Martin Schneider, of SugarCRM, On the Open Cloud

by Ostatic Staff - Mar. 02, 2009

One of the big topics to be discussed at the upcoming Open Source Business Conference (OSBC),  March 24th and 25th at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco, will be the future of open source. In preparation, OStatic is running a series of guest posts on this theme, featuring thought leaders from top open source projects. Last week, we checked in with Dries Buytaert, founder of the Drupal content management system, and co-founder of Acquia. This week, Martin Schneider, director of product marketing for SugarCRM, weighs in on the open cloud, and how SaaS, open source and dynamic platforms are converging. Here are his thoughts.

The Open Cloud: The Convergence of SaaS, Open Source and Dynamic Platforms

By Martin Schneider, Director of Product Marketing, SugarCRM

If there is one buzzword that runs the risk of already being run into the ground, it is “cloud computing.” Nearly every provider in the technology universe, both proprietary and open source, has started to talk about offering something associated with the cloud. The term may seem a bit murky with so many vying to leverage the cloud for their own gain, but essentially, the cloud simply means being able to offer IT resources (be it infrastructure or applications) to end users, anytime – anywhere.

In addition, the cloud offers “platform on demand” capabilities to developers – meaning that they have access to toolkits and development environments housed in the cloud. Therefore, developers can be up and running with projects, and distribute their work via the web instantly. This cloud-based model of development can expedite the kinds of community-driven development that has fostered many open source projects in the past.

For many technology providers, the cloud is a natural extension of the progress already made into open source and SaaS. By eliminating a lot of the barriers to entry, the cloud can foster innovation and help individuals and organizations bring new ideas to market faster, and for less costs, than ever before.

Let’s take a look at a simple generic example of how the open cloud might evolve to enable faster, cheaper innovation when it comes to software. A developer, or team of programmers, can leverage cloud-based development platforms to build new and innovative applications from scratch based on open source components such as PHP. Now, these developers can complete projects without ever meeting, saving time and resources leveraging the cloud. Once this team of developers completes the application, they can then leverage cloud providers such as Amazon or Rackspace (with more options from major players like IBM and Sun coming soon) to host and deliver that application to end users. In this model, a new offering can be brought to market for very little initial investment.

This model is somewhat different from the traditional open source model of a community downloading and writing back code to a repository or via some other method. SaaS by nature tends to limit the access granted to developers not inside the firewall, as it were. But cloud-based, open applications can offer significant opportunities for individuals to “get under the hood.”

The commercial open source model tends to have a centrally managed IP, with developers creating and managing extensions to that core code. In the open cloud model, developers can leverage toolkits based on the central project, work on their own extensions “in the cloud” and distribute those alterations easily through online exchanges and other cloud-based repositories.

So, we just saw one example of how the cloud is evolving to enable the rapid establishment of new open source projects, as well as the ability to leverage the cloud to foster vibrant communities surrounding these new cloud-based offerings. And again, all of this can be done with far less up-front investment than was traditionally needed.

What are your thoughts on open source's future? Please take a moment to fill out the Future of Open Source survey here and share your perspective.

The results will be announced at the Open Source Business Conference on March 24th–25th at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco, CA.