Using an open source cloud computing platform is the way to power next-generation computing, says Lew Tucker, Cisco's cloud computing vice president and co-chairman of the OpenStack Foundation. OpenStack should be the platform of choice for both public cloud service providers to build commercial cloud offerings on, and for business end users to power their own private clouds. "It's a new technology," Tucker says. "The enterprise naturally takes some time to understand how these new cloud platforms can be applied in traditional types of data centers." But OpenStack is a complication of software components specifically designed for operating a cloud computing environment. For vendors, it allows them to leverage the work of a community of hundreds of developers who have worked to advance the code. For users, OpenStack allows the potential to have the same platform for your private cloud as multiple different public clouds, enabling a federated hybrid cloud.
That vision of an OpenStack-based hybrid cloud isn't quite yet reality today, but it's getting there. So far Rackspace and HP are the two big public cloud providers that have used OpenStack as the basis for their offerings, but Dell has promised to launch an OpenStack cloud of its own later this year as well. As more providers roll out OpenStack-powered products and services, this vision will become more realistic, says David Linthicum, senior vice president at consultancy Cloud Technology Partners.
One thing that is not lacking in the OpenStack movement is momentum and hype. "They need to turn the interest into many more enterprise users, and that's only going to come with time," Linthicum says. "The next two years will be critical."
Vendors make their play
In an effort to change the perception that OpenStack is not yet ready for end users to adopt, a central theme expected to be hammered home during next week's summit will be the user stories. On the OpenStack web site, there are already user stories from companies like PayPal, Intel, Cisco and Mercado Libre - the eBay of Latin America. These companies are some of the leading technology companies in the world though, they're not necessarily run-of-the-mill enterprises that have deployed OpenStack.
OpenStack vendors say they're working with more and more of those regular old enterprise customers though. CloudScaling, which has its own OpenStack-powered cloud platform, announced UbiSoft and Living Social as new customers its working with, for example.
Piston Cloud Computing Co., whose CTO Josh McKenty is on the OpenStack Foundation board of directors, says many of his customers are jumping ship from Amazon Web Services and looking to spin up private clouds behind their own firewalls that have the look and feel of a public IaaS cloud like AWS's. Both Piston and CloudScaling have new versions of their software for building clouds being released this month in preview of the Grizzly summit.
Other vendors are taking a different approach to packaging OpenStack. One of the more closely watched companies related to the OpenStack movement has been Nebula, whose founder and CEO, Chris Kemp served as CTO of IT at NASA where OpenStack's compute component was born. Instead of a software distribution, Nebula has created a software-hardware combination that Kemp says can be plugged in, switched on and an OpenStack-powered IaaS cloud is up and running within minutes. A turn-key OpenStack solution has not been available on the market that is, he says, until now.
The different approaches by Nebula, Piston and HP show the wide range of use cases OpenStack member companies have taken with the project thus far.