OpenStack a year later: Popular but still bare bones

Seen as the cloud's Linux, the open source cloud infrastructure effort has picked up support from a lot of big companies

OpenStack, simply put, is a series of interrelated projects delivering components for a cloud infrastructure solution. The projects are worked on by a global collaboration of developers and cloud computing providers supporting an open source cloud computing platform for public and private clouds, and the objectives are cookie-cutter cloud computing, including massive scalability and ease of use.

The OpenStack effort was launched by Rackspace and NASA a year ago. Researchers at the NASA Ames Research Center first developed the base components of OpenStack, called Nova, to provide the U.S. space and aeronautical agency with a highly scalable private cloud. Rackspace then got involved to promote the technology commercially and later spun it out into an independent foundation.

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What's the deal with OpenStack after a year? The market considers many of the existing leading public cloud computing solutions as closed and proprietary. Thus, there's a pent-up demand for an open source product, even though a few already existed -- the open source version of Eucalyptus, for example.

As such, OpenStack has momentum on its side. Since the launch, more than 100 organizations have contributed to the code base or participated in the project in some way. This includes Dell and Hewlett-Packard, who are building commercial cloud products using OpenStack as a base. Moreover, several startups, including Internap, Nebula, and Piston Cloud Computing, are basically providing OpenStack vending operations, much like Red Hat vends Linux. More recently, Rackspace has released a private cloud product based on OpenStack, as well as an architectural framework.

Sometimes, things pick up buzz without proof of operational value, and OpenStack enjoyed that early on. There was a base of free code that companies could build upon; thus, supply meets demand. Any limitations to OpenStack are forgiven because, well, it's open source. You get what you pay for. Moreover, if you want to improve the technology, it's an open source project, so have at it. Add in the hype behind cloud computing, and it becomes unstoppable.

So should you consider OpenStack as your cloud computing solution? Not on its own. Like many open source projects, it takes a savvy software vendor, or perhaps cloud provider, to create a workable product based on OpenStack. The good news is that many providers are indeed using OpenStack as a foundation for their products, and most of those are working, or will work, just fine.

But as far as hardened in an operational state? I think time will be the big factor. We'll have to see where we are in another year.

This article, "OpenStack a year later: Popular but still bare bones," originally appeared at Read more of David Linthicum's Cloud Computing blog and track the latest developments in cloud computing at For the latest business technology news, follow on Twitter.

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.