Open and shut cloud

Following on from the previous post about cloud and open source, I discover a number of further reports with varying opinions.

First of al, the September/October 2011 edition of ITU – UKauthorITy in Use has a report by Dan Jellinek of a live debate on Open Standards in the public sector. In it Bill McCluggage states that the UK government is set to publish a draft list of ten or twelve open standards that are likely to include ones such as HTTPS, Unicode UTF8 and word processing formats. McCluggage also disagrees with the PASC recommendation that government “should omit references to proprietary products and formats in procurement notices”, something I find rather strange, when this is clearly a useful, if limited, way forward.

In contrast a story in the MIT Technology Review by Michael Fitzgerald dated 6 October 2011 entitled “Can an Open Cloud Compete?” agrees with an earlier opinion stating “most cloud services are proprietary, and the technology used to run them is kept secret. Once a company signs up for one cloud service, it can be difficult to move to another provider”. As a contrast it then goes on to describe the OpenStack conference in Boston, USA and some other new projects developing both open cloud software, and hardware.

A further opinion supporting open cloud is in the May 17 2011 Linux Journal in a piece by Bernardo David entitled “Open Source Cloud Computing with Hadoop” describing the large number of major users of Hadoop including Google, Amazon and others. The risks involved in cloud are highlighted in an article in Guardian Government Computing 10 October 2011 by Mike Small explaining that “the cloud is not a single model, but covers a wide spectrum from applications shared between multiple tenants to virtual servers used by one customer”, something I described before.

With these contrasting opinions of whether cloud can be open or even whether when using open source it remains open, the only option for the user is to ensure that any procurement notice or contract ensures that they are not locked into any form of proprietary software or hardware by the supplier, patentee or owner of any intellectual property involved. A veritable legal minefield until the dust cloud settles.

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