Red Hat CEO Jim Whitehurst thinks so: “Clouds are fundamentally new infrastructure. Why lock yourself into something proprietary?” he says in an article. Whitehurst believes that open source technology is the perfect vehicle for innovating in the cloud computing era. And in its article, “Cloud computing with Linux thin clients,” IBM spells out the reasons it believes there will be “penguins in the clouds”:

The best operating environment for a thin client designed around cloud computing has the following characteristics:

  • Highly customizable
  • An inexpensive or even free operating system
  • All necessary applications inexpensive or free
  • Networking built into the operating system core
  • Small enough to fit into tiny devices
  • Flexible and powerful enough to run full laptops
  • Miserly enough to conserve battery life to a maximum degree

Linux meets all of these criteria. It is taking over in the mobile space, the enterprise space, and the embedded space, including dedicated consumer devices such as book readers and set-top boxes. And with virtualization, Linux can also run applications built for the Windows®, Mac OS X, and other operating systems.

Are these just pipe dreams or is there a big shift coming? The folks at suggest that there are some high-anxiety clouds hanging over Redmond in “Microsoft worried by Linux cloud.” Somehow, Microsoft is uncomfortable with statements from the Cloud Computing Interoperability Forum (CCIF) like: “The CCIF will not condone any use of a particular technology for the purposes of market dominance and or advancement of any one particular vendor, industry or agenda.” Oopsie.

Of course, even the CCIF pulled out of the so-called Open Cloud Manifesto (along with big players Amazon and Google), which somewhat dampened the March 30 launch of this attempt to apply some standards to cloud computing for the purposes of interoperability of technologies. As it turns out, openness sounds like a great idea, yet many companies are still struggling with the niggling question of how to make money off it. As well, there are some pretty strong feelings in the IT community about the very idea of organizations turning over so much power to “the cloud.”

Who do you think has the most to gain in the cloud computing era? Will the philosophical goals of open source finally win out and spell the demise of behemoths like Microsoft? Or will the whole thing collapse upon itself, much like the Open Cloud Manifesto?