RMS warns that clouds (Software As A Service) can be non-free. SaaS can essentially subvert Free Software by exploiting Free Software but because software is not distributed, cloud services are exempt from freeing the modified source code. For example, Google, which uses and contributes a lot to Free Software, does not reveal its code for search, kernel tweaks etc. So, using Google’s services switches us to using what is essentially non-free software, all the modifications Google has made to Free Software but has not been forced to reveal by the GPL.
Free Software has an answer to this problem, a cloud made of Free Software, OpenStack. The idea is to make a completely open cloud that reveals its source code and permits modification and distribution. There is no reason that the FLOSS model cannot also succeed in the cloud. Here, NASA, RackSpace and NTT have set up a FLOSS project for cloud services. So far they have a compute cloud and a storage cloud, a great start for anyone, even schools, to develop private or public clouds.
RMS writes, ” If you must use a server, use a server whose operators give you a basis for trust beyond a mere commercial relationship.” OpenStack writes, “Why open matters: All of the code for OpenStack is freely available under the Apache 2.0 license. Anyone can run it, build on it, or submit changes back to the project. We strongly believe that an open development model is the only way to foster badly-needed cloud standards, remove the fear of proprietary lock-in for cloud customers, and create a large ecosystem that spans cloud providers.” I hope these viewpoints converge on a model of Free Software for the cloud because using servers is vital to IT. The power of a network does vary as the square of the number of nodes and IT needs clouds.
GNU actually discourages the use of the term “cloud” as lacking specificity, hiding the threat to Freedom.