It's no secret that most CSPs would rather throw engineering talent at a problem then pay software licensing fees. As a result, inside any data center run by a CSP there is usually a massive amount of open source software. The challenge is finding a way to maintain the interoperability of all that software. With that goal in mind IBM and Univention have formed the Open Cloud Alliance (OCA), a consortium that is dedicated to reducing the cost of open source interoperability of open source software deployed in cloud computing environments.

At the core of this effort is a Univention Corporate Server (UCS) directory based on an implementation of Debian Linux that is compatible with Microsoft Active Directory. The management layer of that environment is based on IBM Cloud Manager, a distribution of the OpenStack cloud management framework. The hardware reference architecture is based on the x86 servers that IBM recently sold to Lenovo. Other members of OCA include ownCloud, a provider of open source file synchronization software, Open-Xchange, a provider of open source collaboration software, and Zarafa, a provider of an open source email server.

Initially focused on cloud service provider operating in Germany, the first cloud service providers to incorporate these technologies include Netzlink, and Plutex, with additional cloud service provider expected to follow suit in 2015.

Open-Xchange CEO Rafael Laguna said that OCA will soon turn its attention to CSPs around the globe as part of an effort to help level the playing field between large and small CSPs. Large CSPs clearly have the engineering resources needed to stay competitive. Via the OCA smaller CSPs can leverage interoperable open source software to level the playing field even though they don’t have access to the same level of engineering resources.

As the cloud computing continues to evolve it’s clear that there are essentially two markets. The first is price sensitive and dominated by players such as Amazon Web Services (AWS). The other is a cloud market where customers require more hand-holding from the CSP. Nevertheless, as pricing for cloud services continues to spiral downwards CSPs will need to find a way to continue funding the adoption of new technologies in order to stay competitive.

Of course, it remains to be seen how a diverse collection of open source projects will actually be able to keep pace with larger CSPs that are investing in proprietary software. But as Ben Franklin once noted, the only alternative to hanging together is to surely hang separately.