As cloud platforms battle for credibility, OpenStack is pretty solid

What does OpenStack mean to the cloud market? James Staten weighs in.
Written by James Staten, Contributor

It seems every few weeks yet another company announces a cloud computing infrastructure platform. I'm not talking about public clouds but the underlying software which can turn a virtualized infrastructure into an Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) - whether public or private.

But are any of these claims all that credible? And can you really trust that they can make the leap from these foundations to delivering a truly scalable, reliable, offering that provides the robust feature set provided by some of the leading public IaaS clouds today? The short answer is we really don't know. While each claim a few customer references - whether named or not - few really portray a story of maturity yet. And that's what most enterprises tell us they are looking for -- and are waiting for.

Today, yet another vendor threw its hat into this ring but might just have the more credible story enterprise infrastructure & operations professionals have been waiting on. Rackspace is arguably one of the top five public IaaS clouds in the market and today announced it is open sourcing its cloud platform. OpenStack, according to the San Antonio-based hoster, is the full software stack behind its Cloud Servers and Cloud Files offerings. The software, which will be licensed under Apache 2, will be available to competing hosting companies, enterprises and governments to implement.

Hard to beat the credibility of this platform being run by a top five IaaS provider. The appeal is obvious if you are a hosting company because there are strong similarities between your business and Rackspace and thus the solution should be relatively applicable. It's also potentially more appealing from a profit point of view than Microsoft Windows Azure platform appliance or vCloud as there's no one you have to share the revenue with. There will no doubt be some skepticism by hosters that Rackspace is holding back something that will help them maintain their advantage. 

Being the Rackspace stack may not sway a lot of corporate and government customers for fear that deploying a service provider-oriented software stack just won't fit how enterprises operate. What might, though, is to have one of their peers implement OpenStack too and help show the way - NASA Nebula. For those not familiar with this project, it is an effort inside the space agency to convert its data center, which historically had been dedicated to HPC work, into an IaaS platform for other government agencies to share - think of it as an example of NIST's community cloud. NASA's Chris Kemp, the CTO behind this project, is a thought leader among government IT and Nebula has gained significant credibility amongst its peers, who are all crafting their own cloud strategies. His implementation of (and contributions to) OpenStack shows that the Rackspace cloud platform isn't specific to service provider environments.

Rackspace will need a heck-o-lot-more government and enterprise private cloud deployments before we can declare OpenStack a leader but this is a very nice start.

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