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OpenStack: One Giant Leap for Cloud Computing

07.19.2010
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Today Rackspace launched what might be the most significant step for open source cloud computing thus far.  The new project, dubbed "OpenStack", is an open source cloud platform that will soon contain the source code behind RackSpace's cloud storage and distributed computing platforms.  However, Rackspace isn't the only one getting in on the action.  NASA is also incorporating the "Nova" technology from their Nebula Cloud Platform.  The project is being backed by 25 other organizations as well, including Intel, Dell, AMD, and Citrix.  Licensed under the Apache License v2, this initiative might be the most substantive effort to support interoperability in the cloud to date.

OpenStack

OpenStack will feature several cloud infrastructure components divided into two projects.  The first features a fully distributed object store based on Rackspace Cloud Files called OpenStack Object Storage.  The second, called OpenStack Compute, will be a scalable, compute-provisioning engine based on NASA's contribution and Rackspace's Cloud Server.  The suite of open source elements will facilitate the creation of a completely open reference platform for Amazon-like cloud computing.

NASA's Nebula

NASA's Nebula platform is one of the world's most powerful cloud computing technologies.  One example of this platform's capabilities is the processing power being used to render images from a camera orbiting Mars.  The pictures will be used in the WorldWide telescope, a Microsoft Research project.  Nebula has processed and hosted more than than 100 terabytes of high-resolution images.

The Developers Show Support

In reference today's announcement, Open Source Initiative representative Simon Phipps said, "it's probably the most significant advance for open source cloud computing that we've seen so far."

Robert Scoble of Rackspace explained the effect that this open source approach has had on developer hiring and the impact he believes it will have on the IT industry:

"[My Microsoft background begs the question,] “why would a company give away its crown jewels?” But it has turned working at Rackspace for many of my coworkers from just a job to one that’s a mission. After all, our code now is going to be used by NASA. Think about what that does. Also, it’s a lot easier to recruit great developers when they get to work on an open source initiative. I almost didn’t talk about this on the blog because this effect has been so pronounced. I believe it’ll force other cloud companies to go open source as well because they’ll lose key hires to Rackspace and they already have."

OpenStack has no performance blocks or any other artificial limitations that are sometimes implemented by "open core" projects.  The design process and project roadmap will also be completely open on the project's source code repository on Canonical's Launchpad.