads/data centre, you realise the importance of this strategy. The second key consideration is the ability to pick a solution that can get the organisation to a hybrid cloud environment as the eventual destination since there are trade-offs associated with adopting private and public cloud across security, privacy, compliance and economics.  


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