Is OpenStack the new Linux?

Or is this open source 'cloud operating system' just a launching pad for a million new cloud businesses? Either way, the excitement is contagious

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Who exactly is making it work? Rackspace, for one. In mid-April, the company announced a limited-availability public cloud service powered by OpenStack, which will eventually replace Rackspace's current IaaS platform.

But the really big deal is the HP Cloud, OpenStack's most important implementation to date. Launched on May 1 in beta form, the HP Cloud is an IaaS offering built on OpenStack Compute, Object Storage, and Identity. Like Rackspace, HP doesn't have a choice -- it has to make OpenStack work for its customers. The company is confident enough of the service's stability to charge customers for it, even though HP's Cloud Services are in beta.

In a May 2012 interview, Michael Crandell, CEO of RightScale, told InfoWorld he believes HP's support of OpenStack is significant. Crandell has a great perspective on the cloud market since his company provides a SaaS offering that helps customers run production workloads on public and private clouds ranging from Amazon Web Services to Citrix's CloudStack. He thinks HP has "probably worked some of the kinks out of operating OpenStack at scale. They've contributed a lot to the code."

A common denominator for the cloud?
But OpenStack isn't all HP Cloud will offer. For example, a cloud version of MySQL and a content distribution network are already available as beta services. Late last year, HP showed off VMware's open source cloud development platform, Cloud Foundry, running on HP Cloud.

"You've got consider that no one is a pure OpenStack play," Kemp told me. "No one is supposed to be. We're not. OpenStack is just one of 50 technologies we use at Nebula."

At the OpenStack event, I met Boris Renski, co-founder of an OpenStack consultancy called Mirantis, which has worked on 25 OpenStack deployment projects, all but four of them for service providers. His take on OpenStack reveals where the action is now: "It's not a cloud computing stack. It's a framework of standards and APIs so that people can build their own cloud solutions."

The industry term is "API-driven infrastructure," and the OpenStackers are exploiting this new concept whole hog. Do it right, and you've removed many of the compatibility, management, and performance issues associated with today's data center. Don't think of private clouds as being administered by standard-issue IT pros running around with patch cables; think of them being managed from a command line by IT pros who are just as well versed with programming as they are with server management.

A big takeaway from my OpenStack experience is that world will no longer settle for the old, slow, labor-intensive way of maintaining infrastructure. Although the enthusiasm surrounding OpenStack right now is contagious, it's too early to tell whether it will be the lodestone around which this new hyper-automated world of private and public clouds coalesces. But that world is coming, and like it or not, many fewer admins will be required to keep it running.

Today, OpenStack is at the epicenter of this seminal shift. If it's successful, as with Linux, a vast ecosystem will grow up around it. It took more than a decade for Linux to evolve from a mere toy to solid server operating system and years longer to yield profitable businesses. Less than two years after its inception, OpenStack is way ahead of the curve.

InfoWorld editor-in-chief Eric Knorr contributed to this article.

This article, "Is OpenStack the new Linux?," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Follow the latest developments in business technology news and get a digest of the key stories each day in the InfoWorld Daily newsletter. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld on Twitter.

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