The US government's plan to consolidate its data centers could be the driving force behind the next evolution of open-source software, according to a new study by analyst group IDC .
The US Federal Office of Management and Budget (OMB) is looking to cut $3 billion from the federal budget and reduce the number of federal data centers in operation, which now stands at 2,000. To do this the OMB is giving government IT managers more flexibility when deciding what types of software they want to use as they revamp their networks and build out US cloud computing capabilities.
"Datacenter consolidation is about much more than just consolidation," IDC research director Shawn P. McCarthy said in the report. "It's also about migrating to new platforms, improving IT economics, eliminating unnecessary software licensing fees, and reducing associated management costs."
Some of the cost reduction will also come in the elimination of licensing costs for proprietary software from vendors such as Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT). Instead, government IT managers are being asked to further adopt open-source software used by the US government that consists of the Linux operating system, Apache Web server, MySQL database, and tools such as Perl, PHP, and Python. This is sometimes referred to as a LAMP stack.
That's giving the government a two- to three-year window to influence the evolution of open-source solution stacks used by systems integrators and vendors like Oracle Corp. (Nasdaq: ORCL), IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM), and Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ), according to McCarthy.
"With federal investment, centralized open-source solution stacks have already emerged at government sites," McCarthy said. "It's a surprising development, but because of this investment, and because systems integrators are heavily involved in the consolidation effort, we expect to see rapid growth for some of these open solution stacks."
But don't think that just because the US government gives its managers the freedom to choose a LAMP stack that it's a slam dunk for data center consolidation -- or the future of open source.
"Data centers have to be tightly integrated, which means your open-source tools will have to fit in the framework you've already established. You absolutely must pilot test this sort of thing or you take a major risk," says Tom Nolle, founder and president of analyst group CIMI Corp., who lectured on open source in the enterprise this week as part of Internet Evolution's 60 Days of Executive Education (6DEE) series.
In addition to a LAMP stack software base, Nolle suggests data center architects look at open-source tools for cloud computing, including Hadoop, Nimbus, and Eucalyptus.
Virtualization tools for open source can also be a driving force for US data center consolidation. Xen from Citrix Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CTXS), KVM from Red Hat Inc. (Nasdaq: RHAT), and VirtualBox, another virtualization framework that has the support of Oracle, may all play parts here.
As for systems management tools in open-source virtualization, Nolle rates most as "primitive," but he says OpenQRM, Red Hat's Spacewalk, as well as CFEngine and Puppet for configuration management and automation could help federal agencies follow their mandate to unite their datacenters.
— Michael Singer is Senior Editor at Internet Evolution, and moderator of the Executive Clan and Midmarket Clan.