Open Source Cloud Computing

open-source cloud computing

This executive briefing is about open source cloud computing. I’m sure that you would have heard the word open source. Additionally, I’m confident that you are familiar with the word cloud computing.

In this executive briefing, we are going to talk about how you can implement open-source cloud computing efficiently and easily. We will start by understanding various options available with open source cloud computing.

And right following that. We will talk about how you can select the best open source cloud computing solution for your organization.

As a leader, one of the most interesting tasks you have is to prepare your organization. As well as individuals for their journey to cloud computing.

Later in this post, we will discuss what kind of questions you should ask your team and stakeholders, which can help you to build a robust strategic road map.

Now, pay special attention to the word which I have used here. I have said cloud computing and have not to say open-source cloud computing.

During this briefing, I have no intention to get you biased with a one‑sided conversation.

I want to make sure that you understand that what it takes to adopt open source cloud computing. And what are the common challenges with it.

I also want to make sure that you select the best cloud product for your organization. The reality is that we are already using cloud products and solutions in one form or another form. Now, when we have to make a decision about the future direction of the people and organization. We should make an informed decision, which leads to success.

What Is Open Source cloud computing?

Before we go any further, let us understand three important terms:

  1. The first one is open source.
  2. The second one is cloud.
  3. The third one is open source cloud.

Do not worry, it is not going to be a boring theory. We will just discuss some important concepts which are critical in our decision-making, about how to get started with open source cloud.

Definition of open source

Let us start with a quick definition of open source. Open source, or OS, refers to anything that general people can modify and share, as its access and designs are publicly available.

If any organization or people create any software and maintain exclusive control over it, it is called closed source or proprietary software.

In closed‑source software, the organizations that made them are the ones who can change anything in the software and make a profit from it.

Common examples for open source are MySQL, CloudStack, while the popular close source software is Microsoft Office, SQL Server, AWS, EC2.

Now honestly, we can talk about this for hours, however, I will sum this up by mentioning a single most important advantage of open‑source technology. And that is optimal control and freedom. Open source gives control to users on usage, modification, and distribution of the code.

This leads to a superior quality of code, stable releases, a simpler licensing model, and an amazing, supportive, vibrant community around it.

Before we end, I must address a common myth, which often comes up when open‑source technology is discussed. Open source does not mean it is free. Many think that any software which is open source is free. This is actually a big misconception. There are many open‑source products out there that are not free.

The open‑source movement is built around the openness of the code and not based on the pricing model. Well now that we talked about open-source, it is time to discuss cloud.

Advantages of Cloud Computing

Now that we have discussed the open-source, let us talk about cloud computing. Let me ask you, what is cloud computing?

  • On a lighter note, the cloud is somebody else’s computer, and on a serious note, I will say it is true. It is somebody else’s computer that we can use when needed.
  • Cloud computing means the servers with different software and hardware on the internet, are available to access as and when we need them. The servers in the cloud are usually located in many different data centers all over the world.
  • Cloud computing enables and uses to access the same files, applications, and databases from any device as long as they are connected via the internet.

Here are some popular examples. Email services, Gmail, or Office 365. Storage services, Dropbox, Google Drive, and any other system like OneDrive for computing services like AWS and Azure.

Why move to cloud computing?

What are the 3 common reasons to move to cloud computing?

I have been working in this field for quite many years, and I can confidently tell you, while there are many reasons to move to cloud computing, I personally believe the following are the three primary reasons for anyone to move to the cloud:

The first one is cost-saving: By moving away from your on‑premises setup, now you do not have to manage, update, or upgrade your infrastructure. One can save lots of fortune by just doing this thing.

The second one is lack of infrastructure: It is not possible for a startup or a small business to have every single piece of infrastructure to build their final product.

The third one is business compliance: Due to various regulations around the world, often it is mandatory to follow the business flow, which puts the business in a situation where they have to use certain workflow, as well as infrastructure, which is not possible on-premises.

These are the primary three reasons why anyone goes to cloud computing. Now that we know what is open source and is cloud computing. Let us put them together and get a complete picture of what is open-source cloud computing. And what unique advantages it brings to the table.

