In a world of corporate espionage, patented genetics, and non-disclosure agreements, the ongoing trend of openness in the computing industry comes as a breath of fresh air.

Open source software, freely available to everyone, forms the backbone of the Internet; your phone, whether it’s iOS or Android, runs on a largely open source operating system; and, over the last five years, the world of cloud computing has become overwhelmingly open as well.

At the heart of this transition is the platform known as OpenStack. “Think of building a cloud like building a house,” says Kevin Moniz, CEO of Server Cloud Canada. “The computing power is the bricks, and the network is the mortar holding the whole thing together. What OpenStack really does is provide a foundation.”

Launched in 2010 as a joint initiative between Rackspace and NASA, OpenStack is now one of the top three platforms in the cloud computing sector worldwide. Today the list of member companies in the project includes titans like Hewlett-Packard, IBM, and AT&T. It’s the consumers, however, who are reaping the largest rewards.

"Launched in 2010 as a joint initiative between Rackspace and NASA, OpenStack is now one of the top three platforms in the cloud computing sector worldwide."

“From a customer perspective it’s all upside,” says Moniz. “Open source results in rapid development of cloud computing technology. With open standards, so many more people are able to push the technology further and the consumer gets better cloud computing faster.”

The open source model also allows smaller cloud service providers to compete on an even footing with industry giants, by leveling the playing field and eliminating economies of scale.

What’s good for the goose is good for the gander

“Open source technology tends to create vendor choice, increase competition, and thus lower prices,” says Chris Kemp, OpenStack Founder and former Chief Technology Officer of NASA. This is obviously good for the end user, but it carries substantial benefits for the companies behind the technology as well.

“The largest companies of previous eras achieved their scale by being extremely relevant to a small number of customers,” says Joshua McKenty, another OpenStack founder. “Today’s largest companies are extremely specialized, but they touch billions of people around the world.”

Increasingly, these companies are recognizing that their business can be greatly accelerated by allowing a community to form around it and carry it forward. “If the ethos of ‘machine power’ is what drove the big changes of the industrial era,” says McKenty, “then ‘community power’ is what’s driving these changes today.”

Technology companies also recognize the paramount importance of security and stability. With millions of eyes on their code, vulnerabilities and inefficiencies are spotted orders of magnitude more quickly and corrected well before they become a problem.

Canadian businesses are benefiting in more ways than one

For Canadian companies shopping for cloud services, this not only translates to lower costs, greater choice, and increased security; it also makes possible the option of using Canadian providers without sacrificing product quality.

With open source technology, Canadian cloud providers are able to offer the same user experience and value as large American firms. Beyond the business advantages of a domestic supply chain, the ancillary benefits of keeping data within Canada are apparent to anyone who has paid any attention to the revelations of Edward Snowden.

Thanks to the open source model, positive developments have come very quickly for cloud computing. And that innovation shows no signs of slowing down.

“The amount of distance we have come in five years is incredible,” says Moniz. “And it’s only getting better every single day.”