How to value cloud-based open source software services

The public cloud and open source software are pretty much coupled these days. No matter if you’re running Kubernetes as a service, MySQL, Linux, or that open source text editor you’ve used since college, it’s all there for the taking, as a service.

However, it’s really not free. Cloud providers charge for usage, either by time or other resource-units consumed. Indeed, it’s half or more of the cloud computing bills I’ve seen recently.

Some enterprises have not yet used open source on premises, not to mention cloud. Now that they are moving to the public cloud, both developers and infrastructure engineers are finding some very compelling reasons to “go open” in the cloud.

However, some confusing aspects of cloud-based open source—especially how to define the value—leave some enterprises scratching their heads. Here are a few emerging best practices to consider for cloud-based open source software:

Ops cost are everything, not license costs. Keep in mind that open source means you’re paying for a service and not the software license. The operational costs (compute, storage, and network leverage) are really where the expenses come in, no matter if you’re running open source or proprietary software.

Those who market open source in a public cloud as “free” are really not seeing how the costs should be evaluated. When considering the value of each type of software as a service, it’s better to remove the cost of the software altogether. Keep in mind that software (such as a database) that may charge a yearly license fee may actually be cheaper than an open source system that does not, in looking at operational costs.

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