The 1st Tenet of Open Cloud: Open is About Control

The Fateful Crash

I met with a large SaaS provider recently that had a hybrid cloud, with most of its infrastructure at Amazon but a rapidly growing portion in its own data center.  This SaaS provider used a hosted cloud management solution (cloud-management-as-a-service) which also happened to run at Amazon.

This SaaS provider is now undertaking a large development process to build its own cloud management tools and move off its hosted cloud management solution.  Why?  Back during the big Amazon outage of April 2011, this SaaS provider’s cloud management tools went down with Amazon.  This meant that even though the SaaS provider had a large private cloud, it could no longer manage any of the servers in its own data centers because its management service went down.  And, of course, its public cloud infrastructure went down too.  Thus, the Amazon outage took out not just the SaaS provider’s public cloud capacity but effectively its entire cloud.

So, this SaaS provider decided that it needed a new cloud approach: It wanted to shift capacity away from Amazon, and it didn’t want to have its management tools hosted at Amazon either.  So, it is now undertaking an expensive and year-plus process to build out a new set of its own management tools and migrate to them so that it won’t run into this type of situation again.

Lessons Learned

I found two things about this SaaS provider’s experience notable.  First, of course, is the potential risks of using a hosted management solution.

However, consider also the great expense and time that this SaaS provider is now undertaking because it had to change approaches in this fast moving world of cloud.  How could this SaaS provider have avoided its current migration?  How can it avoid it again in the future?  How can you be sure that as you adopt the cloud, you are prepared for the future?  The only way is to build an open cloud.

Open Is Not Just About Code—It’s About Control

Many people think that an open cloud means an open source cloud.  It’s true that open source is an important mechanism for creating an open cloud.  But, an open cloud is about much more than code or even community—it’s about giving you control.

There are 7 key properties of an open cloud.  An open cloud:

  • Is open source
  • Has a viable, independent community
  • Is based on open standards, or protocols and formats that are moving toward standardization, that are independent of their implementation
  • Provides freedom to use intellectual property (IP)
  • Lets you deploy on your choice of infrastructure
  • Is pluggable and extensible with an open API
  • Enables portability to other clouds

Let’s see how some of these properties could have helped this SaaS provider retain control and not have to undergo a large migration project because its cloud-based management provider no longer proved adequate:

  • Lets you deploy on your choice of infrastructure.  One of the reasons this SaaS provider was migrating was because it wanted to move away from Amazon, but its current management tools only worked at Amazon and didn’t work well with other cloud providers.  If the SaaS provider could have deployed on the infrastructure of its choice, then this problem would have went away
  • Is pluggable and extensible with an open API.  This SaaS provider was an early entrant in the cloud, when not many cloud provider options besides Amazon existed.  Consequently, its management tool didn’t support other providers either.  If this SaaS provider could have used open APIs to add support for the new providers it wanted to use to its existing management tools, it might not have needed to migrate
  • Enables portability to other clouds.  During Amazon’s outage, this SaaS provider couldn’t migrate its workloads to other cloud providers because its tools didn’t support the portability of its applications to other environments.  If these tools had enabled portability to other clouds, Amazon’s outage might not have disrupted this SaaS provider so significantly—greatly protecting the SaaS provider’s business and diminishing the urgency for it to change management tools

An Open Cloud Puts You In Control—Not Your Vendor

An open cloud has many important benefits.  Perhaps foremost, though, as this SaaS provider has experienced, is that an open cloud puts you in charge of your critical IT infrastructure and future—not your vendor.  You should be able to choose your cloud providers and architecture without being restricted by what your vendor supports.  You should be able to adapt to new challenges and opportunities without having to undergo huge migration projects.  And, you should be able to take advantage of the newest and best cloud technologies as they emerge.  All this is only possible when you have an open cloud.

To learn more about how Red Hat can help you build an open cloud, see


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