While startups, developers, and small businesses flock to behemoth public clouds like Amazon Web Services and Google Compute Engine that give them a profoundly efficient bang for their buck, bigger enterprises largely stick to paying the high cost for private clouds. They are wary of potential availability and security issues that, rightfully, could hamper (or cripple) their business. The perceived risk-reward of saving money by turning IT operations over to a public cloud hasn't yet permeated through to big businesses.
But the public cloud isn't what it was even a couple years ago. It's much better. It's more secure. More controllable. More manageable. And, while perhaps not cheap, it's less expensive—in some cases, considerably so. All the reasons that enterprises had for eschewing a public cloud before are being addressed—quickly. Much of this efficient transition is owed to the open source community, which is not only building up security and other mandatory features that have made public clouds increasingly enterprise-ready, but is also forcing proprietary private cloud vendors to ante up.
Public cloud initiatives from the likes of Rackspace, Red Hat, and VMware (to name a few) serve as current examples showing the sea change in what IT is becoming. Open source clouds are making it open season on these once rarified bastions of proprietary IT, and the cloud competition will only continue to increase. Enterprises will either adapt now or adapt later, with a brisk leaning toward the immediate for progressive businesses. Those who get involved now in shaping the open source cloud will be rewarded.
Enterprises have the opportunity—and, it could be argued, the obligation—to embrace the open source public cloud movement now and begin to truly break down the private cloud stronghold. Even going as far as to call any cloud implementation a "stronghold" may feel strange, but, astonishingly, that's how far cloud has come already in a few short years. It will be going much further at an accelerating pace, so by getting involved now, and by helping to form the public cloud through open source communities, I see enterprises benefiting in three major ways:
- Enterprises will get a say in what features are being addressed, making sure their own needs are either explicitly or implicitly part of the equation.
- Enterprises will enable themselves to achieve a faster on-ramp to public clouds, which figures to be an (arguably) inevitable future as more of their traditional workloads are retired.
- Enterprises will get the goodwill (and notoriety) benefits of being an innovation leader with their customers and partners, the result of which can pay great dividends, not only in terms of efficiency and lower cost, but also with increased top line growth.
The economics of the public cloud are just too compelling, and enterprises best serve themselves (not to mention the community) by paying attention to, contributing to, and deploying the open source cloud.