Once upon a time, Unix vendors called themselves “Open Systems” to establish free choice as a buying criterion. “Best of Breed” was what they often called it: why buy everything from one outfit whose innovation had been been subverted by inbreeding, when you could pick what you liked from different specialty vendors?
Sadly, “Best of Breed” often turned out to be science fiction at deployment time. Some incompatibilities were purely the product of seemingly infinite untestable combinations. And some vendors jockeyed for advantage by locking out their competitors. That monopolization worked for Intel, and it seems to be working for Apple (for now). Everyone else? Not so much.
IT departments swelled with specialists in different technologies; fiefdoms emerged, some complete with moats and turrets. To this day, IT departments are cluttered with incompatibilities and stovepipes. The headaches are often big enough to rekindle the appetite for monolithic solutions.
Linux restored some respect to “open”. But the dominant open source business model, “open core”, created a two-class system: one for developers, and one for people who needed the software to work.
OpenStack open source cloud changes that, for two reasons. First, collaboration is not just about “naked code.” Common repositories, IRC chats, public reviews, and the fixed semi-annual release model create structure and rigor. The toolsets for check-in and continuous integration/continuous deployment (CI/CD) streamline testing and the accelerate find/fix cycle by orders of magnitude.
The second reason is the nature of the cloud itself. Developer productivity gains, rapid release cycles, and operational efficiencies create tremendous growth potential — but only if the constituent components of networking, compute, security, storage, and applications can be made to work together. Increasingly, code that runs in production is close, if not identical, to what the developers work on.
IT vendors recognize that harnessing that potential means coming to terms with the lock-in based incompatibilities that have choked the life out of IT organizations everywhere. Cloud can change that, because it provides a compelling new outlet for innovation in enterprise technology.
The critical difference, this time around, is that the OpenStack can provide the common, transparent platform through which diverse IT vendors can expose innovation to enterprise customers. Free of old lock-ins or monopolies, OpenStack forces the players to work together on behalf of customer value. And working together means customers really can choose from best of breed.