If you’re building a hybrid cloud today, it’s likelier than not that you are using a proprietary platform, like Azure Arc or AWS Outposts. The modern hybrid cloud ecosystem is dominated by offerings like these.
Yet open source hybrid cloud solutions are quietly holding their own, providing an alternative for organizations wary of committing to a proprietary platform for setting up and managing a hybrid cloud.
Here’s a look at several of the key open source technologies that cater to hybrid cloud use cases today.
Proprietary Hybrid Cloud Solutions
Before examining open source hybrid cloud solutions, let’s note the alternative: Proprietary platforms designed for melding private data centers and public cloud services into a single hybrid cloud.
Public cloud vendors have rolled out a variety of proprietary solutions in this vein in recent years. Amazon has AWS Outposts. Microsoft offers Azure Arc and Azure Stack. Oracle provides Cloud@Customer.
All of these solutions are based on source code that is not publicly available. The platforms can only be set up under the terms of their vendors and on the infrastructure of they support; you can’t download the software and use it as you wish, as you could with most open source solutions. And, of course, these proprietary hybrid platforms cost money, unlike some open source alternatives.
Open Source Hybrid Cloud Platforms
If you’re wary of the likes of Outposts or Arc, you can find alternatives in open source platforms that also allow you to set up and manage a hybrid cloud environment. Although most of these platforms require more effort to set up, and are not as well integrated with public clouds out of the box, they generally offer the benefits of being free to use and more flexible with regard to how they are deployed and configured.
You can use Kubernetes for lots of use cases, not just hybrid cloud. But building a hybrid cloud in which infrastructure and applications are managed centrally via Kubernetes is one possibility for the open source platform.
Today, Kubernetes is probably the most popular and trendiest open source solution with the potential to serve as the foundation for a hybrid cloud environment. There are downsides to using Kubernetes for this purpose, but if I had to bet on which open source platform will become most prevalent within the hybrid cloud ecosystem in the future, I’d probably wager on Kubernetes.
You can’t mention Kubernetes without mentioning OpenShift, a platform from Red Hat that is basically an opinionated version of Kubernetes. For some time, Red Hat has been promoting OpenShift as an open source hybrid cloud solution.
The fact that both Red Hat and OpenShift are now controlled by IBM means that promoting hybrid cloud strategies based on OpenShift will likely be one way Big Blue competes with the large public cloud vendors going forward: By pitching OpenShift as a more flexible solution for hybrid cloud management than platforms like Outposts and Arc, while also presenting it as easier to use than generic Kubernetes, IBM can set itself apart.
For more than a decade, Eucalyptus has made it possible to build an AWS-compatible hybrid or private cloud environment by emulating core AWS APIs on your own infrastructure. The platform came under the control of HP in 2014, but in 2017 (following HP’s shedding of its enterprise services business), AppScale began offering enterprise support services related to Eucalyptus, which is itself a fully open source platform.
The Eucalyptus ecosystem has been relatively quiet since then, without any major announcements. But the platform remains alive and well. It continues to provide a perfectly viable means of building an AWS-compatible cloud within a private data center or integrating private infrastructure with public AWS data centers without relying on a proprietary framework like Outposts.
From the perspective of open source, Google Anthos is a complicated platform.
On the one hand, Anthos, which can manage hybrid cloud environments hosted on basically any type of infrastructure, is open source in the sense that it is based on Kubernetes and Istio, both of which are open source technologies.
On the other hand, Anthos depends on GKE, Google’s managed Kubernetes service, which only runs in Google’s cloud. You can’t just download Anthos and run it as a standalone platform wherever you want without linking it to GCP. Anthos costs money, too.
So, while Anthos is technically open source, it doesn’t quite provide what many folks are likely to think of as an open source experience in terms of cost and flexibility.
That said, it’s worth noting that Anthos is at least more flexible than competing hybrid cloud solutions because, again, it can work with any infrastructure running in any private or public data center. Outposts and Azure Stack (albeit not Azure Arc) work only with specific infrastructure supported by Amazon and Microsoft, respectively.
Open source remains alive and well in the world of hybrid cloud, even if open source solutions in this space haven’t garnered as many headlines in recent years as proprietary alternatives. Closed-source hybrid frameworks are arguably easier to use and offer better out-of-the-box integrations (at least with the environments that their vendors choose to support), but if you want lower costs, less lock-in risk, and more flexibility, an open source hybrid cloud platform may better suit your needs