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By David Linthicum, Infoworld

I'm at the Linux Foundation's CloudOpen conference this week in San Diego. As you might expect, the talk is all about how to use "open clouds" -- cloud software using open source approaches.

Everyone loves the idea of cloud software that leverages open source. Indeed, an IDC report to be released next week notes that "72 percent of businesses say that the use of open source software, open standards, and/or open APIs are key factors when choosing a cloud provider or building their own cloud." (IDC surveyed 282 users from companies with 500 or more employees.)

What does this mean to the cloud computing market? The number of cloud technology companies that call themselves "open" is exploding. And organizations that want to use this technology are getting confused.

Let's just look at the news this week. As InfoWorld's Eric Knorr reported, EMC VMware asked to become a member of the foundation governing OpenStack, the open source cloud operating system. Suse tossed its hat in with OpenStack as well, with its own distribution. Rackspace recently announced its OpenStack-based private cloud software. I could go on. Each announcement becomes another more "me too" in the emerging OpenStack space of 200-plus companies on the OpenStack bandwagon.

Of course, the emergence of CloudStack in April means there's another open cloud standard besides OpenStack; CloudStack has several companies signed up, with more to come. And don't forget about Eucalyptus, which provides Amazon Web Services compatibility in an open source distribution.

If you're looking at adopting an "open cloud" technology, you have complex work ahead. Assessing their value is complicated by the fact that many of the vendors are less than a two years old and have a minimal install base that can provide insight into fit, issues, and value.

As with any significant IT endeavor, you need to do your homework, understand your requirements, and make sure to test this stuff well before you use it in your enterprise. At some point, the "open cloud" market will normalize, and when that happens, you hope your seat will still be available in the ensuing game of musical chairs.

Don't get me wrong: The "open cloud" approach is a good thing. Just be careful in how you approach it in these early days.

This article, "The 'open cloud' is getting awfully confusing," originally appeared at InfoWorld.com. Read more of David Linthicum's Cloud Computing blog and track the latest developments in cloud computing at InfoWorld.com. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

For more IT analysis and commentary on emerging technologies, visit InfoWorld.com. Story copyright © 2011 InfoWorld Media Group. All rights reserved.

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