Dell debuts cloud-ready system

Dell is putting OpenStack to work in a new cloud-based package of hardware, software, and services

Using OpenStack cloud software, Dell has created a package of hardware, software, and services that organizations can use to deploy their own IaaS (Infrastructure-as-a-Service) operations.

The company has also released into open source a software program, called Crowbar, that should help organizations deploy their own OpenStack configurations on Dell hardware.

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The cloud package includes the full suite of OpenStack software, running on Linux Ubuntu 10.10, installed on Dell PowerEdge C servers. Crowbar is also included in the package. Dell and Rackspace Cloud Builders will provide consultation services and Dell provides a reference architecture, or blueprint, to help organizations design their clouds.

"As the customers evolve, we can add other pieces in," said Joseph George, director of cloud marketing for Dell.

The Crowbar software, which Dell placed under an Apache 2.0 open source license, can automate the installation and configuration of OpenStack across multiple nodes, executing tasks such as BIOS configuration, RAID configuration, and network discovery. Crowbar allows users "to very quickly deploy a multi-node OpenStack cloud on bare-metal servers," George said. Use of the software can cut OpenStack deployment times to a few hours from one or two days, George said.

Administrators can also use Crowbar as an OpenStack management tool, executing tasks such as status monitoring, performance data gathering, and alerting. Crowbar borrows some of its code from two other open source network management programs, Naglios and Ganglia.

"Crowbar is intelligent enough to see something has changed, and it will adapt to that environment," George said. If a new server appears on the network, for instance, Crowbar can automatically load it with the required OpenStack software and fold it into the cloud.

Although the software was designed primarily to work with Dell servers, Dell built Crowbar as a modular program. So third parties can construct their own modules to extend functionality or have the software work with non-Dell servers.

Dell predicts that hosting and service providers, such as telecommunications companies, will be among the first to purchase these systems. "That seems to be the market that is gravitating to a highly flexible, massively scalable technology like open stack," George said. Customers can start with a six node instance for testing and then add more nodes as more workloads are run on the cloud.

Launched by Rackspace and NASA, OpenStack is a set of open source software designed for setting up cloud deployments. It includes a fabric controller, and connectivity to open source messaging, virtualization, and data storage software.

Joab Jackson covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Joab on Twitter at @Joab_Jackson. Joab's email address is Joab_Jackson@idg.com.

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