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Why hyper open clouds can become the alternative to using big cloud providers

By Jean-Paul Smets, Founder of Rapid.Space, a Hyper Open cloud provider based on open-source, open hardware, and open service

As Google, Amazon and Microsoft have dominated the public cloud computing market for years, it has become generally accepted that the big cloud providers have seemingly limitless access to our data. But they are far from the only options for both public and private clouds: hyper open clouds provide a great alternative to depending on the established giants.

Remember how Microsoft was ubiquitous in 1995 and striving to become the generic term for "personal computing"? Fast-forward to 2005, and our IT was running on either Microsoft or Linux. Linux emerged from the idea and promise of open source: Free software that could be developed from source code which people could access and modify. Today, the same could happen with the cloud thanks to the advent of ‘open service', which describes a service being provided through open source software, without data being restricted from the user.

What's wrong with the big cloud providers?

In order to understand why open service represents the future of the cloud, it is important to outline where the big cloud providers are creating potentially difficult alternatives:

  • Overpricing: Big players usually offer free tiers which aim at getting customers engaged and invested on their cloud platform, but this means that services are overpriced once your application is in production and begins to scale.
  • Lock-In: Clouds have adopted a lock-in strategy where services are initially provided for free until APIs are ‘optimised' and the customer is locked in.
  • Disaster resiliency: In July 2018, an AWS data center in Tokyo burned down, causing mass disruption. People often assume the cloud is impenetrable and this is simply not the case all the time.
  • Bugs: When using services provided by cloud operators, sometimes bugs are not fixed immediately which can be a perilous situation. For example, certain Python libraries in initial versions of Microsoft Azure took months and a new release to be fixed.
  • Backdoors: Some governments request that cloud providers set up backdoors. This means that countries can spy on each other through the services of big cloud providers. This has been facilitated by agreements such as the "Cloud act", which allows the US government to request data from any US-based technology company regardless of where the data is being stored.
  • Incompatibilities: Different versions of MySQL or build parameters being used mean that what works on one cloud is not guaranteed to work in another.
  • Obsolescence: API's or services that are available today might just be available for a limited period of time forcing applications depending on these services to be redeveloped.
  • Price-tying: The price for one cloud service is low but requires using additional higher-priced services without being  able to look for alternative service providers.

So, what's the alternative?

The alternative to these rigid solutions are hyper open clouds based on open-source software, open hardware, and open service. Their key differentiator is that the whole infrastructure is open - including operation support systems (OSS), billing systems (BSS), and network operating systems (NOS).

The development of the hyper open cloud using open hardware allows for near perfect competition between open source hardware vendors such as MITAC or Wywinn, because they can be easily interchanged due to common open cloud protocol (OCP) standards. Overpricing is also less likely due to the layouts and designs of the hardware being publicly available. Therefore, anyone can reproduce any service - the only barrier for entry is having the technical capacity to do it.

Open service refers to the idea of applying the four freedoms of free software to a service or the service industry. As with Linux, it means that anybody should be able to use and study a service to know how it has been provided, as well as modify and redistribute it. There is no secrecy; everyone can, in theory, become a cloud service provider, and this is where open service differs from other service definitions. Facebook, for example, uses open-source hardware and software but they cannot be described as an open service provider, because they don't allow access to their documentation, bill of materials, and other elements, which would give an understanding of how their services are built.

Why an open service and hyper open cloud is the way forward

The best aspect of an open service is the fact that it allows the user to know exactly how a service works - there is complete transparency, and no exclusivity. Therefore, if a user is not satisfied with a particular element of a service, there are no barriers to modify it, to operate it in a more refined way, or to find a different service provider. An open service moves the cloud from an industry which is very secret to one which is explicit, replicable, and potentially interoperable.

There are several suppliers which can already provide a hyper open cloud, such as BSO and Rapid.Space. As more suppliers emerge in the future, this will change the way in which big tech companies operate and are regulated. Even if it's a gradual change only, it would already be an enormous step forward. If regulation mandated certain services to be implemented as open services, it would go some way to alleviate the pattern of monopolies being formed in the IT and software industry, caused by first-mover advantages and economies of scale. It would also reduce the risk of lock-in or monopolistic prices, and lead to a market system that rewards the technologically competent instead of the most powerful. Finally, the increased development of the hyper open cloud could drive technical innovation, rather than monetizing existing technical infrastructures through opaqueness of services. Let's cross our fingers that 10 years from now, Hyper Open clouds will be to big cloud operators what Linux was to Microsoft in 2005 - an open, accessible and transparent alternative.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jean-Paul Smets 

Jean Paul is an entrepreneur, with 20 year experience and success in enterprise open source software for B2B markets. As Founder and CEO At Rapid.Space, he leads product and business development . Before Rapid.Space, Jean Paul founded Nexedi S.A the largest FLOSS publisher in the EU (4 M€ income). He founded VIFIB which invented edge computing in 2009 and contributed its technology to Rapid.Space. He holds a PhD in computer science, graduated from ENS Ulm and joined "corps des mines".
Published Thursday, April 22, 2021 7:42 AM by David Marshall
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