Internap offers first major cloud storage service using OpenStack

Beta users this week can begin using the elastic storage offering from Internap, a rival of Rackspace and NASA

Internap is offering a new public cloud storage service that it built using software from OpenStack, the open-source cloud software project kicked off last year by Rackspace and NASA.

The move is notable because Internap represents the first major deployment using the OpenStack storage software and because the company is a competitor to Rackspace.

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Internap's XipCloud elastic storage offering will be available this week to beta users. The company has not announced pricing and expects to be able to open the service to all users in a few months, said Scott Hrastar, senior vice president of technology at Internap.

Users will be able to log into an online portal to buy storage capacity and network bandwidth, scaling the services up and down as needed. They'll be able to use tools from third-party providers to move content in and out of storage without the need for additional development work, Internap said.

Internap considered other options including writing its own software or using other cloud management frameworks like Cloud.com, Hrastar said. It went with OpenStack because the company had internal development capabilities that made working with OpenStack easy, he said.

In addition, OpenStack is attractive because users like Internap can build on top of it. "We saw the OpenStack framework as solving a lot of fundamental large-scale system management and deployment issues that have allowed us to put resources into differentiated areas of the solution," said Hrastar.

For instance, Internap developed software optimizations that improve performance and load balancing. "They are a nice layer on top of the open stack framework," he said.

Rackspace and NASA contributed code to OpenStack last year with the aim of spurring innovation around cloud software and making it easier for companies to move projects among different providers.

Rackspace wanted to ensure that users of OpenStack software could still differentiate their products, so it's pleased to see that Internap was able to build on top of it. "That's what we hoped to see when we launched it," said Jonathan Bryce, chairman of the OpenStack project oversight committee and cofounder of the Rackspace Cloud.

He said the use of the software by Internap shows the value of the OpenStack software. "This is not just another deployment but it's from a strong competitor to Rackspace," he said.

Internap is the first major deployment outside of Rackspace and NASA, although other companies are also using the software for offerings such as "cloud in a box"-type products that include a rack of servers preinstalled with OpenStack, Bryce said. Some services companies are working with enterprises or telcos on offerings around OpenStack as well.

There has also been strong interest from financial services companies, he said. They tend to have very large operations so the deployments take time, he said. OpenStack expects to make more announcements about such large users in the coming months.

In addition to the OpenStack Object Storage software, the group is still at work on a compute software component. The second, more stable release of that software is expected Feb. 3.

OpenStack isn't the only effort aimed at solving the vendor lock-in issue. The Open Virtualization Format, the Cloud Security Alliance and the Distributed Management Task Force are all also working on various issues in support of portability.

Rackspace supports some of those efforts but noted that some may take a long time to produce useable products. "Right now we think one of the best things we can do is get a solid piece of software out there that can be run at different hosting providers and enterprises," Bryce said.

Nancy Gohring covers mobile phones and cloud computing for The IDG News Service. Follow Nancy on Twitter at @idgnancy. Nancy's e-mail address is Nancy_Gohring@idg.com

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