OpenStack Wants to Be Android of The Cloud

Say hello to OpenStack, an open-source cloud platform, which hopes to compete with several proprietary cloud platforms including those being developed by Microsoft (s MSFT) and VMware (s VMW). RackSpace (s RAX) is spearheading the project and is donating the code that powers its Cloud Files and Cloud Servers to the OpenStack project. The project is also going to incorporate technology from the Nebula Cloud Platform developed by NASA.

Here are the key components of the platform:

* a fully distributed object store based on Rackspace Cloud Files. (Available now for download.)
* a scalable compute-provisioning engine based on the NASA Nebula cloud technology and Rackspace Cloud Servers. (Available later this year.)

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Using the OpenStack software, any company can turn physical hardware into an internal/hybrid cloud platform. The new open source platform, which is going to be made available under an Apache license, will be maintained by a not-for-profit organization. Rackspace and NASA are adopting the platform as well. In addition, Rackspace is going to funnel resources and developers into the project to support the adoption of OpenStack by corporations and service providers.

So far, the group has gained a lot of support, mostly from vendors. Nearly 25 companies (big and small) such as Intel (s INTC), Citrix, Riptano, Dell (s DELL),, AMD (s AMD) and Scalr have signed on for the new platform. An OpenStack Design Summit hosted by Rackspace was held July 13-16 in Austin, where more than 100 technical advisors, developers and founding members joined to validate the code and ratify the project roadmap. (From the Archives: 11 Open Source resources for cloud computing.)

Manage OpenStack From iPhone

“What Android is to smartphone operating systems, we want OpenStack to be for the cloud,” Lew Moorman, President of Rackspace’s cloud operations told me. In order for that to happen, the not-for-profit group needs to get a lot of traction (a handful of financial companies are currently trying out the new service). There is no denying that there is a need to build an underlying platform, however, and while a whole slew of companies are trying to offer up their own unique twists of enterprise, carrier and hybrid clouds, OpenStack offers a way to commoditize the entire cloud infrastructure.

Developers Developers Developers

Chris Kemp, NASA’s Chief Technology Officer for IT (who spoke at our Structure 2010 conference) told me that about two years ago, his organization got excited about the potential of cloud computing but the demands his organization were of supercomputing scale. “We were looking for a platform that was ten times the size of what was out there,” he recalls. So they started working on a platform that could scale, along with other attributes of the cloud such as elasticity and shared resources. “NASA will benefit from this community of developers who will be contributing the code,” Kemp says.

Commoditize the Cloud

For Racksapce, championing OpenStack is a way to get back to business as usual. “We were forced to invest in the (cloud) platform, whether through buying or investing in development resources,” Moorman says. Rackspace benefitted from the standard web-hosting tools and a commoditized hardware stack because it allowed them to focus on doing what they do best, he adds – offer managed services.

“We want access to technology, not to create technologies,” Moorman says. The evolution to cloud is no different, he argues. OpenStack is a step towards building standard tools that anyone can use. “We are trying to commoditize the cloud technologies for easier deployments,” he adds.