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Open Source Integration and Messaging in the Cloud

Open source middleware is increasingly a hallmark of successful cloud deployments. “Why” may surprise you

The cloud: few topics are as frequently discussed among information technology (IT) professionals. But why? Internet hosted applications and services certainly aren't a new concept. In fact, application service providers began delivering functionality via the Web more than a decade ago, and even Software-as-a-Service, considered a revolutionary way to deliver software just a few years ago, is now commonplace.

Nor is the cloud necessarily a new story or concept. One can argue it is not unlike the mainframe computing environment of years past - one in which resources are provisioned and allocated as needed. Why then is the cloud the focus of so much attention? Why, too is it increasingly synonymous with increased use of open source integration and messaging solutions?

First and foremost, we need to disassociate cloud with merely the delivery of applications. Instead cloud computing addresses something far more fundamental - the delivery of computing power and IT infrastructure in the form of a convenient, cost-effective and ubiquitous service. This ultimately is what enterprises gain when they replace their existing infrastructure with a collection of consolidated servers, whether public, private or a combination of both.

A host of business and technology benefits are accelerating this shift, chief among them cost savings and greater flexibility. There is no question that the cloud saves on start-up costs since IT departments do not have to make the same initial investments in servers, but also because a single organization doesn't need to own and maintain the computing power needed to handle peak loads 365 days of the year.

Notwithstanding the significant savings that follow, the cloud's immediate ability to lower costs is equaled only in the flexibility it offers. No IT infrastructure is inherently more capable of scaling to enterprises' evolving needs. And it's here where the cloud represents a true paradigm shift - a transformation to an environment where even small enterprises have the ability to assimilate massive computing power attainable by only the largest organizations just a few years ago.

Of course, these benefits are not achieved in a vacuum. Success requires organizations to factor in the unique characteristics of the cloud and act accordingly. Integration and messaging is no exception and deserves particular scrutiny; not only is it crucial to enterprise IT operations, but proprietary integration and messaging infrastructure can easily become one of the largest expenditures in IT budgets.

Integration and Messaging in the Cloud - Distinct Challenges
The cloud presents enterprises with distinct integration and messaging challenges. Security is often the most discussed issue, but both proprietary and open source integration and messaging solutions are proven equally secure. The same cannot be said when addressing scalability and cost.

The beauty of the cloud is that it is an elastic platform, one in which applications can be made to scale up and out with relative ease. In such an environment, the ability of integration software to scale is equally important. If lacking, the integration infrastructure quickly becomes the bottleneck to growth.

In the cloud, the licensing fees typically associated with proprietary integration and messaging solutions present noteworthy cost and scalability difficulties. Typically based on a per-machine or per CPU schedule, they fail to accurately reflect usage in a cloud environment where computing power changes on a regular basis - often beyond the cover of virtual machines. More important, the very real economic barrier these fees create prevents enterprises from being able to scale up and out easily. In effect, they negate the significant flexibility inherent in the cloud.

In light of these challenges, many enterprises are increasingly exploring open source alternatives. What they find not only reflects the significant evolution that has occurred within the open source community, but also why open source integration and messaging specifically is increasingly synonymous with successful cloud deployments.

Open Source Integration and Messaging - Perfect for the Cloud
The argument that open source integration and messaging is perfect for the cloud may, on the surface, appear a zealous claim. However, it cannot be debated that many enterprises increasingly find that their movement to the cloud offers - and even necessitates - an equally transformative opportunity to deploy open source technologies. Although there are many benefits, the drivers of open source integration and messaging are typically analogous to the benefits of cloud computing in general.

Like the cloud, open source integration and messaging saves money, freeing developers and the enterprises they serve from the license and ongoing maintenance fees that make proprietary solutions the aforementioned and limiting factor - both for cost and scalability. The differences and the benefits don't end there.

Historically many enterprises considered open source solutions less than ideal for enterprise use. In some cases this stemmed from limitations the open source community placed on developers' use of source code. More often than not though, it was because open source projects lacked the structured releases, support, professional services and tooling enterprises need when making large-scale deployments.

Professional open source, such as FuseSource's subscription-based support of Apache Software Foundation Projects ServiceMix, Camel, ActiveMQ, and CFX, changes that. Apache, like many open source communities is lawyer-friendly - allowing developers to modify and redistribute code as needed. Combine that with the structured releases, support and professional tooling offered in enterprise-ready subscriptions from the professional open source companies that are delivering them, and you have a winning combination - a total package that empowers organizations to gain the benefits of open source with the certainty typically associated with proprietary technologies.

Enterprises that utilize open source in this way often enjoy direct access to the committers who wrote the code and others who contribute time and money-saving improvements - even while building on the singular ability open source gives developers to utilize only that source code which is directly applicable - saving significant time in the development cycle while achieving faster deployments. This also makes it far easier for organizations to address their specific customization needs.

For these reasons open source is not only increasingly viewed as ideal for the cloud, but likewise for market sectors like government and retail, where software license fees often throw a wrench in the works. Open source is ideal where organizations must use numerous disparate applications and systems in conjunction with one another - environments where the cost of IT is closely scrutinized and there is a move to eliminate the vendor lock-in associated with proprietary software. In such industries open source integration and messaging is increasingly the norm.

This trend will only accelerate as cloud computing leads more organizations to view IT as a service - one that is purchased as needed while offering the flexibility organizations increasingly demand. It is a trend that will increasingly lead more organizations, software developers and architects to ask: Is open source integration and messaging right for me?

More Stories By Robert Davies

Rob Davies is chief technology officer at FuseSource. One of the original members of the team, he co-founded LogicBlaze which was purchased by IONA and is now FuseSource. Prior to working for Logicblaze, he was a founder and the CTO of SpiritSoft which was purchased by Sun Microsystems. Rob has over 20 years experience of developing high performance distributed enterprise systems and products for telcos and finance, and is best known for his work at the Apache Software Foundation where he co-founded the ServiceMix, ActiveMQ, and Camel projects. He is now the PMC chair of ServiceMix and continues to be an active committer on all three projects. You can read his blog, On Open Source Integration, or follow him on twitter.

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