Better Together: Open Source and Cloud computing

Now is the time to talk about open-source cloud computing. An open-source cloud is any cloud service or application that is developed using open source technologies.

It means your cloud computing can be public, private, hybrid, or even multi‑cloud, as long as it is built with the help of open source technologies.

Open source cloud computing provides all the benefits for open source as well as cloud computing. Let us discuss the three most important advantages why one should go for open source cloud computing:

Advantages and benefits of choosing an open-source cloud computing

What are the advantages and benefits of choosing an open-source cloud service provider?

No Vendor Lock‑in: The primary attraction of various organizations towards open-source cloud computing is because of no vendor lock‑in requirement. Now, any enterprise can decide the vendor partner based on their requirement and also can make the necessary adjustment themselves on the platform.
Royalty-Free Community Distribution: Another critical advantage of the Open Source cloud is the availability of the source code and community surrounding it. As there is no vendor monopoly, the use of free and open standards makes the community adopt the code to adjust according to their needs. Additionally, the community can also redistribute copies of the original or modified software without paying any royalty to anyone.
Increased Interoperability: If you are a CTO the advantage of the increased interoperability will matter most to you. Across the globe, the CTOs and IT infrastructure leaders will agree that their life will be much easier if various platforms and infrastructures can easily integrate with each other, and if they can build once and use it multiple times across the ecosystem. One of the biggest expenditures any organization can save is by using the proven software stacks.

Now that we know what is open source cloud computing and understand its advantages.

Let us discuss how we can get started with it and get the most out of it.

Two Options for Open Source Cloud computing

It is easy to understand the definition and advantages of open-source cloud computing. But it is equally difficult to express the process to get started with it.

Open source cloud computing is not a product or software, it is actually a collection of open‑source applications which are working together to build an ecosystem.

I have been part of the cloud journey in many organizations. And have seen the dilemma when they reach the point when they want to start their journey to open source cloud computing.

  • The option number one: is to build a cloud computing solution from scratch with the help of open‑source software like Linux, Docker, or Scala.
  • The second option: is to adopt an already‑built open source cloud platform like OpenStack or Cloud Foundry, and add more components to it as and when needed.

Now, let us not make a decision right away about which option is the best for your organization. Based on what I have experienced and seen in the industry. I do have a preference for one of the options, which we’ll discuss in the next section.

For the moment, I want to give you space to think and dwell on what we have discussed so far. Here is a small task for you.

1- Question number one: is does any of the advantages which we discussed so far really appeal to you and the vision of your organization. If yes, which one is it?

2- Question number two: will you build your open-source cloud computing solution from scratch using other open‑source software, or jump-start with an existing open-source cloud platform, keeping options to add more components open?

Once you answer the two questions, it is time to get started with the next part, where we will go over the checklist for the best open-source cloud computing, and also discuss the leader’s role in implementing open-source cloud for your organization.

Organizational Open Source Cloud

In the previous section, we understood what is open‑source cloud computing, and what are its advantages.

Right before the section ended, we discussed two different ways one can get started with open source cloud computing.

Starting cloud solution from Scratch

The first option is to build the cloud solution from scratch with the help of various open‑source software.

Now, this option is great for your organization in two cases, if you are going to build your own cloud ecosystem like AWS, Azure, or Rackspace, and the second case is if you are leading a long‑term vision for your organization to build a proprietary cloud ecosystem crafted to your requirements.

Now, in both cases, you’ll need a lot of time, money, and help from skilled professionals. You’ll need a solid multi‑road map with amazing sets of individuals leading various milestones with an elaborate budget. Now, do you think I’m trying to scare you here? Well, that is not true.

Actually, my intention is that you have a clear idea about the requirements to build a flagship product. Remember, when you start out from scratch, you’ll need to build different technology layers for your cloud platform.

Let us take a look at the table, which list various technology layers:

The first column is about the technology layer, and the second column contains popular open‑source products associated with it.

