EOLE 2013: Considering Free & Open Source in Cloud Strategies

Friday, December 6, 2013 – 09:00 to 18:00

Cloud computing presents itself as the ineluctable near future of IT. It is therefore no surprise that “Making Europe Cloud Active” is one of the major political strategies of the European Commission (N. Kroes, 27 September 2012). It seems quite undeniable indeed that cloud computing is reshaping the whole IT business. Correspondingly, it has also a great impact on FOSS use and exploitation.

From a FOSS perspective, Cloud computing has sometimes been depicted by free software advocates as a “trap” set for the careless… and it is still perceived by some as a return of the proprietary platforms. It is true that key vendors of traditional “proprietary” software currently profile themselves as providers of the best FOSS-friendly cloud services (Microsoft has recently launched “VM Depot” to make linux-based virtual machines deployment to Azure easier) and suggest some new ways to accommodate Free and proprietary software. In this sense, their role is also appreciable as they industrialize, and thus disseminate widely Open Source community software.

Meanwhile, mobile operating systems (and among them, the open source ones) are more and more moving towards Cloud computing and successful open source cloud operating systems have been recently designed, such as Open Stack.

Consequently, FOSS sponsors and traditional commercial providers are reshaping FOSS definition and practices to adapt them to the cloud context and reach the desired levels of freedom.

In the context of cloud, it is wise not to forget that “there are huge benefits of open source and open standards. When software is not based on open technologies, it is harder to let them work together, to modify and customize them and harder to change providers” (N. Kroes, 14 December 2012).

It is therefore time to analyze the impact of the cloud on free & open source software and its legal consequences, in terms of licensing and compliance.