Open-Cloud-Alliance_LogoTwo weeks ago, we announced the Open Cloud Alliance. Since then, we received an overwhelming positive feedback from the press like the article “Open Cloud Alliance Formed to Answer Germany’s Data Privacy Concerns” as well as from cloud service providers who want to become part of the OCA, and from software vendors who see the OCA as a perfect new channel for their solutions.

But occasionally, there was the question of why this new alliance would be successful, like, for example, in an article just published by Forbes which states that there have been numerous similar initiatives in the past that soon became irrelevant or have already disappeared. So what is the difference between these initiatives and the Open Cloud Alliance?

I think, there are three big differences: The Open Cloud Alliance is built on Open Source principles, the basic technology it uses already exists, and it plays nicely with other important technologies and trends in the industry like OpenStack.

First of all, the openness: Large cloud service providers like Google, Microsoft, or Amazon deliver highly integrated services. But as the software from these services is not freely available, there is no way to move these solutions to other providers or even back on premises, if needed. This obviously hinders competition and innovation.

Competition and Innovation for Cloud Offerings

Instead, the goal of the Open Cloud Alliance is to bring back cloud competition, choice and control by building and maintaining an open platform, which offers a wide range of integrated software solutions. And the major blocks of this platform are already available, so that CSPs, such as Netzlink who is based in Braunschweig, are implementing it now. Sven-Ove Wähling, CEO, underlines the company’s motivation. „Small and midrange companies with a really big demand for data control and security make up the German market by more than 50 percent. That is the reason why a large part of them resist giving their data to big Clouds but look for a regional and also open solution instead. A combination that we can offer them with the help of the Open Cloud Alliance.“

The benefit for software vendors is obvious: They get a platform to make their solutions available through many cloud service providers and also for on-premises use. And as the platform already includes sophisticated, yet easy-to-use management and integration functions, the ISVs can deliver well-integrated apps making the purchase of a new solution just a click for customers.

Trustworthy Because of Open Source Principals

An important prerequisite for the Alliance to work for all participating parties is, of course, trust. And this is one of the reasons why the software stack behind the Open Cloud Alliance is Open Source software: Making it open and available to everyone ensures that there will be no vendor-lock in, neither for the end customers nor for the CSPs or ISVs. Instead, the stack will encourage competition and innovation. While other initiatives have rightfully stressed openness in the past, too, the important difference of the OCA is that ISVs and CSPs can start using it now and are actually doing so. The stack is built upon OpenStack and Univention Corporate Server, a platform that has been in the market for many years. And there are already plenty of enterprise solutions integrated and available through the Univention App Center. So CSPs can immediately build a comprehensive offering with dozens of integrated applications. Even things like the integration of the customers’ on-premises identity management are available out-of-the-box via Univention Corporate Server’s Active Directory Connection.

The OCA builds upon existing Cloud Management Systems like OpenStack. In fact, OpenStack and IBM’s Cloud Manager (which is an enhanced version of OpenStack) are the first certified cloud management systems in the Open Cloud Alliance.

First Offerings Available in Early 2015

There are a lot of offerings available already and many to be tested and to get started. But on the other side, we are at the very beginning of this initiative. It is our plan to build high value cloud offerings with at most ten cloud service providers in the first quarter of 2015. At this time, we will select carefully those partners we can work with. This will be much easier for software vendors because we already have the procedures in place. Anyhow, as this is about being open, we will not only make the software but also everything needed by cloud service providers to set up the Open Cloud Alliance stack to be freely available. So everyone can join in and participate.

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Peter H. Ganten is the founder and CEO of Univention.

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