Technology LayerProduct
VirtualizationDocker, KVM, etc
Cloud PlatformOpenStack, Cloudify, Cloud Foundry, etc
Database PlatformMySQL, MongoDB, etc
IaaSCloudStack, OpenStack, etc
PaaSLinux, Ubuntu, etc
SaasTomcat, LibreOffice, etc
ManagementScalr, Mesos, etc
Broker Platform / APIsOpen Service Broker API, etc
SecurityOauth2, OpenID, etc
MarketplaceBeYourMarket, MarketShop, etc

Now, remember, the list of the products can be extremely long, and I have only included one or two products here.

One more thing, I want to clarify that you do not how to use the product I have suggested here, however, if you are new to this technology, the list can help you get started.

While starting from scratch might sound like a daunting task, I will not underplay and state otherwise. I agree it may be complex, long, and an exhaustive process, but the end result will be indeed rewarding. At this moment, I must remind you that it is not necessary to always start from the beginning. We can always take the help of a solid base and jump-start our journey. Let us discuss that next

Jumpstart Open Source Cloud Computing

If you are a leader of your organization and want to get started with open-source cloud computing.

I strongly suggest that you first start from the infrastructure as a service layer and select the cloud platform with a proven track record.

Once you select the desired cloud platform, it becomes very easy to select the various components of the technology layers. In the real world, I have seen quite often that organizations do not need an entire technology stake to build the perfect cloud computing.

Every organization has different requirements, and it is quite possible that many of the common business requirements may be satisfied by the cloud platform itself. In the open market, there are many different cloud computing platforms.

I will be discussing three of the most popular cloud platforms from the infrastructure as a service perspective.

It is always easy to hire skilled IT professionals when the platform has already built its user base out in the industry. Let’s see each of them.

Cloud Platforms: OpenStack or CloudStack or OpenShift or Others

Let me remind you of the reasons we are going for open‑source cloud computing, reliability, skilled professionals, and no vendor locking.

Open Source Cloud Platform: OpenStack

Now, let us discuss the first popular cloud platform, which is OpenStack. OpenStack started in 2010 as a joint project of Rackspace and NASA. It essentially represents a set of open‑source software tools for building and managing a cloud‑computing platform.

While OpenStack primary qualifies under IaaS, it is actually way more than just an infrastructure partner. It does provide all the components to build an end‑to‑end cloud platform. If you are not sure where to start, I believe OpenStack is the right place to start.

Open Source Cloud Platform: CloudStack.

The second one is CloudStack.

CloudStack is open‑source software designed to deploy and manage large networks of virtual machines as a highly‑available, highly‑scalable Infrastructure as a Service cloud computing platform. It is developed by Apache.

Open Source Cloud Platform: OpenShift.

The third one I want to discuss is OpenShift.

OpenShift, by Red Hat, allows developers to quickly develop, host, and scale applications. And deploy a hybrid cloud environment with the help of Kubernetes.

Not every organization needs to build every single component of the cloud. And sometimes it just makes sense to use a solution like OpenShift. It will help you get started with a container‑based approach to your cloud’s journey.

While I’ll mention only three platforms here, there are many other platforms and tools out there. I strongly suggest that before you select any one of the tools which I’ve just discussed. You should check out various other tools like Cloudify, Tsuru, Cloud Foundry, or Stackato.

Well, now you have a good idea of what the options are available for you to get started with your journey. Let us discuss the checklist, which can help you select the best open‑source cloud computing for your organization.

The best open‑source cloud computing

The biggest question an organization leader often faces is how to select the best cloud computing platform for their own business.

Additionally, when they are going with open source cloud computing, they need to also pay attention to a couple of other attributes as well, which are only relevant to open source.

Checklist for Suitable Platform

Here is a checklist that you should align with your organization’s goals and business requirements:

Once you have a checklist ready, you should take that and map it with various available cloud solutions out there. The solution, which scores the most against your checklist, should be the choice for your organization.

How to select the best cloud computing platform?

Time needed: 30 minutes.

How to select the best cloud computing platform for your business?

  1. The first thing you need to check is technical architecture and roadmap:

    A robust and reliable platform will have a sound cloud storage architecture, disaster recovery strategies, interoperability, service continuity plans, as well as a roadmap of innovation.

