Nasa, Rackspace launch OpenStack cloud interoperability scheme

Open standards and open code are at the heart of the OpenStack platform, supported by a consortium of hardware, software and service vendors including Dell, AMD and Citrix
Written by Jack Clark, Contributor

A consortium of cloud companies have announced OpenStack, a scheme designed to ease platform lock-in within the cloud through the use of open source and open standards.

Launched today, OpenStack open-sources the code behind Rackspace's cloud files and cloud server systems, alongside code from Nasa's Nebula Cloud Computing platform, which powers an advanced compute-provisioning engine. Dell, AMD and Citrix are also among the 25-plus companies involved. Some of these are yet to be named, a Rackspace spokesperson said, while details of their contributions are finalised.

If successful, the scheme could ease platform lock-in, one of the stumbling blocks for companies looking to move to the cloud, Fabio Torlini, RackSpace's head of cloud for the EMEA region told ZDNet. "In terms of cloud a lot of companies are experimenting with it, but they're nervous because it's a closed platform. If someone decides on Amazon, then they're an Amazon customer forever - it's difficult to move off. Because OpenStack will be an open platform it removes those barriers, so take-up should be easier for those companies," said Torlini.

From today, examples of storage and compute code are available from the OpenStack website.

The open sourcing of Rackspace's core code is "a win-win situation for our competitors," said Torlini, predicting the effect it will have on opening standards and interoperability within the cloud. Rackspace hopes that the scheme can give the cloud industry "a bit of extra impetus."

However, if the cloud sector moves to an open source approach, "the whole revenue model in the industry could change. There's a lot of risk involved for vendors and selling partners alike," Steve Hilton, lead analyst for enterprise research at Analysys Mason, told ZDNet UK on Monday.

Hilton noted that large cloud companies such as HP, Amazon and Oracle were not on the list of participating companies. This could become an issue, said Hilton, because "if someone in the industry builds an open source cloud, there are lots of forces — enterprise control, vendor lock-in, channel partner business models — keeping it from being adopted."

When asked about the absence of some of the major companies, Torlini said that because the project is open source, they would be welcome to join.

"This isn't a case of build-it-and-they-will come," said Hilton. He believes the scheme's best chances for success lie in "education, research and government sectors. These sectors tend to play more nicely in the sandbox together than the world's largest enterprises."

The full list of participating companies announced so far is: NASA, Rackspace, AMD, Citrix, Cloud.com, Cloudkick, CloudSwitch, Dell, enStratus, FathomDB, Limelight, Nicira, NTT DATA, Opscode, Peer 1, Puppet Labs, RightScale, Riptano, Scalr, Sonian, Spiceworks and Zuora.

Nasa's Nebula cloud computing platform, at the core of the agency's contribution, recently crunched the data that went into the Nasa-Microsoft WorldWide telescope update.

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