Rackspace's bold move to open the cloud

Rackspace's OpenStack could signal a new race to open up cloud computing technology

Rackspace's recent OpenStack announcement is a strong, if familiar, open source play. Given Rackspace's place in the market, open-sourcing its cloud code provides strong differentiation from Amazon, which has become the de facto standard for storage and compute services in the cloud.

And with NASA contributing the code that runs its own Nebula cloud platform, OpenStack has the potential to capture the increased "rate of innovation" that can result from open-sourcing its code.

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OpenStack will launch in two phases. The first offering, Cloud Files-based OpenStack Object Storage, is currently available. The second piece, a compute-provisioning engine based on Cloud Servers from Nebula technologies, will be released later this year.

We've seen this method utilized with on-premises offerings for years. If you can't beat them, go open source. Here, appending the term "open source" to the cloud helps eliminate lock-in fears among cloud users.

But beware. Open portability means both cloud-to-cloud and cloud-to-on-premises. Though we have the promise of portability between compatible cloud platforms and among private clouds and traditional systems, we have no assurances that this portability will be viable in the future.

Cloud providers have been building solutions on open source offerings such as Xen and LAMP for years. Rackspace's move adds a new chapter to cloud computing's open source story -- one that will certainly draw some interest away from Amazon.

That said, questions remain regarding how such a move will impact IT organizations. Until those questions are answered, I remain hopeful, though with a measure of pragmatic skepticism.

This article, "Rackspace's bold move to open the cloud," originally appeared at InfoWorld.com. Read more of David Linthicum's Cloud Computing blog and follow the latest developments in cloud computing at InfoWorld.com.

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