  2. The next important thing is to check security and audit:

    It is critical to know how the data is protected at rest, as well as when it is moving. It is important to understand the management of internal security audits, incident reports, and criminal actions.

  3. Along with security, it is equally relevant to focus on compliance:

    With regulatory requirements like HIPAA, SOC 2, and privacy laws like GDPR, it is almost mandatory to have an audit mechanism, as well as a process of onboarding new compliance requirements.

  4. The next point in the checklist is management tools:

    A set of good toolsets sets apart a great cloud from a good cloud. While tools vary based on business needs, the possibility of integration of them with the main workflow is worth researching.

  5. Now, let us talk about service‑level agreements or SLA:

    Make sure that the next cloud platform you choose has detailed documentation about terms of accessibility, serviceability, capacity, response times, and scalability, which aligns with your organization’s goal.

  6. The second to the last point is business health and community strength:

    Always check the track report of stability and innovation for the cloud platform. Once the project is successful, it becomes increasingly important to have skilled IT professionals available to bring the necessary progress.

  7. The last and final point is cost:

    Often the cost on the paper looks very attractive, but the auxiliary costs, like third‑party integration, dynamic configuration of resources, as well as change in plan, adds up to a huge burden on the budget.

I’m very confident these seven essential checks will help you select the best possible cloud solution for your organization. Now, with this, it’s time to discuss the final bit of our conversation.

Role of Leaders in Open Source Cloud Computing Journey

Everything so far we have discussed can be called a strategy, brainstorming, or wondering. Once the cloud platform is discussed.

The next important task is to build a plan to implement an open-source cloud solution.

Here are five key steps you can follow to start the journey of open source cloud computing in your organization.

1- Workload Analysis and Application Classification

It is very vital to understand what applications, data, and processes can be moved to the cloud, and what needs to stay in the hybrid model.

Not every application can be moved to the cloud immediately. Contradictory to what most believe, the biggest challenge of moving any workload to the cloud is not the technology, but the regulatory compliance and privacy laws.

2- Building Business Case for Leadership buy‑in

Once the classification of the workload and application is completed, it is relatively easy to build a good business case for the leadership buy‑in.

A leader should build a business case involving the following three concepts:

  • first one, service level agreement
  • second one, business health
  • third one, cost analysis

My observation says when the course analysis is presented, often it brings closure as the financial discussion shifts from capital expenditure to operating expenditure.

3- Technical Roadmap:

You can use the checklist from the previous paragraph to build a technical roadmap for your business.

When the technical roadmap is built for the solution, one should make sure that it is robust, scalable, and use optimal resources.

While flexibility is the key, it is important to remember to use the standards.

4- Timeline and Readiness of Human Resources

Once the technical roadmap is built, now it is time as a leader to answer one of the most important questions about the cost. T

he longer the timeline to complete the project, the more cost is often involved with it.

This is when the leader has to make a very difficult decision. Either you can build the entire solution in‑house or involve an organization that has the experience to build that. The decision is easy if your technical roadmap is more close to reality.

5- Feedback, Support, and Innovation:

Once the project is in the process or completed, the job of the leader is not over. It is very important to get the necessary feedback on the project and build the next technical roadmap on it. If the feedback is good, it is easier to focus on the next part of the innovation in the platform.

However, if the feedback is negative, it is critical for leaders to build a support system to rectify all the inefficiency.

let us summarize what we have discussed

Well, I think with this we have reached the end of our executive briefing. We started with a simple definition and continued our conversation discussing various available options, checklists, and methodology to implement open source cloud computing.

While it has been amazing for me to discuss this topic with you, our conversation should not stop here. Please feel free to reach out to me any time with your questions, concerns, or feedback. Open source cloud computing is an ever-changing reality, and it will bring new challenges to our desks every day.

Alright then, have a great day and stay in touch. We hope you enjoyed this course. If you’re interested in more content for technical leaders, the content we keep short and focused with the up‑to‑date information you need to be informed and make decisions but without getting buried in the details, find other Posts like this at

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Written by Sbihi Mohamed


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