Rackspace, NASA launch OpenStack: Can it prevent cloud lock-in?

Rackspace launched OpenStack, an open source cloud computing operating system, designed to take on the likes of VMware's vSphere and Microsoft's Azure.
Written by Larry Dignan, Contributor

Rackspace on Monday launched OpenStack, an open source cloud computing operating system, designed to take on the likes of VMware's vSphere and Microsoft's Azure. NASA, Citrix and Dell are among the key partners.

While it's early in the cloud computing game, the playbook of creating an operating system---proprietary in many cases---to garner a dominant position is alive and well. These cloud operating systems are designed to meld private and public cloud platforms. Like the PC industry, the cloud OS is seen as an entry to providing a complete IT stack.

Rackspace, a key hosting and cloud computing provider, is hoping to change that operating system equation a bit (Techmeme). In a nutshell, Rackspace is donating the code behind its Cloud Files and Cloud Servers offering to the OpenStack project. Open Stack will also use the code behind the NASA Nebula Cloud Platform.

Combined, Rackspace and NASA plan to collaborate and develop the OpenStack OS. This open source formula has worked before---Android in the mobile space is one key example---and there's no reason why OpenStack couldn't do well in the cloud. Cloud Computing customers are very aware of potential lock-in so the message surrounding OpenStack could resonate. In a statement, Rackspace president Lew Moorman said OpenStack is aiming to prevent vendor lock-in. Indeed, customers are ultimately looking to be able to swap cloud providers at will in the future.

Among the key parts of OpenStack:

  • There will be several cloud infrastructure components based on RackSpace's Cloud Files.
  • A compute provisioning engine is on tap later this year. The technology is based on NASA's Nebula technology and Rackspaces's Cloud Servers.
  • The code is proven since it's the base of Rackspace's offerings as well as government projects.
  • OpenStack will be offered under the Apache 2.0 license.
  • OpenStack Compute is currently a developer preview and will be released in mid-October.
  • OpenStack Object Storage is also in developer preview and will be released mid-September.

Meanwhile, there are a bevy of partners involved with OpenStack. Partners include AMD, Autonomic Resources, Citrix, Cloud.com, Cloudkick, Cloudscaling, CloudSwitch, Dell, enStratus, FathomDB, Intel, iomart Group, Limelight, Nicira, NTT DATA, Opscode, PEER 1, Puppet Labs, RightScale, Riptano, Scalr, SoftLayer, Sonian, Spiceworks, Zenoss and Zuora.

Also: Rackspace, cloud computing topic centers

Of that group, Citrix, which provides open source virtualization technology, will be critical. On the hardware side, where OpenStack would presumably be integrated and bundled, Dell, AMD and Intel are the heavy hitters.

Simply put, OpenStack is a powerful idea and the timing is good. Dell indicated that it plans to feature OpenStack on its systems for open source cloud deployments. Dell is talking the anti-lock-in message as rivals build enterprise IT stacks. However, OpenStack will need more hardware providers---notably IBM and HP---if it's going to crack the enterprise and garner momentum.


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