Open source cloud computing is the use of open source software to facilitate cloud computing. Cloud computing provides users access to a virtual server that allows them to store and retrieve data as well as use services in real time through a number of different devices including computers, smartphones, and tablets. The term "open source" refers to technology that has less restrictive business licenses, so products can be used and altered by an unlimited number of people. In the late 1990s, a movement in the information and technology industry began to give computer users access to source code, so they could use and make changes to existing software. This movement was seen as an egalitarian way to give consumers more control over the products they were using and to help level the playing field for poorer communities and developing countries.
Open source cloud computing can benefit these communities even further. Cloud computing accommodates very high volumes of traffic and storage relatively cheaply since it requires little hardware to maintain. In addition, it is a very flexible form of computing. It is structured to serve multiple users at the same time, and its resources can be allocated as needed according to the location of the consumer.
In June 2011, Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple, announced the iCloud, the latest in a series of cloud computing developments for the company, which allows its customers to store their data on a virtual network and access it from any of their Apple devices. As this development indicates, consumers will be less bound to hardware and increasingly be able to access data from the virtual realm. Cloud computing has many benefits, but if this technology is managed by only a few companies, it will become an unaffordable system for some consumers to use. Open source cloud computing proponents want to make the technology available to more people in order to work toward eliminating inequalities in the digital divide.
Open source cloud computing makes the service more accessible for more people. More businesses and individuals are using open source software to launch their cloud networks, and open source software makes it more likely that the technology will spread. Open source cloud computing, though it may have some initial glitches, can ultimately benefit the consumer. As the technology catches on, it will allow designers to experiment more with the technology and find ways to strengthen it. Being able to use less restricted products will help speed this process, because it will allow more designers to independently test their cloud systems.