February 17, 2017

Cloud A-Z Part 9: Remarkable benefits of open source cloud


By Sher Miller
Cloud Marketing Manager
Arrow ECS


It’s hard to overstate the impact open source has had in the field of technology, especially on the development of the internet. Many would argue that open source is a hotbed of innovation and that the internet wouldn’t be anywhere near as far along as it is without it. This begs the question, “How will open source impact the cloud?” Based on its impact on the web, we can only believe it will drive adoption and innovation for cloud as well.

As with any other market where you have a multitude of choices and initiatives underway, it’s critical you understand the landscape and approaches to “Open Cloud.” Only by understanding the possibilities is it possible to gauge the direction in which the cloud is developing and be able to guide your customers appropriately.

Open Source Success Stories

  • The Web: One of the reasons the web grew so fast was that much of it was built on top of the LAMP stack, the original Open Source software solution. LAMP can be defined as:
    • Linux operating system
    • Apache HTTP server
    • MySQL database
    • Perl, PHP or Python language

To put this in perspective, as of 2016 Apache and Nginx – both open source servers – account for 83.1% of all global web servers; while Microsoft IIS, a proprietary platform, accounts for a mere 11.5%. This would indicate the rapid growth and evolution of the web is due to the widespread adoption of Open Source technologies – technologies which encourage innovation, experimentation and democratization.

  • The Android OS: With the growing popularity of cell phones, and the explosive arrival of the iPhone, a competitive answer was needed. Google and the Open Handset Alliance came together to create Android, an Open Source solution designed specifically for mobile devices. The experiment to see if a more flexible operating system would encourage innovation and drive adoption was a success. Android went from a 2.8% global share in Q2 2009 to a 33% market share by Q4 2010 and 86.8% of the market share as of 3Q16. The ability of this operating system to be customized by manufacturers for a particular device and market is the driving force behind the rapid adoption of the Android OS.

Open Source for Cloud

Though cloud computing is different from mobile phones and similar to the web, they are all disruptive technologies. It’s arguable that the cloud would derive the same benefits from an Open Source approach as past disruptive technologies. There are a couple of reasons this may be the case.

  • Innovation is a Group Effort: As you’ve seen with other disruptive technologies, it’s difficult to deliver this alone. History has shown that innovation is more efficient and of higher quality when it’s the result of many organizations working on their own, but toward a common goal. Because cloud computing is disruptive and a new way of doing business, it follows that many organizations working to improve it under a common set of standards will result in the best outcome.
  • Vendor Lock-In Creates Twice the Complexity: Open Source is a direct answer to concerns about vendor lock-in. Vendor lock-in creates added difficulty when end users want to update, move, or otherwise modify their applications or data or do other transformative projects. In the cloud, vendor lock-in not only defines where the data sits, but also what format it’s in – creating twice the problem and twice the attractiveness of Open Source. Open Source encourages choice on multiple levels.

Open Initiatives in the Cloud

  • APIs: Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) are the tools that allow disparate software programs to communicate and work with each other. In the cloud, APIs allow developers to automate their cloud operations, allowing them to focus on developing the application rather than running the application. It’s fair to say these are critical to cloud innovation.
  • Hypervisors: Virtualization is key to increasing computing efficiency and hypervisors or key in virtualization. Therefore, hypervisors are key to increasing computing efficiency. Proprietary hypervisors own this market by a large percent but that doesn’t negate the fact that organizations looking for flexibility are leveraging open source hypervisors such as KVM and Xen, which are slowly eating away and the proprietary market share.
  • Open Compute: Compute is the ability to leverage physical servers in a data center. Historically the focus has been on scalability and provisioning but as we move forward in the evolution of the cloud more focus is being given to empowering users. Top trends of 2016 included:
    • Containers: Docker, an open source focused on containers, has established containers and devops as the next step in evolution after server virtualization.
    • Collaboration: The popularity of Facebook and Skype within personal space is driving the adoption of similar tools within the business space. Currently proprietary solutions are dominating but they are facing serious competition from open source alternatives, which will offer similar capabilities but without the lock in and with the ability to be customized.
    • Artificial Intelligence: Deep learning techniques are enabling computers to model a neural network and teach themselves by using multiple processing layers.


Cloud computing is becoming a proven and accepted technology and, as with all established technologies, there is ongoing innovation and experimentation occurring. In order to maximize these efforts, the development and adoption of Open Source solutions built upon Open Standards is key. Only in this way can the flexibility and freedom inherent in Open Source solutions be leveraged to evolve cloud technology in the most efficient and useful ways possible to develop the best result.

Contact Us

If you have additional questions about these challenges or would like more information on Arrow’s cloud services, contact ECSCloudServices@arrow.com or call 1.877.558.6677.


Abstracted from Rackspace’s “Does Data Want to be Free? Exploring Issues in the Open Cloud from Vendor Lock-in to Open Standards.”