OpenStack, Canonical Paving More Routes to the Cloud

Announcements earlier this week from Canonical and OpenStack show existing software and on-premise cloud solutions are becoming a little easier to use or more widely available. While perhaps not earth-shattering as individual items, taken together, the announcements illustrate the cloud infrastructure market’s growing maturity.

Earlier this week, Canonical announced that Dell’s enterprise customers are now able to order servers running Ubuntu Enterprise Cloud, a version of the Linux distribution that bundles Eucalyptus. Spun out of UC Santa Barbara, Eucalyptus is an open-source cloud infrastructure solution with an API that mirrors the functionality of Amazon’s Elastic Compute Cloud, EC2. The API ensures that enterprise customers are able to experiment with on-premise or private-cloud solutions (with Eucalyptus) and public-cloud solutions (with Amazon), and move back and forth between the two with relative ease. For Dell’s traditional enterprise customers, the bundling of known hardware and known routes to support may just make it that bit easier for businesses take some tentative steps into the cloud.

Meanwhile, OpenStack, the cloud infrastructure project initiated by Rackspace and NASA, announced its “Bexar” release this week. From bare-bones beginnings, OpenStack has moved steadily along a path of increasing stability and functionality, but there’s still some way to go. Speaking in September last year, the project’s Jim Curry described the steps required to move from the project’s initial promises to deliver a viable enterprise-ready cloud solution.

Bexar brings that added functionality to OpenStack’s compute and storage offerings. In many ways, its most significant feature is one that got remarkably little attention from commentators; the provision of online documentation describing the capabilities of OpenStack’s latest releases, and detailing the various ways in which components can be configured or customized. Good documentation is absolutely vital for any tool that wishes to move beyond the project insiders and the enthusiastic tire kickers to reach enterprise IT staff considering their options. It’s a sign of maturity, a sign of the OpenStack community’s commitment to deliver tools of value to a wider audience, and an invitation to a large new constituency to take a closer look at OpenStack and what it can do for them.

Canonical’s membership of OpenStack is intriguing, and it’s not totally clear yet how this will play out. The company could continue to support both Eucalyptus and OpenStack, extending arrangements such as the one with Dell in order to make it easy for enterprise IT to procure the whole stack from one place, and perhaps offering guidance as to the “best” cloud solution for particular use cases. Alternatively, Canonical might choose to throw its weight behind either OpenStack or Eucalyptus, dropping the other. Both Eucalyptus and OpenStack are fit for purpose and ready to use now, but both are still evolving. To abandon one at this stage may be premature.

It’s clearly been a good week for businesses at an early point in their adoption of this new generation of tools and approaches. To read more of them, check out my weekly update at GigaOM Pro (subscription required).

Image courtesy of flickr user mikecogh

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