OpenStack puts some meat behind its marketing momentum

The buzz in cloud this week has been all about what’s going on with OpenStack as the project’s Design Summit and Conference kicked off in San Francisco. The open source cloud IaaS effort has been criticized for moving too slowly and for having more press releases written about it than actual users. But from the momentum I saw this week, adoption is real and the community is growing steadily.
Rackspace kicked off the event with news that it’s ready to run its public cloud service on OpenStack. It will phase it in for a limited number of users through the second quarter and will make its OpenStack-based cloud generally available in the third quarter of 2012.
Other notes on momentum: About 200 developers run OpenStack (about half are full time) from 55 companies worldwide and that group now includes IBM and Red Hat. There have been more than 100,000 downloads of the software and several companies running 1000+ node clusters on OpenStack including Sony, AT&T, San Diego Computer Center, HP, Rackspace, MercadoLibre, Argone National Labs and Deutsche Telecom, to name a few.
But with so many competing vendor interests there’s been some criticism that momentum might grind to a standstill. During a panel session at the analyst event, OpenStack representatives from IBM, HP, SUSE, Nebula, MorphLabs, RedHat, Piston Cloud Computing and CloudScaling all managed to tow the line on the grand vision and at least appeared to be in lock-step on the goals of the project.
Angel Diaz, VP of software standards and cloud at IBM said that reducing complexity by making the infrastructure a set of modular plug and play components would speed up cloud adoption. “There are certain pieces of technology that should be ubiquitous,” he said. “After that, we will compete on implementation.”
There had also been some grumbling in cloud IaaS circles about whether Rackspace still had too much control over the development of the code. To address this, Rackspace formed the Openstack Foundation last October. Jonathan Bryce, Co-founder of Rackspace Cloud and chairman of the OpenStack Project Policy Board said that completion and transition of OpenStack to the Foundation would happen in the third quarter of 2012. Even more valuable, the Foundation will be creating a user committee so that end users have a channel to provide feedback and input on direction of the code. He added that Rackspace’s contribution to the total code has gone from the high 80% range a year ago to around 50% today.
With that in mind there were lots of questions around the minimum bar that a vendor must hit to be able to label its product or service “Built on OpenStack” or “Powered by OpenStack”. Piston Cloud has created a set of Faithful Implementation Tests or FITs that a vendor can be measured against in order to claim these badges. The FITs will be available soon.
Lastly, the OpenStack group shed some light on plans for the next release of the software, codenamed Folsom, out in the fall. Vish Iashaya, Compute Project Lead for OpenStack and a Senior Software Engineer at Rackspace Cloud Builders said the goal was to minimize the scope of Nova (the compute service) so that all the vendors contributing code could collaborate effectively and not step on each other’s toes.
The goal is to develop sub-communities of specialists who can approve code changes faster, according to Rackspace’s Bryce. To this end they have split out elements of the project including the block storage service and Quantum, the networking project.
The Fulsom software release will also incorporate ways to improve the stability and operability of the OpenStack code. Large features will be broken down into smaller chunks and initial review work will be done at this stage. These features will then be merged in to the core code during what’s called a “merge window” so as not to risk regressions in the core code. The idea is to keep bug fixes manageable and to provide more stable releases of the code.
There will also be a hardening of the code going on over the next few months. OpenStack members will be working on some important security risks that come in to play in a multi-tenant cloud. For example, right now there isn’t much OpenStack can do to guard against or shut down a user that breaks out of a hypervisor, compromises a host machine and then potentially compromises the whole cloud. The objective if such a hypervisor attack happens it to make sure that machine has limited ability to attack the whole cloud.

Question of the week

Is OpenStack all mouth no trousers?