Open source cloud

October 12, 2011

I’ve written quite a few posts regarding the value of both ‘cloud’ and ‘open source’ computing in government service. However, a recent comment I saw elsewhere suggested that ‘cloud’ computing retained many of the issues of ‘proprietary’ software, and that whilst ‘open source’ should be welcomed, ‘cloud’ shouldn’t.

With the UK central government, being keen to save money whenever it can, it has made many supportive noises about ‘open source’, but there have been few examples of major use, although a recent piece in UKauthority reported that Bristol City Council had been informed that there were no security or accreditation issues with regards to such software, particularly for email. This is good news since having employed an excellent Linux-based email server at my own authority until the advent of Government Connect, at which point it had to be replaced by a proprietary one, I am keen that options remain. Bristol City are also famed for having employed Drupal as their web content management system, a route I would also like to follow.

I suspect this is where the definition of ‘cloud’ comes into play – does it become ‘software as a service’ (SaaS), where there is some contractual lock in or is it purely a method of hosting applications in a secure manner that takes the IT manager away from running their own data centre and network? I believe it can be both, and more – the contractual issues are there to satisfy both supplier and customer about their mutual obligations that may be more or less limiting, whilst in another approach it may be somewhere to store one’s data and applications in a secure and supported manner, without the additional cost of the ‘real estate’.

Am I miles off, or is it really a matter of contract?