Why the hybrid cloud has to be built on open source

Adam Jollans
11th August 2020

A recent study[1] showed that most organisations are only 20% of the way into their cloud journeys. They’ve built the new cloud-native apps and migrated the easy applications, but the remaining 80% of workloads are still running in the data centres.

This 80% includes mission-critical applications, systems that need the highest levels of security, and workloads that are just too complex to migrate efficiently to the public cloud.

Open Source and the Public Cloud

Much of the cloud of course has been built on open source – and it’s fair to say that the public cloud which exists today does so in large part due to open source.

According to a Linux Foundation report[2], 90% of the public cloud is powered by Linux.  OpenStack – the leading cloud Infrastructure-as-a-Service software – is open source. And the new cloud-native application development and deployment tools – containers and Kubernetes – are open source.

Three key reasons for open source being used in the infrastructure of the public cloud are agility, community, and innovation:

  • Agility: Open source projects can be very quickly spun up, tested, and enhanced to respond to user needs.
  • Community: Open source projects can rapidly attract new contributors, developers and users, and so grow exponentially.
  • Innovation: Open source projects are where much of the software innovation is today, enabling inventors to get started quickly and then “stand on the shoulders of giants”.

Different Types of Cloud

But the cloud is more than just public cloud:

  • Security and availability demands – especially for banks and governments – have triggered the deployment of private clouds – clouds within an organisation’s firewall but with a similar approach to shared resources and on-demand provisioning.
  • Software-as-a-Service offerings and differing service level and cost expectations for different workloads have led to organisations using multiple public clouds.
  • Regulatory demands for locality of data have led to satellite clouds – part of a public cloud but deployed locally within a country or region.
  • 5G and the Internet-of-Things are spawning new clouds on the edge.
  • And traditional on-premises applications that run much of the world’s mission-critical systems are being modernised with frontends in the cloud while data remains secure and centralised in persistent storage.

The result is many organisations using a range of multiple clouds, on-premises and off-premises, public and private – in order to meet the varied needs of their business.

And with this comes complexity, silos, and the risk of vendor lock-in.

Hybrid Cloud

To address this, the concept of the “hybrid cloud” has emerged – bringing together all the various clouds and on-premises computing resources that an organisation uses, and presenting a single image for developers, systems administrators, and users:

  • Deployment flexibility across multiple clouds, matching workloads to desired qualities of service, optimising for available resources, and minimising costs
  • Application portability across public cloud, private cloud, and on-premises systems – reducing the risk of vendor lock-in, and enabling workloads to be located close to the data, where performance is greatest, or where the cost is lowest
  • Integrated management and orchestration of applications, making it easy and automatic to move workloads across public and private clouds

Open Source and Hybrid Cloud

The same reasons that open source is powering the public cloud apply to the hybrid cloud – agility, community, and innovation – but even more so because hybrid cloud is a mixture of different clouds rather than a single cloud environment:

  • Agility: to enable applications to move between clouds in the hybrid cloud world, and across multiple architectures to embrace both the datacenter and the edge
  • Community: to enable public and private clouds to work together – for example through open source and open standards from groups such as the Cloud Native Computing Federation
  • Innovation: to bring together the brightest people in multiple organisations to solve the new challenges and reduce the barriers to the emergence of new ideas

Linux still provides the foundation – but now adding containers for application packaging and portability, Kubernetes for orchestration across multiple servers, and many more.

Only open source can do this, because it offers common technologies across different clouds, benefits from open forums which inspire technology providers and businesses to contribute towards a common goal, and thrives in the white heat of the bazaar to allow the best approaches to emerge.

The Journey to Open Hybrid Cloud

Organisations are on a journey to cloud – driven by the need to accelerate new business applications, reduce the cost of computing, and integrate new workloads with existing data.

And, like every journey, the best roads are open.

 Adam Jollans has been involved in Linux and open source for 20 years and is currently Product Marketing Manager for Linux on IBM’s Z and LinuxONE enterprise systems.

[1] “Next-generation hybrid cloud powers next-generation business”, IBM Institute for Business Value

[2] “State of Linux Kernel Development”, Linux Foundation

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