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Rackspace Wants to Define the Cloud

It set in play OpenStack, an open source cloud platform

Rackspace Hosting wants to be the one that defines the public and private commodity cloud.

So the other day - in the name of fostering standards, ensuring cloud interoperability and defeating vendor lock-in - it set in play OpenStack, an open source cloud platform to which it immediately contributed the code to its Cloud Files Amazon S2-like storage widgetry and promised to kick in its Amazon EC2-like Cloud Servers code once it's ready.

Cloud Files and Cloud Servers is the stuff that powers Rackspace's public cloud and the reference implementations that come of the OpenStack effort will be free. There will be no dual-licenses like Eucalyptus Systems, the other open source cloud where ex-MySQL chief Marten Mickos is now CEO. RackSpace says it will put all its code out under the Apache 2.0 license.

Obviously it thinks this will work and it won't wind up in the poor house. It believes users aren't going cloud for fear of lock-in by Amazon, Microsoft, Verizon or Google and that it can thrive on its reputation for support.

Anyway, for star power it brought NASA into the game.

NASA, which is hardly what you'd call a commodity player, just got involved a few weeks ago. It's supposed to contribute technology from its large-scale Nebula private infrastructure cloud platform.

Apparently what NASA's got that's interesting to RackSpace is what the space agency calls a fabric controller and what other people might simply call the proprietary glueware to hold an immense data-dripping cloud together. Otherwise, Nebula looks like Eucalyptus, which in turn is compatible with Amazon EC2. NASA is partial to Ubuntu and Python.

Then Rackspace went out looking for converts.

It reportedly got 150 people representing 40 companies to come to a four-day design summit at its headquarters in Texas to talk about roadmaps, design processes and development processes and at the end 25 of them or so lent their names to the effort, 15 of them even left coders behind validating code.

The signatories included AMD, Citrix, Cloud.com, Cloudkick, Cloudscaling, CloudSwitch, Dell, enStratus, FathomDB, Intel, iomart Group, Limelight, Nicira, NTT Data, Opscode, Peer 1, Puppet Labs, RightScale, Riptano, Scalr, SoftLayer, Sonian, Spiceworks, Zenoss and Zuora.

Citrix, for one, means to ensure there's Xen support for the thing. RackSpace uses Xen; NASA uses KVM. RackSpace claims OpenStack will eventually be hypervisor-agnostic.

AMD is looking to optimize its chips for any serious venture; RackSpace uses some AMD boxes but mostly it's on Intel. And Cloud.com means to support the effort in its own open source cloud stack.

Besides the distributed object store from Cloud Files and some other Cloud Files infrastructure components, OpenStack is supposed to get a hugely scalable compute-provisioning engine called OpenStack Compute out of a combination of Nebula and Cloud Servers. The engine, based on RackSpace APIs, is supposed to be available later this year. First release is set for October.

RackSpace CTO Jonathan Bryce said OpenStack would also include the Rabbit MQ messaging system and the SQL Lite relational database.

Rackspace and NASA are supposed to use OpenStack to power their cloud platforms, and Rackspace has dedicated open source developers and resources to develop and evangelize OpenStack among enterprises and service providers. It has yet to exhaust its European and Asian convert possibilities.

For its part NASA would rather be in the space race than the cloud business and is perfectly willing for others to meet its requirements.

See http://openstack.org.

More Stories By Maureen O'Gara

Maureen O'Gara the most read technology reporter for the past 20 years, is the Cloud Computing and Virtualization News Desk editor of SYS-CON Media. She is the publisher of famous "Billygrams" and the editor-in-chief of "Client/Server News" for more than a decade. One of the most respected technology reporters in the business, Maureen can be reached by email at maureen(at)sys-con.com or paperboy(at)g2news.com, and by phone at 516 759-7025. Twitter: @MaureenOGara

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