Open Source in the Cloud

Open Source in the Cloud

Egbert de Smet (University of Antwerp, Belgium)
Copyright: © 2014 |Pages: 13
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-4631-5.ch011
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Abstract

Whereas “Open Source” in software is still gaining momentum in many fields of applications, it is even more present in the “behind the curtains” scene of the Cloud. It is behind the scenes because Cloud tools are only operated by Cloud providers creating their infrastructure, not by end users. But as that infrastructure is going to be a crucial part of the IT environment of the future, like water and power supply have become for the wider living environments, it is good to note that this infrastructure is not limited to (commercial) proprietary technology and standards, but rather is subject to input from the major Open Source players. This chapter reviews the main technologies of this moment in Cloud software: CloudStack of Citrix and Apache, OpenStack of Suse and Openshift from RedHat. Also the CEPH-technology for distributed storage is added in this overview due to its obvious relevance for the Cloud. The brief review of these products confirms that FOSS indeed plays a major role in the Cloud, opening up that technology for open standards and “public” ownership of this soon-to-be an essential part of our IT environment.
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Introduction: The Cloud

For a recent seminar on “Cloud and Open Source” (Elewijt Centre, 2013), Figure 1 was used in the invitation and promotion publications:

Figure 1.

The Cloud scene

The picture nicely shows the main application fields for Cloud: music, air-tickets, shopping, newspapers, e-mail, financial markets, business analysis, and so forth. No books or libraries, indeed. Maybe the feasibility, especially the financial one, is still not clear enough for libraries? Hopefully the chapters in this book shed some light on whether this is indeed the case and/or encourage libraries at least to consider their options.

The basics of Cloud, as should always be emphasized, are the three types of service (Infrastructure, Platform, and Software), as shown in Figure 2 below, also giving some examples:

Figure 2.

The three Cloud types of service

Figure 3 (SUSE Cloud 1.0, 2013) presents nicely the respective degrees of coverage by either the provider or the customer for each of these four approaches, the green area representing the areas covered by the Cloud provider:

Figure 3.

The three Cloud services coverage

In any of these three types, the acclaimed advantages of Cloud are always: lower costs (in principle reduced upfront capital investment and reduced administration costs), more dynamic configuration, self-service provisioning and greater control and security (standard enterprise security inside a firewall).

The aim of this chapter however is to look at the role of Open Source in the Cloud. The answer to the abovementioned questions on financial viability for libraries might be different when Open Source solutions come into the picture. We will comment on the concepts of FOSS, its advantages for the Cloud and the main contenders and offerings in this area, before finally adding some conclusions on the relevance of Open Source for Cloud and libraries.

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Foss

Open Source software is gaining grounds in many fields, even in its “free” version (FOSS) which means that not only the source codes are available for scrutinization / improvements/study, but also the software itself is available for free, which means that the software is free in two meanings: free to use in all its aspects and non-paid. Well known examples of FOSS are Linux as an Operating System (with somehow popular versions like Ubuntu or strong contenders in the business market like Suse and RedHat), the Mozilla Firefox Web-browser, LibreOffice (a free replacement for Microsoft Office), Apache Web-server, Java/Ruby/Python programming, PHP Web-scripting and MySQL or PostgreSQL databases.

In the library and information field FOSS also is getting more attention: some of the best known tools for digital libraries and repositories (e.g., Greenstone and dSpace) are indeed FOSS, while even traditionally “commercial market” software like for library automation has some serious players in FOSS, with KOHA, PMB, Evergreen and (in the developing countries of the South) ABCD being the leaders, in many cases replacing commercial solutions. The “place to be” for this topic is the URL http://foss4lib.org, which lists 18 different softwares for library automation (FOSS4Lib, n.d.).

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