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Even IBM Can't Win the Cloud Alone

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- We like to think of cloud technology as being open source, but most of it is proprietary.

Amazon.com (AMZN) Web Services is proprietary. The Google (GOOG) Compute Engine is, too. Microsoft's (MSFT - Get Report) Azure was optimized for Windows. Salesforce.com (CRM) runs on Oracle (ORCL).

Until this week, open source was a small rebel band fighting several death stars in the cloud. Then, as AllThingsD reported, IBM (IBM - Get Report) stepped in.

IBM's support of OpenStack, an open source cloud infrastructure originally designed at NASA, was not unexpected. The company has been a big sponsor of the OpenStack Foundation for almost a year. Red Hat (RHT), the Linux vendor that IBM has been close to for a decade, is now the second-largest committer of code to OpenStack.

And, as GigaOM notes, Big Blue is still going about this the old IBM way, with a "customer council" and its own set of deliverables aimed at locking up as much of the private OpenStack market as possible.

But for open source, open standards and (most important) open competition this is a very big deal. IBM won't be controlling the next evolution in computing and, perhaps, neither will anyone else.

The other cloud giants will now adapt to a world where OpenStack, and open source, is a major player.

They will interoperate with open source, as Amazon allows Eucalyptus, an open source but AWS-compatible cloud, to interoperate. As Google Compute Engine interoperates with Puppet Labs' open source code. As Microsoft Azure supports open source.

No cloud will be an island.

This will allow companies such as Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) and Dell (DELL), which are building their own cloud networks based on OpenStack, to survive in a cloud-based world.

It will force Oracle and Salesforce.Com to interoperate with other clouds. It will restore some of the luster Rackspace (RAX), the original corporate sponsor of OpenStack, has lost to its Amazon price war.

Just as important, IBM's announcement means enterprises and governments will be able to build their own private clouds knowing they have interoperability across the industry. Amazon's aggressive pricing has delayed the day of the private cloud, or a hybrid cloud that goes back-and-forth between public and private resources, but IBM is now committing itself to seeing that day, so planners can now plan for it.

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