Rackspace, Google, Facebook and Microsoft battle for spotlight at Open Source Convention

Proprietary brand names Google, Facebook, Microsoft and Rackspace battled for dominance at OSCON 2010 this week.Sound odd?
Written by Paula Rooney, Contributor

Proprietary brand names Google, Facebook, Microsoft and Rackspace battled for dominance at OSCON 2010 this week.

Sound odd?

Rackspace, of course, garnered the most credibility at the open source convention. Earlier this week, the hosting giant announced it had released its OpenStack cloud platform under an Apache 2 license and officially launched of the Openstack.org open source project.

Lew Moorman, president of cloud and chief strategy officer at Rackspace, told folks at the O'Reilly Open Source Convention said the first bug was called in eight minutes after the project's announcement and the fix to that problem 20 minutes later. Not bad for a brand new .org.

[Good for O'Reilly: most of the keynotes were webcast live from the Portland, Oregon show]

Moorman told the audience that Rackspace has 100,000 customers on its cloud -- including NASA -- and is now the second biggest in the cloud business.  Making an open source play allows the standards-focused company to remain standards-based and make money on its software development efforts without  getting into the software business itself, Moorman noted.

"As we evolved this, we [concluded that] building in open source  model was the best way to build software in the long run," he said.  "We're now fully engaged in the open source world."

Google, Facebook and Microsoft, meanwhile, offered mini updates on their respective open source and open standards programs.

Google's Rob Pike offered a description of but no new information about the web giant's other big open source project besides Android -- the Go programming language.

Officially launched last November, Google's Go is architected for the modern, multiprocessing platform. It attempts to combine the best of traditonal static compiled languages such as C++ and Java with dynamically typed, interpretive languages like PHP and Ruby on Rails.

"Python users say it's like Python but the resulting progam runs faster and it's an entirely open source implementation," Pike said of Go.

One Facebook exec maintains that the traditional LAMP stack will be expanded to include other open source components -- such as cache -- for modern distributed systems.  A large part of Facebook's infrastructure is built on open source software, and in particular, Apache's Hadoop, Hive and Cassandra.

At OSCON, David Recordon, the Senior Open Programs Manager at Facebook, pointed to a Facebook-sonsored open source project called HipHop for PHP that was announced earlier this year.

"It takes PHP source code, transforms software into C ++ and compiles it uisng G++ and produces an executable binary," he said, noting that tests of HipHop have shown a 50 percent reduction in CPU use.

Microsoft, for its part, announced at OSCON 2010 a new set of Linux Device Drivers to enhance the performance of Linux when virtualized on Windows Server 2008 Hyper-V.

The software giant also announced at the open source show an enhanced version of its Windows Azure Command-line Tools for PHP to the company's Web platform installer. This makes it easier for developers to package and deploy PHP apps on Microsoft's Azure cloud platform.

Microsoft also pointed to its support for community backed cloud standards such as the REST-based Open Data Protocol -- for enabling data portability across mobile, server and cloud platforms -- as well as its participation with Zend and IBM on an open source, cloud interoperability project called Simple API for Cloud Application Services. Microsoft recently released OData Client for Objective-C on CodePlex.

But there was no mention of the company putting IronRuby and IronPython under an Apache 2.0 license.

Open source companies were also present at OSCON 2010.

The chief executive of one of them applauded Rackspace's open source move but he maintained that too much of the cloud industry is run by closed source companies -- Google and Microsoft in particular.

Marten Mickos, the CEO of Eucalyptus Systems, which provides open source cloud infrastructure software, pointed to Google's AppEngine and Microsoft Azure as leading proprietary cloud offerings. "The biggest ones are closed," said Mickos, who led MySQL for almost a decade before selling it to Sun for $1 billion.  "We must build alternatives to closed offerings."

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