Open source software ready for big business

The combination of pumped-up technical features and relatively low prices are giving vendors with open source-based products more inroads

The combination of pumped-up technical features and relatively low prices are giving vendors with open source-based products more inroads to corporate networks than ever before.

"In the dot-com bust it was Unix to Linux migration because Linux was cheaper than Solaris on SPARC," says Barry Crist, CEO of Likewise, a maker of integration and identity management software for mixed environments. "Phase 2 [of corporate open source adoption] has been accelerated by the current economic conditions. IT is looking to do things in a cost-effective manner and there are a lot of viable open source solutions out there."

Adoption has also been fueled by the success of established open source companies such as Red Hat, Novell, Alfresco and  SugarCRM, which have proven to enterprise users that it isn't the development process but the results (and quality support) that matter.

"The license terms attached to products have become secondary to the value it offers," says Mike Olson, the CEO of Cloudera and the founder of Sleepy Cat, which he sold to Oracle in 2006 when the Berkeley DB derivative had more than 200 million deployments. "People now are much more rational about how they adopt technology across the board. Open source is a detail, not a defining characteristic. At Sleepy Cat, we were proud to be an open source company. At Cloudera, I think of us as an enterprise software company that happens to be built on open source software."

The vendor also is a member of a group of open source companies that Network World has identified as being worth watching.

Cloudera is bent on making the open source Apache project Hadoop easier to use and available to a wider audience. The powerful Hadoop technology is considered a cost-effective way to manage and store large amounts of data, and mine intelligence. Yahoo is the biggest contributor to the open source project also used by Facebook and Google.

Cloudera doesn't count that trio as customers, but the three offer proof as to the power of Hadoop.

Another cloud vendor to watch is Eucalyptus Systems. The company just released Eucalyptus Enterprise Edition, which lets users implement a cloud environment using existing network infrastructure without requiring modification.

The current edition creates a sort of proxy that makes internal virtualized environments appear to run just like Amazon Web Services including Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) and Simple Storage Service (S3). A single management console works will multiple hypervisors including Xen, KVM, vSphere, ESX and ESXi.

The software lets users move applications freely between their local Eucalyptus cloud and Amazon's cloud. In the future, Eucalyptus plans to add support for other cloud platforms.

"We make your stuff act as if it is Amazon though internally it may be working in a very different way," says Rich Wolski, CTO and co-founder of Eucalyptus.

Also on Network World's watch list is Cfengine, which develops Nova, a commercial edition of its open source server configuration management technology that adds full policy-based server life-cycle management. The company added technical and commercial-based support this year.

"Now companies are asking can you integrate with IBM's monitoring platform, can you integrate with HP's monitoring platform, and the answer is yes," says Bob Whirley, president and COO for U.S. operations.

A derivative of cfengine called Puppet, which is developed by Reductive Labs, is an up-and-coming open source option. The company, which just raised $US2 million in venture capital funding, provides policy-based, automated configuration management using a Puppet Master server that knows all the policies and communicates those to Puppet clients running on host computers.The company is eyeing virtualized environments, especially those in cloud environments, as a key area of growth.

"Puppet is tying the data for how things should be configured to the enforcement," says Andrew Shafer, who helped found Reductive Labs. Google uses Puppet to manage all its workstations.

Also in the management realm is the openQRM project, a revival of an open source data center management project begun by the now-defunct company Qlusters. OpenQRM is a single-management console for infrastructure both physical and virtual. It provides an API for integrating third-party tools, including Puppet, and incorporating plug-ins.

The newest iteration, version 4.4 includes Simple Object Access Protocol -based Web services for remote control and other infrastructure management tools for cloud deployments

Gluster is another company that deserves attention. It develops a clustered file system for storing unstructured data called GlusterFS. Its unique architecture uses an index to look up files, employing a hashing algorithm to find a unique identifier for each file. Each server in the cluster knows where every file is stored.

"Because we don't have a separate meta data server we don't have updates in multiple places and this allows us to scale to very large size without worrying about reliability," says Anand Babu Periasamy, CTO of Gluster.

Also focusing on infrastructure is LikeWise, which integrates Active Directory authentication across multiple computing platforms. The company functions as a hybrid, offering a free product and a proprietary version. Likewise Open integrates authentication across Linux, Unix and Mac environments, while the enterprise version adds migration, group policy, auditing and reporting modules.

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