Just how big is Google's decision to throw its weight behind OpenStack?

Dozens of companies are already involved in the open-source OpenStack cloud-computing platform but the arrival of Google among them could prove telling.

Search-to-cloud giant Google has nailed its flag firmly to the OpenStack mast by today signing up as a corporate sponsor of the cloud-computing software platform.

OpenStack is an open-source project started in 2010 by Rackspace and NASA to create components for building public and private clouds on standard hardware.

It is now backed by more than 200 vendors, including Cisco, Dell, HP, IBM, Intel, Oracle, Red Hat, and VMware, with a large developer community working on a range of loosely-coupled projects.

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The importance of Google's decision to align itself formally with OpenStack lies less in any financial commitment involved in the move and more in its symbolic significance, according to research vice president William Fellows of 451 Research.

"Whereas Amazon has a very self-centred view of the world.'You can do everything on Amazon', Google's approach is absolutely 180 degrees opposite. It fully anticipates and is planning and building and developing for a multi-cloud world. That really is going to be one of the differentiators that it's going to hang its hat on in terms of going up against AWS," Fellows said.

A further motivation for Google to join OpenStack is its awareness of the number of its own customers that are weighing up whether to use the open-source technology.

"What used to be a plan B is now becoming much more of a plan A and therefore Google better get on board with this OpenStack thing," Fellows said.

The involvement of Google in the OpenStack community has already been apparent since the beginning of the year in projects such as Murano and Magnum. The company also delivered presentations on container management on OpenStack clouds at May's OpenStack Summit in Vancouver.

"Of course it's good news for OpenStack because Google engineers are going to be contributing in a more fundamental way than they've been doing already," Fellows said.

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"There are already some OpenStack APIs that work, for example, with Google Compute Engine. But [Google's deeper involvement] would accelerate the ability of OpenStack to be open - and that's one of the main reasons why we hear time and time again why organisations are interested in OpenStack, because of the open nature of it. In other words to help them avoid being painted into a corner."

Google joins 115 other companies listed as OpenStack corporate sponsors. There are also 16 Gold and eight Platinum sponsors.

While many OpenStack projects are also already aligned with Google technologies, such as the Kubernetes container management system, the widening of the market for OpenStack because of Google's involvement could ultimately prove more telling.

"At this point I don't think OpenStack is concerned about the amount of dough going into the foundation. The cost of OpenStack engineers are on average $50,000 a year more expensive than Microsoft, VMware or Red Hat engineers," Fellows said.

"That will change over time but what OpenStack really needs it to supersize itself. In other words it needs for there to be a much bigger market in terms of available talent."

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