Cloud computing, a technology structure that treats computer resources, no matter what the type, as a service emanating over the Internet, is closely tied to the concept of open-source software. Many of the details of cloud computing are handled by products created in the open-source software arena.
Open-source software is defined more by the way in which the underlying code is developed, modified and distributed than by any characteristic of the individual software products. One key idea is that any one can change the software as they see fit for their own use without worrying about license infringement or copyright issues -- open-source software comes with a free license that allows such modification. Another key is the collaborative way in which the software is designed and developed by one or more of the many open-source communities dedicated to specific aspects of computing.
Cloud systems developed by the open-source community have been built to follow three basic system design principles: scalability, richness of features and ease of implementation. One of the more notable of the open-source entities that have helped to develop the current state of cloud computing is Rackspace's Openstack project done in partnership with NASA. Other open-source projects such as Jclouds, libcloud and Fog link the programming languages Java, Python and Ruby directly to cloud services. Open-source concepts are also being used in infrastructure projects like Ganeti, Open Mebula and Cloudstack and in cloud management projects like Chef and Puppet.
People often wonder how the groups involved in open-source software can afford to do so. One way is to find other sources of revenue rather than through software sales, such as support contracts and customization services. Another way is to develop a basic infrastructure upon which other work can build -- the most recent example is the Android operating system now used in many smartphones. The partnership of Eucalyptus and Amazon shows yet another way.
Public clouds, best exemplified by Google apps, have not been as popular as expected. What is anticipated, however, is that the open source software being used to stretch cloud computing will result in more versatile private clouds, controlled on the premises of the customer, but existing out on the Internet.
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