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Accelerating cloud services deployment with open-source software

Enterprises can benefit from the experiences of others -- both negative and positive -- when planning and exploring transitioning to the cloud.

Intel has about 91,500 employees with 75,000 servers over 69 datacentres and 138,000 devices. As such, the challenges in scalability and continuity provide interesting reading for IT leaders.

Intel implemented its first private cloud solution in 2010 using existing enterprise manageability tools and solutions. This cloud was critical for Intel, providing a portal where users could obtain computing capacity when they needed it without manual intervention from IT.

A year later, motivated by dual drivers of providing better user support and reducing costs, Intel IT sought solutions to improve self-service, reduce service provisioning time, and increase automated management.

Intel's software developers considered that they needed a change of thinking, switching to expose all datacentre solutions as consumable services. This is a large undertaking for any enterprise whose infrastructure is not built with APIs.

On the hardware front, Intel laid a foundation with 10 gigabit Ethernet, new blade servers, and high-density storage devices. On the software front, the company compared a variety of off-the-shelf, open-source, and public cloud solutions.

Ultimately, the best solution found was to augment its current environment with OpenStack. This is an open-source software stack designed to support highly scalable infrastructure. It provides an open, extensible framework for managing various resources in an infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) cloud, including computer, network, and storage.

OpenStack is developed and supported by a global collaboration of developers and cloud computing technologists. It seeks to deliver solutions for all types of clouds by being simple to implement, scalable, and feature rich. The technology consists of a series of interrelated projects delivering various components for a cloud infrastructure solution. All OpenStack source code is available under the Apache 2.0 licence.

A large deciding factor in Intel's decision was the strength of the OpenStack developer community, the quality of developer and administrator documentation, and the pace of code evolution.

Like many organisations, Intel IT was concerned that open-source software can contain risks such as less capable support, the source code being unregulated with the possibility to be compromised, and the developer community maybe taking the product in a direction that is not in the company's best interests.

Yet, Intel found OpenStack to be a safe choice and provided compelling advantages such as the ability to be interoperable, minimise vendor lock-in, spend less time providing compute IaaS and more time providing higher-level services, and move faster at a lower cost.

The On-Ramp to Enterprise OpenStack program for private, public, and hybrid cloud deployments is a natural extension of Intel and Red Hat's long-standing collaboration in enterprise Linux.

The combination of Intel Architecture and Red Hat Enterprise Linux OpenStack Platform helps form a secure, trusted, high-performance platform for cloud deployments. Intel thus built its cloud solution with OpenStack sitting on top of physical infrastructure.

Its developers built a manageability layer on top of OpenStack, and then GUI and CLI interfaces above this. Intel has stated that OpenStack greatly accelerated the delivery time of this solution, and facilitated an active/active app design.

A high level of customisation is required, which not all organisations are capable of, but Intel's experience showed that OpenStack provided a versatile tool for building a framework for managing and exposing cloud resources.